With all the “what-ifs” Northwestern has had to look back on this year at the end of close games, it seems appropriate to wonder about another — what if Jershon Cobb were healthy all season?
The sophomore guard underwent hip surgery last spring and suffered complications from his surgery throughout much of the following winter. He missed four games in non-conference season and eight at the beginning of Big Ten play. After taking some time to get back into the swing of things, Cobb has gone on a roll late in the season.
What if that spark had come earlier in the season? Cobb prefers not to think about it.
“I’m thinking about winning the NIT right now,” he said. “You can’t think about the past. You have to move ahead, move along in this NIT and try to win.”
It’s sure hard for Northwestern fans not to wonder that if Cobb had played all season like he has played recently, would the NCAA Tournament, not the NIT, be on his mind.
In the last three games, Cobb has shown why he was one of the more highly-touted recruits to come to Evanston during coach Bill Carmody’s tenure. He has always been one of the team’s best defenders, but his offense has improved mightily over the past three games.
He had 13 points — then a season-high — in 29 minutes in the regular season finale against Iowa, then added 24 points and 8 rebounds in 36 minutes of an overtime loss to Minnesota at the Big Ten Tournament. He kept up that production Tuesday, with 19 points in 29 minutes against Akron.
“We all know how great a player JerShon is, the more he plays the better he gets,” senior forward John Shurna said. “We saw that last year and unfortunately he’s been battling some injuries but he stepped up this year and made some big plays offensively and defensively.”
Cobb said that he has been more in sync with the rest of the offense late this season and that has led to his strong contributions on that end of the floor.
“I feel more comfortable on the court,” he said. “I feel like I’m getting my game back and my teammates have been behind me the whole time. I’m just going out there and playing for them.”
Carmody has been impressed with Cobb’s transformation, as well. He didn’t get to see all of Cobb’s potential last year “because even last year he got hurt probably the last 10 games of the season.” However, Carmody is seeing the wait pay off now, even if injuries caused the payoff to come later than he had hoped.
“We’re running plays for him; he’s really comfortable down in the low post,” Carmody said. “For guys who maybe have been role players, maybe they step up now and I think that’s significant. Cobb has really shown that.”
NU sure could have used that boost earlier in the season, as it struggled with depth and played only six players in some games. However, Cobb is focused on moving forward and looking ahead to the rest of the NIT and next season. He said he needs to get into better shape, as he still gets winded on the court at times.
And as well as he has played, Cobb isn’t satisfied with where he is now.
“I’m still not where I need to be," he said. "But I’m working."