Believe it or not, we’re just about a month away from basketball season. That’s right, both men’s and women’s basketball games are right around the corner. For our coverage of the 2021-22 coverage of the men’s team, we’re previewing each and every player on Northwestern’s roster. Up next is Ryan Greer, a senior guard out of Atlanta, Ga.
Who he is
Senior; guard; 6-foot-2, Atlanta, GA.; attended Northfield Mount Hermon, MA.; former three-star recruit.
13.0 minutes per game, 2.7 points per game, 1.5 assists per game, 1.4 rebounds per game, 50.0 FG%, 47.1 3PT%, 87.5 FT%
Greer took on his biggest role to date for the Wildcats the past season, though that’s not saying much considering that in his prior two seasons he only saw the floor for eight minutes more than you or I did each night. The now-senior guard out of Atlanta truly solidified his long sought role of backup ball handler and performed about as well as anyone could have expected him too.
He was one of the team’s most efficient shooters, which is to be expected given he did so on usage far below sea level. The most accurate assessment of Greer in 2020-21 is also the most boring one — he wasn’t asked to do a lot due to his limitations with size, athleticism and pull-up shooting ability, but what he did seek to accomplish he did so at a perfectly acceptable level.
Like many backup guards before him, Greer hammers the margins that many others forget to nail down. He boasts a pristine assist-to-turnover ratio (as flawed as that is given the lack of context it provides), and the few shots he does take are considered good ones, save for a few ambitious floaters. Mistake-free decisions are often the trait that coaches love the most in their ball handlers, and, though Greer will never be entrusted to run the offense, he can play alongside more trigger-happy teammates such as Chase Audige, with the coaches knowing that he will at the very least hit some open shots and keep the ball moving when needed.
Defensively, the former three-star turned rotation player suffers few lapses off-ball and in the right situation uses his upper body well to absorb contact from drivers and deter rim-attacks. Similar to his offense, Greer’s reliable, steady play makes him trustworthy. This unlocks just a few more lineups for Northwestern, knowing that whenever the senior guard gets beat, it’s hardly ever due to the cyclical mental errors that can be ever so difficult to correct.
It’s hard to call them weaknesses when Greer hardly ever attempts to access them on the court, but simply not being able to do something is a weakness nonetheless. In 300 total minutes of action, the 6-foot-2 guard only took a whopping 48 shots and eight free throw attempts, roughly equating to only one scoring chance for every six minutes he sees the court. That reluctance to fire nearly counteracts all the good that playing a shooter and decision maker as sound as Greer, because he’s not cashing in enough triples and well-crafted drives to truly make a dent in the deficit Northwestern is often facing. As for his teammates, he doesn’t require off-ball defenders to stay near, knowing that his low attempt rate will allow them to help off and deter drives when necessary.
This doesn’t mean that Greer needs to start calling for late shot clock isolations like he’s Pat Spencer, but a brighter green light on spot-up triples would do wonders for both himself and the team. Taking 3.3 threes per 100 possessions (barely more than noted non-shooter and former ‘Cat Anthony Gaines, mind you) is far too few to command the gravity the team needs. His model should be that of players such as Eli Brooks and and Isaiah Thompson, 6-foot-1 guards from Michigan and Purdue who shot 6.8 and 7.0 triples per 100 possessions, respectively. Their percentages were less accurate than Greer’s, but because defenses always knew they would pull the trigger if given the chance, they couldn’t be left unattended.
Greer’s other shortcomings aren’t fixable like the one previously discussed, as he’ll always have trouble getting to the rim and manufacturing high leverage passing opportunities. Similarly, he makes what he can out of his defense, but quite often the Big Ten guard in front of him is faster and stronger. Life is tough sometimes.
Ryan Greer is not going to start, and, at the end of the day, it’s next to impossible that fans will be crediting him for either a positive or negative outcome to the season. The expectations are low because that’s all one can usually expect from an unspectacular player, but given his vast improvement on a lackluster sophomore year, Greer should be at his best in 2022.
He’ll get spot-up opportunities, defend at the point-of-attack and be a key cog in what Northwestern hopes to be a well-functioning machine after years of building. Greer came to Evanston as a relative unknown back in 2018, and though he won’t have any statues erected outside of Welsh-Ryan, fans will remember him as a rotation piece for all of his four years, an accomplishment that no one can take away from him.