It’s all unclear at this point, but it appears that John Shurna could return to Northwestern for his senior season. The senior-to-be has put his name into draft consideration, but has not hired an agent—leaving himself the chance to withdraw his name, and return to school.
The loss of Juice Thompson will be felt by the Wildcats next season, as they try to make up for his production. So what would happen if Shurna departs as well?
While battling through an injury-plagued junior season, Shurna averaged 16.6 points per game—slightly down from his 18.2 points per game average as a junior. But everyone saw how lethal the Glen Ellyn native could be during the beginning of the season, when Shurna was averaging more than 20 points per game, and was named to the Wooden Award Midseason Top 30 list.
The sharp shooter’s biggest impact came from beyond the arc, where he hit 43.4% of his three-pointers—an improvement from his first two seasons.
Most importantly, Shurna was always there when needed, missing just two games in his three years. During those two games which Shurna missed (due to a concussion suffered in January), Mike Capocci stepped into Shurna’s role.
Now, Capocci is gone as well, which makes you wonder, who would step into Shurna’s role?
Northwestern loses three forwards to graduation (Mike Capocci, Jeff Ryan, and Ivan Peljusic) so the loss of Shurna would only make things worse. This leaves Bill Carmody and his staff with three possibilities to replace Shurna.
The first possibility is moving senior-to-be Davide Curletti into the power forward role. In his three years at Northwestern, Curletti has started just one game (February 18th against Ohio State). In the past, Curletti has been buried in the Wildcats’ rotation—most recently serving as a backup to Luka Mirkovic.
Late in his junior season, Curletti showed signs of improvement. He swatted four shots against SIU Edwardsville, and posted a career-high 18 points at Wisconsin. If Shurna were to leave, Curletti will likely take on a much larger role.
Another possibility is for incoming freshman Mike Turner (6-8, 190) to step right into Shurna’s role. Turner is the only incoming freshman with size (not including potential signee John Cannon, who still lists Northwestern as his top school). As a senior, Turner was named to the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association All-State team, thanks to a strong season with University of Chicago Laboratory School.
Turner would need to add some muscle to be able to fight with other Big Ten forwards. He has great potential, but his time could come earlier than expected if John Shurna is not around.
The final possibility is for the Wildcats to go small. This means Northwestern would play a four-guard set, with Drew Crawford (6-5, 205) stepping in as a guard/power forward hybrid. This would put a lot of weight on the shoulders of the Wildcat guards. This type of set would involve a lot of outside shooting, and NU would need to rely on strong interior play from Luka Mirkovic.
In this set, you would see a lot more of Alex Marcotullio, Jershon Cobb, and Nick Fruendt, along with incoming freshmen David Sobolewski and Tre Demps.
This is likely the least-likely scenario, but the Wildcats don’t have many options.
Shurna has until May 8th to remove his name from draft considerations; otherwise he will forgo his senior season with the Wildcats.