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Northwestern men’s basketball 2021-22 player previews: Pete Nance

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The senior team captain looks to continue his upward trend and leave a permanent legacy in Evanston.

NCAA Basketball: Northwestern at Illinois Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Believe it or not, we’re a week away from basketball season. That’s right, both men’s and women’s basketball games are right around the corner. To kick off our coverage of the 2021-22 coverage of the men’s team, we will preview each player on Northwestern’s roster. We continue with Pete Nance, one of the ‘Cats’ captains for this upcoming season.

Who he is

Senior; 6-foot-10, 225 pounds; Akron, OH (Revere High School); former No. 79 overall recruit in the nation (ESPN)

2020-21 Stats

27.7 minutes per game, 11.1 points per game, 6.8 rebounds per game, 1.8 assists per game, 0.6 steals per game, 0.7 blocks per game, .495 FG%, .784 FT%, .364 3P%

2020-21 Review

In his junior season, Nance earned more trust – and consequently more starting time – from Chris Collins, as his play certainly improved.

On offense, Nance become much more of a force for the Wildcats. By bettering his field goal percentage by 9.5 percent, No. 22 was the team’s third-leading scorer – a solid feat for a forward.

Additionally, Nance showcased the emergence of a three-point shot. Although he attempted 35 fewer 3s, Nance converted at a 6.7 percent higher clip, showcasing greater efficiency from behind the arc. Moreover, Nance also cashed in more from the charity stripe, posting an improved 78.4 free throw percentage.

Nance didn’t just stuff the box score in terms of scoring, though. The Akron native paced Northwestern with 163 rebounds and 17 blocks; he put together his scoring acumen and physicality against No. 4 Michigan State on Dec. 12 by compiling a double-double, the fourth of his college career, helping lead NU to an upset victory.

Overall, Nance made strides as a junior and will shoulder an even bigger load for Collins this season.

Strengths

Nance fundamentally serves as Northwestern’s go-to guy in the low post. He flashes the ability to dunk the ball given his 6-foot-10 frame and can easily body and back down defenders. As a rebounder, too, Nance crashes the boards fairly well and is generally Collins’ main man for retrieving errant shots. Moreover, Nance is a plus scorer and does have a three-point shot, as mentioned above.

Aside from his skills on the hardwood, Nance is one of the key leaders for this Northwestern team. From seeing action as a true freshman to being voted a team captain as a senior, the forward has witnessed firsthand what it takes to succeed at the collegiate level — posting an 18.7 Player Efficiency Rating (PER) last year (good for third on the squad) — and likely will do everything it takes to will this Northwestern team back to glory.

Weaknesses

While Nance is generally around the basketball quite a bit, he’s not necessarily as successful in making positive plays for the ‘Cats as Collins would hope. Yes, Nance led all Northwestern players in rebounds, but his 14.2 total rebound percentage ranked fifth on the team.

Furthermore, although he became a more apt scorer last season, Nance still has room for growth. Even though he’s a promising three-point shooter, Nance attempted just four shots beyond the arc per game last season; with Miller Kopp gone, that number will likely have to augment. Also, Nance’s free throw percentage isn’t exactly eye-popping.

Finally, one facet for improvement that could really elevate Nance’s game is acting as more of a facilitator and getting the ball to guards Boo Buie and Chase Audige for high percentage opportunities. Nance posted a career-high 13.6 assist percentage a year ago; even then, though, that figure ranked seventh among all Wildcats. Whether by serving as a decoy in the pick-and-roll game and shoveling passes inside the paint or swinging it out wide, adding such an element to the senior’s skillset could make him a premier forward in the Big Ten.

Expectations

Entering 2021-22, Nance is expected to be a cornerstone for Chris Collins, both on the court and in the locker room. Sans Kopp, the Wildcats will need Nance to have an even greater presence on both sides of the ball — and based on his team-high 2.4 win shares, that might not be much of a challenge. By leaning upon his NBA lineage — his dad being an NBA player for 13 years and his older brother, Larry, now with the Portland Trail Blazers — Nance must unequivocally guide this NU team as it hopes to replicate its early 2020-21 success and even make a deep Big Ten Tournament run.