For fans in attendance at Northwestern's 70-46 exhibition victory over University of Chicago, a game program proved to be handy. This year's Cat squad features eight players who have never seen action in a Northwestern uniform.
The Wildcats are well past introductions, with the regular season just one week away. The team first practiced in July, thanks to a new NCAA rule allowing two hours of activity per week. Since then, Northwestern's roster—newcomers and returners—has meshed well.
"At this point, it doesn't even seem like they're new anymore," said sophomore guard Dave Sobolewski of NU's reshaped roster. "We've been playing together for so long, we know each other pretty well at this point."
Through months of workouts and practices, the Wildcats have grown strong bonds—both on and off the court. NU may have many new faces and a different style of play, but that could be beneficial.
"We're a lot closer," said guard Tre Demps. "I think we have a lot more athleticism. We don't necessarily shoot the ball as well as last year's team, but we're a closer unit. I think that's going to really get us over the hump."
The game started with Bill Carmody's starting five on the floor, but he later opened up the bench. In total, 14 Wildcats saw playing time with 11 recording points.
"You want to coach it like a regular game, which we did," said Carmody. "But we wanted to get some of the guys that are new to the program in there, just so they can get a taste of things."
Carmody explained following the contest that veteran leaders like Sobolewski and Drew Crawford will be instrumental in helping Northwestern develop this season. Sobolewski agreed, and is eager to assist.
"It's just about getting the younger guys in a game atmosphere and getting them enough experience so they're ready to go as the games get going," he said.
With a roster loaded with potential contributors, it won't be an easy task to allocate minutes, as this NU team is the deepest Carmody has ever coached.
No rotation has been set by Carmody, and it may not be fully set by the season-opener against Texas Southern. The battle for playing time continues on through practice as a new team looks to find its identity. So how will Carmody set a rotation?
"That kind of depends on who's looking good in practice," Crawford said. "Guys are working hard, so quite a few guys could play. A lot of people are working hard and smart out there on the court."