With the weather beginning to turn cooler and speckles of red and orange sparkling at the tops of trees, one thing is clear: we’re closing in on the start of men’s basketball season. Here at InsideNU, we’ll be previewing every player on the squad and what to expect from them this season. Today, we’ll turn our attention to Luke Hunger.
Who is he?
Sophomore; forward; 6-foot-10; 255 pounds; from Montreal, Québec; No. 4 ranked Canadian prospect in his class, per 247Sports.
6.5 minutes per game; 2.7 points per game; 1.3 rebounds; 0.2 assists; 42.9 FG%; 50.0 3PT%; 60.0 FT%.
Hunger’s freshman campaign did not go as planned. The Canadian big man sustained a season-ending foot injury during Northwestern’s mid-December win over UIC. The rising sophomore was forced into a walking boot and was seen cheering Northwestern’s magical run from the bench.
However, No. 33 contributed in his six games, scoring his first two collegiate points on a two-hand slam against Chicago State. Hunger flashed against DePaul, finishing with a career-high eight points and three boards.
Hunger’s biggest strength is his ability to stretch the defense out. Northwestern’s bigs in Matthew Nicholson and Liberty transfer Blake Preston are best within three feet of the basket, using their physicality and rim-running to make an offensive impact, but give the ‘Cats little in the shooting department. For Hunger, his ability to shoot the three-ball allows Chris Collins to use him as a stretch four or as a center in a small-ball lineup. His versatility and range from behind the arc will boost a Northwestern team that finished last season 12th in the Big Ten in three-point shooting percentage.
Furthermore, Hunger has the handles to put the ball on the floor and attack the rim. For a player his size, he’s effective in getting to the rack and finishing with two hands. The ‘Cats will utilize him off screens too, whether in the pick-and-pop or pick-and-roll game, working to take some of the scoring load off the guards. Defensively, having him in the lineup will give the ‘Cats an extra big in their rotation, keeping legs fresh in NU’s high-energy defense.
Inexperience on the court is Hunger’s biggest weakness. Although he certainly learned a lot during Northwestern’s March Madness run, watching from the bench is different from living it on the court. Especially with matchups against the Big Ten’s best, the untested Hunger will be thrown into the fire. At 6-foot-10, he has the size to match up with a majority of the conference’s bigs; however, against physical players like Zach Edey, Cliff Omoruyi or Dain Dainja, Hunger’s inexperience may present a challenge defensively and on the glass.
Plus, coming off a season-ending injury and trying to fight back to midseason form will be difficult. Hunger has seen limited action and doesn’t know the full grind of playing every game of a Big Ten schedule. The Canadian’s mentality will be crucial to his success, something he’s primed to find this season.
Poised to be thrust into a meaningful role, Hunger projects to be a rotational big man for the Wildcats with offensive upside that could earn him additional minutes. With Nicholson in command of the starting center spot, Hunger will compete primarily with Preston for minutes. If he’s able to stay healthy, expect the sophomore to give Chris Collins versatility in his lineups as he plays chess against the Big Ten’s grandmasters. At his size, Hunger has the potential to be a matchup nightmare from behind the arc, pulling away rim protectors from the paint and allowing Northwestern to attack inside.
Add in his ability to score the basketball, and Hunger should see a healthy dose of usage playing behind Nicholson. As long as the Canadian sophomore can keep up defensively, he should see plenty of the floor for the ‘Cats this winter.