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. In our final edition of this series, we take a look at Pete Nance, and the struggles and triumphs that made up his senior season.
After coming to Evanston in 2018, Nance has made clear strides in his game. His senior season he led the team in points, rebounds and blocks, a huge step up from his inaugural go-around where he wasn’t even guaranteed to see the floor. The Akron native improved in seemingly every area, this season most notably from behind the arc and as a facilitator. His improvements allowed him to become a 1000 point scorer as well as an All-Big Ten Honorable Mention in 2022, giving him a leg up in the race to have his name called at the NBA Draft in June.
The following numbers are from KenPom.com.
After his freshman season, Nance maintained a large role for the ‘Cats for three consecutive seasons, averaging over 26 minutes a game in each year. The main change offensively for Nance through his sophomore and senior years was his efficiency, as he averaged 6.1 more points per game in his final season than his second. Of course, his usage rate went up slightly, but going from a 40 percent to a 50 percent shooter from the field and transforming himself from a sub-30 percent three-point shooter to 45.2 percent, were the main reasons for the scoring increase.
Other than shooting the ball better, Nance’s turnovers per possession were at an all-time low his senior season, and his assist numbers ended up at an all-time high. Although junior guard Boo Buie was still the primary facilitator for Northwestern, Nance provided extra help this season, showing that the offense can run through him when needed.
Nance’s biggest blessing and curse is his shot selection, as he often won’t settle for a good shot because he’s waiting for a great one. This of course, can be beneficial, but as the main scorer offensively and a leader on the team, a lot of the times the shot he decides against ends up being a better shot than the one the ‘Cats eventually took.
The following stats are taken from hoop-math.com
From the statistics, it is clear that Nance feels most comfortable from mid-range, yet it is his most inefficient spot on the floor. Nance still consistently chooses to shoot from mid-range when creating his own shot, although only shooting 45 percent on long two’s. His speed makes it difficult for the forward to drive by defenders to the rim, making the midrange a viable option considering his 6-foot-10 frame makes it especially difficult for defenders to block his shot.
As many coaches will tell you, it is difficult to shoot a long two at a rate more efficiently than simply shooting threes, (although Demar DeRozan has definitely proved it’s still possible) so Nance gaining more confidence from three might be something he could work on. The fact that he is shooting 45 percent from three and yet had less than 100 shot attempts from behind the arc is not ideal, especially considering Northwestern shot less than 35 percent from three on the year. He also could’ve utilized his size a bit better in the post, as less than one-fourth of his shots came at the rim despite his frame.
The most impressive part of Nance’s game evolution over the years is that he doesn’t have a clear weakness holding him back, and he is above-average at nearly everything. He’s a solid defender, an impressive passer for a player of his size and, despite his infatuation with the midrange, he’s a three-level scorer. Additionally, Nance doesn’t turn the ball over at a concerning rate and he stays out of foul trouble for the most part.
Although he does not have an overall weakness, the reason Nance will likely be a mid-to-late pick in the NBA Draft, if selected at all, is that he doesn’t really have a “wow” factor in his game. He is not a freak athlete or an exceptional defender, and he can seemingly disappear in games at times due to his difficulty creating shots for himself. He also doesn’t get to the line too often, averaging less than three free throws a game, due in large part to his lack of production near the basket.
It is not yet known if Nance will exercise his extra year of eligibility next season or pursue a professional career, but regardless there is room for improvement. However, with the play style of college and the NBA being so different, his focus during the offseason will likely change depending on his decision. There is one thing that’s for certain between the two leagues, and it’s that Nance will benefit immensely if he continues working on his shot from behind the arc.
Starting with his offseason focus if he were to turn pro, other than jump shooting, Nance should focus most on molding his physique into an NBA type build. In college, Nance didn’t have a defined position, so his current size allowed for him to play the four or five. However, in the NBA it is likely that Nance will not be expected to have to produce near the basket, so getting quicker and more agile in the offseason would be beneficial. If he reaches the NBA, Nance’s offensive role will likely have him involved in dribble handoffs, distributing to shooters and knocking down the occasional mid-range or three when needed, and thus Nance should work to improve on these areas of his game.
If he were to stay in college for a fifth season, Nance should work to be more of a focal point offensively, as both a passer and a scorer. Although the offense often played through Nance when Boo Buie wasn’t on the court in 2021-22, it could be beneficial to play through the forward even more, if he improves on his already above average vision. Additionally, Nance developing more of an ability to create for himself would do wonders for the ‘Cats, as Boo Buie and Chase Audige won’t have to be the primary options late in the shot clock.
The Bottom Line
There is a good chance that Nance will not be in Evanston next season, but if he does opt to return, he will without question be a centerpiece of Chris Collins’ team. With Nance, Northwestern has a significantly higher chance to go dancing next season and improve as they’ve done throughout his collegiate career. If he doesn’t return, regardless of whether he is drafted or not, as a 6-foot-10 big who can shoot from the outside, he’ll have an opportunity to play professionally either in the U.S. or overseas, following in the footsteps of father and brother before him.