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Northwestern men’s basketball player previews 2020-2021: G Anthony Gaines

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Coming back from a shoulder injury, the redshirt junior looks to have a breakout year.

Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

Even with football season in full swing, men’s basketball is set to start its season in just over one week. To kick off our 2020-2021 coverage of the men’s team, we will preview each player on Northwestern’s roster. Up next is guard Anthony Gaines, a redshirt junior from Kingston, New York.

Who he is

Redshirt junior; shooting guard; 6-foot-4; 210 pounds; Kingston, NY; former No. 1 high school player in New Hampshire, top-150 recruit

Stats

26.5 minutes per game; 5.9 points; 3.6 rebounds; 1.7 assists; .375 FG%, .313 3P%, .818 FT%

2019-2020 Review

Sidelined for the entire second half of the season, Gaines’ third year as a Wildcat was one largely defined by a significant shoulder injury. Even in his 10 appearances, all coming in the front half of the schedule against nonconference opponents, Gaines didn’t quite create the impact the ‘Cats needed from a guy with his experience.

On the offensive end, he seemed more hesitant to take the ball to the rack, which can be attributed to his injury but was a bright spot in his game in years past. Gaines’ solid off-ball movement and shifty backdoor cuts gave him plenty of good looks inside, as he shot an impressive 60% on shots at the rim, but his shooting woes from previous seasons continued.

During these 10 games, however, Gaines continued his stellar performance on the defensive end, averaging a team-high 1.4 steals per game including an impressive three-steal game against Radford.

Strengths

With a tall frame and excellent speed and length, Gaines has proven to be an outstanding on-ball defender. His physicality and athleticism, along with his high intensity, have made him a challenging matchup for some of the best guards in the Big Ten. Gaines is also an exceptional rebounder for a guard, leading returning Wildcats’ back court with 3.6 boards per game.

On offense, Gaines has shown a solid ability to take care of the ball, averaging 1.1 turnovers per game, which leads NU guards that average 10+ minutes per game. Gaines is also a valuable asset streaking to the rim and can throw it down with authority when his dirty back-door cuts get him under the basket.

Weaknesses

Gaines’ jumpshot has continually left Cats’ fans hanging with his field goal percentage hovering between a subpar 35-to-37% all three seasons. Last year’s 31% percent from beyond the arc was mediocre at best, but a trend in the right direction. His mid-range jumper, on the other hand, hit a career low of 8% on the year (with these shots making up 25% of his attempts).

This inconsistency is a liability for the ‘Cats. It will be interesting to see whether he will return from the extended offseason with an even slightly more consistent jumper in his arsenal.

Expectations

With a possible extra year of blanket eligibility due to last season being cut short, Gaines has plenty of time to make some progress in his offensive game. However, improving his shooting can’t become a repeated cycle of “maybe next year” until these years run out.

With the departure of Pat Spencer, Gaines’ 2.5 years of experience in Chris Collins’ system is invaluable, especially in the relatively young NU program. Whether in practice, in the locker room, on the bench or on the court, Gaines’ leadership can set the tone and contribute to giving the ‘Cats an edge down the stretch in tight game. The energy that he brings on the defensive end can also set up some big upsets against powerhouse Big Ten programs.