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Northwestern women’s basketball 2020-21 player reviews: Courtney Shaw

Despite injury setbacks, the junior emerged as a force in the paint for the ‘Cats.

Photo by Amit Mallik

Courtney Shaw was the subject of many “what if” statements during the down portions of the ‘Cats’ 2021 season. After sustaining a lower body injury in late January, she missed the entire month of February when four of the teams’ nine total losses were sustained. Her height and aggression were sorely missed on both ends of the court, and flipping a few of those February losses into wins could have given NU a better seed in the NCAA Tournament.

When she was healthy, however, Shaw made a difference in the paint. Her rebounding ability continued to give the ‘Cats the possessions they needed, as she always fought for extra chances under the basket. The junior forward also stepped up in the tourney to post back-to-back double digit scoring performances against UCF and Louisville. One can only wonder how a healthy Shaw might have made a difference for the team in the regular season.


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Shaw transformed into an essential piece of McKeown’s starting five this season as both an offensive and defensive threat. The 6-foot center boasted the highest 2-point percentage on the team at 53.6% and averaged about 7.4 points per game. However, the most impressive facet of her stat-line is her rebounding ability.

Despite missing nine games, Shaw pulled in 100 total rebounds for an average of about 6.2 per game. She averaged 3.1 offensive rebounds per game during conference play, the period which she missed most of, and still managed to finish the season among the top five best offensive rebounders in the Big Ten. Nonetheless, one element of her game she could work on is fouling. Shaw’s aggressiveness under the basket is part of what makes her game so tough to defend, but that scrappiness gets negated if she’s constantly sent to the bench for her foul trouble.

Shot Distribution

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Despite Shaw converting over 50% of her field goal attempts this season, her usage rate was the lowest of the five starters. It’s a bit blurry as to whether this is surprising or not given the playmakers she was surrounded by, but losing a shooter in Lindsay Pulliam next season may force McKeown and Co. to look inside to Shaw more often next season. Nevertheless, she did prove to be much more of an offensive threat to opponents than most expected entering her junior year.

Shaw’s scoring improved greatly from last season as she went from an average of 3.9 to 7.4 points per game. With her offensive rebounding ability and accurate percentages, Shaw should remain a major contributor at the basket. Her free-throw percentage, however, is another story. Shaw only made 36.6% of her foul shots, which is less than ideal given she’s often positioned in the area of the court where most fouling occurs. It is pivotal that she puts some work in from the line this offseason.

The Good

The Shaw effect became evident toward the end of the season when comparing team play with and without her. A key struggle for the ‘Cats all season was simply scoring points, and Shaw’s five week absence only emphasized this. Her height and hunger in the paint during the Big Ten and national tournaments reminded fans why she earned a spot in the starting five. She pulled in 34 points and 22 total rebounds in the postseason matches, eight of them against Maryland alone. This impressive burst should be more than enough to get fans excited for what Shaw will bring to the table next season.

The Bad

Again, as a player who does the majority of her damage in the paint, Shaw needs to improve from the stripe. Her free-throw percentage was the second lowest on the team as she made only 15 of 41 attempts. Each miss might not feel so significant in the heat of every game, but when it comes down to crunch time Shaw needs to be able to cash in those freebies.

The Bottom Line

This year could have been considered a breakout for Shaw if it were not for the unfortunate circumstances of her injury. On the bright side, next year can only be better when she hopefully gets a chance to shine in a full season of play. With her tenacity beneath the net and magnetic affinity for rebounds, Shaw will certainly be a player both fans and opponents to keep their eyes on.