Wildcat fans spent much of the offseason fretting over who would fill the big shoes of Juice Thompson as the team’s floor general. Six games into the season, David Sobolewski has taken the keys to Northwestern’s Princeton offense, leading the Wildcats to a strong start.
The 6-foot-1 freshman has averaged 33.8 minutes per game for the Wildcats, while assuming the role as floor leader for a predominantly veteran team.
“He’s made a big impact,” NU junior forward Drew Crawford said of Sobolewski. “Dave is a really tough kid, he’s a really smart player, and he’s been starting the offense well. He’s caught onto things really quickly, so he’s done a great job.”
During the summer, Sobolewski trained with Juice Thompson at Welsh-Ryan Arena—just before the Thompson departed for his professional career in Germany. Thompson started 129 games with Northwestern, so he was instrumental in helping Sobolewski learn how to play in the Princeton offense.
“He helped me a lot,” Sobolewski said. “He was around a lot, I worked out with him, he helped me get the footwork in the Princeton offense, and getting me ready for the practices.”
A standout at Benet Academy, Sobolewski led the Red Wings to 29 wins as a senior. The point guard entered Northwestern’s program with high confidence, but with plenty of room to grow.
When injuries struck Northwestern’s backcourt, Sobolewski assumed the role of starting point guard, and hasn’t let it up.
“He’s confident in his abilities,” Crawford said. “He’s playing at a high level. Obviously, he was a great player in high school, had a great high school coach and team. He’s a very capable player and he’s been able to make this transition to college basketball very well.”
Sobolewski has started each of Northwestern’s first six games, and has handled the ball carefully, yet confidently. The freshman has averaged four assists per game, while only turning the ball over seven times on the season.
NU head coach Bill Carmody is pleased with Sobolewski’s development.
“He’s bringing a lot,” Carmody said. “He’s distributing the ball when he needs to and knocking down shots when he’s open. He’s finding his moments and knows what to do. He’s doing the right thing at the right moment.”
Sobolewski has averaged nine points per game, making him the Wildcats’ third leading scorer. But the point guard has helped dish the ball to John Shurna, the Big Ten’s leading scorer, averaging 21.8 ppg, and Drew Crawford, who has posted 18.2 ppg.
“My job is easy when those guys are scoring like that, it really is,” Sobolewski said of NU’s two leading scorers. “All I have to do is get the ball where it needs to be and kind of let them take care of the rest. When you have two guys scoring at will like that, it’s a great thing for our team.”
Sobolewski is far from being the first freshman to start under Bill Carmody. John Shurna and Drew Crawford each started every game as a freshman, while Jershon Cobb started 25 games during his freshman season.
Carmody was expecting Sobolewski to take on a significant role this season, and is excited about the freshman’s tenacity.
“I like his poise right now,” Carmody said. “He’s got to get better at everything, but I like his poise as a competitor.”
Sobolewski gained that poise to play at the next level from the offseason, when his veteran teammates confidence that he could lead the team. That preseason unity led to early-season success for the Wildcats, and their new starting five.
“They make my job easy when they have confidence in me, when they trust me, and when they’re doing their jobs and putting the ball in the basket,” Sobolewski said. “I feel good out there.”