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Northwestern women’s basketball player previews 2020-2021: C Courtney Shaw

With the Wildcats losing their starting front court, the junior center prepares to assume a much larger role.

It’s that time of year again. Even with football season in full swing the women’s basketball season is right around the corner. To kick off our 2020-2021 coverage of the women’s team, we will preview each player on Northwestern’s roster. Next up is junior center Courtney Shaw.

Who she is

Junior; center; 6-foot-0; Perry Hall, MD

Stats

11.9 minutes per game; 3.9 points per game; 2.7 rebounds per game; 0.3 assists per game, 14 steals, 8 blocks; .628 FG%, .364 FT%

2019-20 review

Shaw emerged as an important role player for the ‘Cats in her sophomore year. Not only does she bring an extensive set of skills, but her athleticism and aggressive game provided a spark for the team off of the bench.

Offensively, she made some impressive plays on the glass, attacking the boards with veracity and soaring over taller defenders to give the offense a second opportunity. She set hard screens and was good on the roll — a great pair with Veronica Burton. Additionally, Shaw made some impressive shots inside but missed some easy ones as well. However, her foul trouble was exacerbated on the offensive end of the court, and she struggled from the free throw line, shooting just 20-of-55 from the charity stripe.

Despite lacking a few inches to some of her Big Ten opponents, Shaw was a menace defensively. She used her physicality to alter her opponents shot, if not garnering a steal or block. Her elite athleticism allowed her to excel in the blizzard zone, as she could be pulled out to the corner to defend a three and rotate back to defend the basket on the same possession.

Strengths

Shaw is one of the most athletic bigs in the conference. What she lacks in size, she makes up for in physicality and speed. Her recovery speed on defense is incredible, so even if she misses a rotation, she can easily get back to her spot. She’s invaluable on the break, easily outrunning defenders to convert in transition. Her ability to beat a defender after setting a high screen makes switching on the pick and roll tough for defenses, allowing NU to get mismatches all over the court.

Her aggression on both sides of the court serve as an energy boost for the team, especially as she came in off the bench last year. She creates second chances on the board, is a force in the paint and is capable of making momentum-shifting swats. She physically wears down the opponent, attacking them play after play.

Weaknesses

Aggression is one of her greatest strengths but also a weakness. Offensively, she can quickly accumulate fouls by over-using her physicality in the post. When she gets fouled, another major problem became her free throw shooting. Whether it was a slight miss, a banked in shot or a straight up airball, Shaw just didn’t look comfortable, shooting just 36% from the line.

Defensively, Shaw was aggressive in closing out. At times this was a major strength for the team, and she certainly caused some misses on what have been open threes. But other times, she bit on pump fakes, getting blown by or leaving the paint wide open. Although her speed allowed her to recover to the basket, she tended to recover a little too haphazardly, fouling near the basket on this end as well.

Expectations

Northwestern lost two star post presences with the graduations of Abbie Wolf and Abi Scheid. The team knows that they’ll need that production to be replaced, and they expect Shaw to step up. She has almost certainly earned a role of starting five and will likely be given the duty of defending the post alongside a four-guard lineup. On the offensive side of the ball, she will be needed to run the pick and roll effectively. Her post presence and strength on the offensive glass should force defenders to stay in the vicinity of the basket, opening the floor for NU’s shooters.

The biggest question surrounding Shaw is consistency. She must cut down on fouls in order to stay on the floor while improving her free throw shooting on the other end. She demonstrated the ability to play at a high level at times last year against some of the Big Ten’s top post players. This season, it’s about putting it together on a regular basis.