There's been a lot of hubbub in the news this summer about illegal activities
performed by former Northwestern athletes while they were in the Wildcat
basketball and football programs. To my knowledge, it has nothing to do with
any of the current members of the NW Men's BB team so I'm going to leave it
alone. Although I don't know of any NCAA penalties drawn by NW due to what's
been unearthed, I'm also pretty sure the final ballot hasn't been dropped in
the box yet. So the NW BB program could be taking some damage from this thing
before the dust settles.
What they had:
Last season, it was Julian Bonner playing out of position at point. Sean Wink
played at the two or three guard position and, as a freshman, become NW's
three point attack- supplementing the impressive post play of center Evan
Eschmeyer. Joe Harmsen and Aron Molnar, two hulks both over 230 pounds, tagged
off at the power forward position. Senior Joe Branch played a lot of small
forward, and guards Napoleon Harris and Nate Pomeday played supportive roles.
Some freshmen, guard Jonah Batumbuze and center Terrence Avery, may have
helped out now and then.
What they lose, what they get back:
Joe Branch is gone. Former frosh Avery and Batumbuze also appear to be off the
roster and are missing in action (by my books). Sean Hanlon, a wing guard that
was on an injury red-shirt a while ago, is also gone.
The inside-outside combination is still intact though. Eschmeyer is again at
center for the Wildcats this season, getting his sixth year of eligibility via
the Prop 68 route. Eschmeyer is, hands down, the best center in the Big Ten
this season. He averaged 21.7 ppg and 10.7 rpg last season at 61.0% FG.
Eschmeyer finished in the Top 20 last season in scoring, rebounding, and
field-goal percentage- and you know he did most of it while being double-
teamed. Wink, who averaged 12.1 ppg at 44.3% FG last season as a freshman, is
primed to contribute even more this season. Forwards Harmsen and Molnar are
still around and this season you can expect Julian Bonner to be playing more
at shooting guard, a position he's more comfortable with than the point.
Point Guard Freshman David Newman will start at the point. Even raw, he's NW's
best option to lead the team. If Newman can handle his own, Bonner and Wink
and Eschmeyer could really pour on the offense.
Also joining the team are guards Danny Allouche, Collier Drayton, and Steve
Lapore. 6-7 Tavaras Hardy adds some depth in the forward slot.
David Newman Fr.
Julian Bonner Sr.
Sean Wink So.
Joe Harmsen Sr.
Evan Eschmeyer Sr.
Nate Pomeday- G Sr.
Napoleon Harris- G So.
Aron Molnar- PF/C Jr.
Tavaras Hardy- F Fr.
Steve Lapore- G/F Fr.
Danny Allouche- G Sr.
Collier Drayton- G Fr.
Northwestern is a better team than they have been in a long time.
Unfortunately, the Big Ten has been improving as a conference along with
Northwestern, so the Wildcats have remained in the basement. Last year, NW won
3 Big Ten games. Still, that's one or two more games than they've won in
seasons earlier this decade. Eschmeyer, Wink, and Bonner can overwhelm smaller
teams from smaller conferences, but I don't think Northwestern has the depth,
defensive intensity (as a team), or endurance to reach the upper division of
the Big Ten this season. With Eschmeyer leaving after this season, expect NW
to suffer even more next season ... but I still say Coach O'Neill has got this
program headed in the right direction.
What they had:
They had an 8-8 record in the Big Ten last year, beating out Ohio State,
Northwestern, and Wisconsin by a lot of Big Ten wins. They also had Pete
Licisky, whose shooting touch is largely responsible for a majority of those 8
wins. They also lost point guard Dan Earl to injury, which in my opinion
ruined Penn State's hopes of getting out of the basement last season. Still,
PSU had some weapons last season. Licisky shot from the outside well and Booth
was a competent center most of the time. Freshmen Gyasi Cline-Heard and Joe
Crispin also had some good games (particularly Crispin). And let's not forget
the Big Ten's best-kept secret, power forward Jarrett Stephens. He's probably
the best 6-7 forward in the country that you've never heard of.
What they lose, what they get back:
They lose Pete Lisicky, their go-to guy. There's also no guarantee that Dan
Earl will be able to play this fall. Oh, he's eligible. Due to two medical
redshirt years, his sixth year of eligibility is assured by Prop 68. But that
knee of his may not let him play. The same is also true for Jarrett Stephens.
Stephens suffered a knee injury in the NIT Semifinal against Georgia last
season (to the ref's defense, they DID make a flagrant foul call). Stephens
won't be ready to play until December at the earliest.
Without those three players, you have Joe Crispin and Calvin Booth and a lot
of untested supporting cast members. Not the best situation you could think of
Tyler Smith, a 6-8 forward and Stephan Bekale, a 6-9 F/C. Also, a 6-5 WF named
Rob Walls. Although these players might develop into something special in
time, I don't see them making a major impact on the team this season.
Dan Earl Sr. (if healthy, if not Crispin at point and Greg Grays as
Joe Crispin So.
Titus Ivory So.
Jarrett Stephens Sr. (if healthy, if not then Carl Jackson or Gyasi Cline-
Calvin Booth Sr.
Greg Grays- G So.
Gyasi Cline-Heard - F So.
Carl Jackson - F Jr.
Tyler Smith - F Fr.
Rob Walls - G/F Fr.
Stephen Bekale - F/C Fr.
Scott Witkowski - C So.
Pete Rogowski- C So.
Jon Branam - G Jr.
Tim McGovern - G Jr.
If Penn State's members are all healthy and get some fire in them like that
season when a young Lisicky and Earl took their team to 3rd place in the Big
Ten ... hey, anything can happen. But with health concerns with two of their
prime players, a consistent under-achieving performance by Calvin Booth over
the last three seasons, and a relatively young squad ... I don't think the
prognosis is good for Penn State against the improving ballclubs of the Big
Ten. BUT Penn State made it to the NIT finals last season before losing to
Minnesota. That's farther than MSU, Purdue, or Indiana has gone in their
tournaments for a while.
Next up...Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio State.
If you have questions or comments, you know where to send them.