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Northwestern men’s basketball 2021-22 player reviews: role players and reserves

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A mix of future production and graduating contributors

NCAA Basketball: Indiana at Northwestern David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Northwestern’s college basketball season is over, but before we officially close the book on the 2021-22 campaign and start looking towards next year, it’s time to review the individual performances of each Wildcat over the past five months. To begin, here’s how Chris Collins’ role players and reserves fared in last season’s go-around:

Role Players

Ryan Greer

Although his base stats — 3.9 points per game, 1.9 rebounds per game and 2.1 assists per game — don’t jump off the page, Greer was an effective guard off the bench for Northwestern. Compared to Buie, Audige and Berry, the 6-foot-2 senior provided a change of pace and a different look for opposing defenses to contend with. Greer’s passing and selfless play allowed the ‘Cats to get more prolific scorers, like Buie and Audige, moving off the ball to receive it in threatening positions.

The Atlanta product also shot 40 percent from three, second-best on the team behind Nance, albeit on lower volume than most of his teammates. While he’s had his struggles throughout his collegiate career, Greer finally found his groove in the second half of the season, and he put up some great performances, most notably in NU’s close wins over Rutgers and Illinois. The graduating senior has completed his tenure with the ‘Cats, but he will be remembered as an essential part of this year’s team.

Casey Simmons

A four-star recruit according to 24/7 Sports, Simmons earned Collins’ trust early on in the season. The first-year started Northwestern’s first seven games before being relegated to the bench due to Audige’s return from injury, but he still received double-digit minutes in the following five games. From that point onward, the Massachusetts native fell even further down the rotation, receiving meaningful minutes sparingly. This drop in game time does correlate with the start of the Big Ten schedule — not an uncommon trend with first-year players.

The 6-foot-6 guard did have quite the impact in the second half of the Illinois game in Champaign where he recorded three steals that led to a couple of big transition buckets, but outside of that, he had a quiet conference campaign. Simmons showed great athleticism as well as length when he was on the floor, and he consistently proved himself worthy on defense. That being said, his play at the offensive end of the court, especially when it comes to taking care of the ball, has room for improvement before he likely steps into a bigger role next season.

Elyjah Williams

Williams transferred to Northwestern after spending four years at Fairleigh Dickinson, and considering he’s an Evanston native, the move made sense. The grad student served as Robbie Beran’s backup and also filled in at center when necessary, where he utilized his strength to compensate for being slightly undersized compared to his Big Ten counterparts in that position. Despite not playing a lot — only Simmons received fewer minutes of players who were in the rotation — Williams made his presence felt and had some big moments.

His performance at Welsh-Ryan against Kofi Cockburn and Illinois, while not statistically impressive, was very strong; his defense gave Cockburn more troubles than anyone else the ‘Cats could throw at the him, and he showed some surprising agility and ball-handling skill at the other end. He showed similar offensive prowess in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, and played a significant part in propelling NU to its first postseason win in five seasons.

Reserves

Brooks Barnhizer

The three-star recruit from Lafayette, Ind., saw the least playing time of Northwestern’s three freshmen this past season. Barnhizer made his debut in the Wildcats’ 82-46 win over Fairleigh Dickinson and recorded his first points in purple against Illinois-Springfield. Most of the 6-foot-6 guard’s in-game action came in garbage time, but the hope is he will take on an expanded role in the rotation next year.

Matthew Nicholson

While not a regular part of the rotation, Nicholson spent his sophomore year acting as the emergency backup for Pete Nance and Ryan Young. When they both got into foul trouble, Collins deployed the 7-footer to eat up some minutes, though his tendency to breach foul trouble himself was worrisome. The Michigan-native’s best trait is his size, but it remains to be seen whether the rest of his game can develop to complement his physical tools.

Roy Dixon III

A junior walk-on, Dixon III appeared in six games for the ‘Cats, tallying two assists against Fairleigh Dickinson and scoring his first collegiate points on Dec. 12th against NJIT.