Veronica Burton’s transition from Northwestern to the WNBA leaves a vacuum at the top of the ‘Cats’ depth chart. To fill the void, the roster must possess a “next man up mentality.” Assumedly, that means it’s Courtney Shaw’s turn to lead NU. Here’s a preview of Shaw and her skill set heading into the season.
Who is she?
Graduate student; forward; 6-foot-0; Perry Hall, MD.; a top-25 recruit at her position coming out of high school.
20.5 minutes per game; 5.9 points per game; 5.8 rebounds; 0.6 assists; 0.9 steals per game; 0.7 blocks per game; 54.6 FG%, 44.0 FT%.
29 games played; 29 games started; 8.1 points per game; 10.0 rebounds per game; 0.8 assists per game; 51.3 FG%; 0.0 3P%; 52.4 FT%
The “second option” is a frequent utterance in basketball circles when referring to a team’s right-hand player. A Robin to one’s Batman, if you will. In 2021, Courtney Shaw was Northwestern’s second option—the Robin to Veronica Burton’s Batman.
Burton led the ‘Cats in most categories last year: minutes, points, field goals, free throws, assists, and steals. In all but one of those categories (steals), Courtney Shaw placed second among the team. She also claimed the rebounding crown for herself, corralling 290 boards in 29 games. After starting only nine matchups in three years—all of which came in her junior season—Shaw broke onto the scene in 2021, starting every game alongside Burton. Aside from a half-court chuck last winter, Shaw didn’t attempt a single three-point shot in her senior year. Where she dominates is the paint.
Standing at just six-feet tall, Shaw has built a reputation for her ability to scrappily finish around the rim. Concluding the season with the highest field goal percentage on the team, the grad student’s efficiency in two-point land can’t be denied. Head coach Joe McKeown served as one of her biggest proponents in 2021, noting in multiple press conferences that Shaw’s high motor made her one of the most underrated players in the Big Ten.
There’s a lot to be impressed by when reviewing Shaw’s film. She makes her presence on the court known, jockeying for rebounds wherever she can.
In fact, on top of finishing third in the Big Ten in rebounds last year, the forward led the nation in offensive rebounds. A near one-to-one ratio between offensive and defensive boards is wildly impressive. Rebounding projects to hold as Shaw’s biggest asset heading into 2022, as she continues to become more physical in the paint. She’s shorter than the centers and power forwards she vies for rebounds against, which is why her tenacity on both ends helps compensate for the occasional mismatch she endures.
Often overlooked is Shaw’s apt discretion in picking her spots on the floor. For someone who really only earned tangible playing time last year, the fifth-year was immediately able to decipher where best to position herself. Yes, she has the foresight to not shoot threes. But what I’m talking about are her decisions to wait on the elbows, read her defenders, and cut to the blocks in stride with an incoming pass if the defense takes their eyes off her. It sounds simple, but it’s a quality that contributed to such an effective field goal percentage in 2021 and aims to aid her success moving forward.
Mentioned above, Shaw doesn’t do much to jeopardize the success of the team. Her shot selection is good. She hustles baseline-to-baseline. And don’t forget, she’ll always find a way to get a rebound.
If we’re getting nitpicky, the most obvious detriment to the forward’s game is her free-throw shooting. Shooting a cringe-worthy 52.4% from the charity stripe last year, Shaw fell flat in converting on uncontested points. In 2021, she averaged just under three free-throw attempts per game. As such, the underwhelming figure attached to the foul shots didn’t often have an influential impact on the game.
With Burton gone and coach McKeown having a history in increasing her floor time, it’s only natural to expect that the ball is going to find its way into Shaw’s hands more frequently this year. On top of an increased usage rate, her residence in the paint makes her more susceptible to being fouled. All this is to say that a 52.4% hit rate on free-throws is going to hurt much worse than it did last year. Hopefully, it’s something the forward’s been able to work out in the offseason.
Did they ever make a spinoff about Robin if Batman ever retired or left him? Maybe they did, I’m not a comic book guy. But maybe the potential spinoff goes something like this: Robin embraces his newfound independence, leads a new team of sidekicks, and saves Gotham at every turn.
Hopefully, that’s also how Courtney Shaw’s season plays out.
I expect her to remain a steadfast asset in the rebounding game. I have hope that her free-throw percentage will increase. And I don’t think anyone doubts her ability to prove to her teammates that she loves the game (see: frequent dives for balls). Now the undisputed veteran voice on the team, how far Northwestern goes is up to her.