Closing out Inside NU’s men’s basketball player reviews is a sophomore who took the biggest leap of all, going from scoring just 19 total points a season ago to playing one of the most major roles on the team. Brooks Barnhizer stepped up in a massive way as the season progressed...let’s take a look at his 2022-2023 campaign:
Stats via sports-reference.com:
Barnhizer battled injuries as a first-year, playing in just 11 games and averaging 7.5 minutes per outing. He scored less than two points a game, and he was mainly just thought of as a reserve coming into 2023.
However, his significance to one of the best squads in program history could not be overstated. Despite coming off the bench, Barnhizer played starter minutes, and he was in the closing lineup in most of the team’s games. He improved his averages in all aspects, from scoring to rebounding to defense. The largest improvements, however, were his shooting splits, which increased from 23.1% overall and 18.2% from deep to 41% and 31%, respectively.
While originally stepping in as a wing defender, Barnhizer’s role as a scorer developed more and more as the year went on, and he fell into the slot of the team’s third-most significant player behind Boo Buie and Chase Audige. Barnhizer scored in double digits in seven of his final eight games, highlighted by a career-high-tying 19 points in the team’s first matchup against Penn State. The sophomore shot 5-of-7 from beyond the arc against the Nittany Lions. He also made strides in his free-throw shooting, finishing the back half of the year as a 90.6% free-throw shooter after starting the first half of the season roughly 77.1% from the line.
Stats via hoop-math.com:
Barnhizer was not much of a facilitator this year, and mainly operated off-ball from Buie and Audige. His 88.5% assisted three-pointer rate trailed only Robbie Beran among qualified Wildcats, showing that a lot of his attempts from deep were catch-and-shoot. The sophomore was also lethal inside. He tallied a 60% field goal percentage at the rim — the highest among any non-center for Northwestern — and took 30% of his shots near the basket.
CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein may have called Matthew Nicholson the “Glue Guy” that held Northwestern together, but that title absolutely went to Barnhizer. From the start of the year to the finish, No. 13 hustled up and down the court to make plays on both offense and defense, regardless of the score. He was the team’s spark plug, and his freak athleticism combined with a 6-foot-6 frame, allowed him to guard one-through-four on the defensive end.
Barnhizer proved to be one of the most valuable pieces to Northwestern’s success alongside Buie and Audige, both in scoring and in his rebounding. As the calendar flipped into February and March, you could see him become more comfortable, and his all-around impact was unmatched.
It’s very hard to find much bad out of someone who only continued to improve and left his mark in all facets of the game. If anything, it would be that he did not facilitate much on offense and primarily operated off-ball, but that wasn’t his job, especially not with Buie in the lineup. It will be interesting to see if he takes on more of a ball-handler role next season with Buie and Audige likely out the door.
Otherwise, another area he could see development in is consistency with his shooting splits. Barnhizer shot a decent 41% from the field this season, but was prone to very good games and very bad games. There were some outings, like against Ohio State and Rutgers, where Barnhizer went off and made seven shots from the field, but also others like his 4-of-13, 4-of-10 and 1-of-9 stretch to end the season against Penn State, Boise State and UCLA, respectively. If he wants to step into a full-time scoring role in 2024, Barnhizer will need to shore up his shooting consistency.
The Bottom Line
In one season, Brooks Barnhizer went from little-known to one of the most loved players on the roster. Wildcat fans grew to enjoy his presence as someone who was going to give it his all and hustle on every play, making the most of his minutes on the court. His impact was felt immensely down the stretch of the season, as he contributed to several key plays in the moments that mattered most.
If Buie and Audige leave Evanston, it’ll likely be up to Barnhizer and Ty Berry to lead the backcourt in 2024. It’ll certainly be a change of roles to transition toward being a ball-handler, and with his limited sample size as one at Northwestern, it’s quite unknown what that might bring. However, if Barnhizer’s 2023 season showed us anything, it’s that he’s going to give it his all and continue to be a gritty, scrappy player while donning the purple and white.