As Chris Collins begins his tenure in Evanston, that appears to be the burning question. Until he reels in his first big fish, fans are bound to have doubts. But no matter how you swing it, his track record at Duke speaks for itself.
Collins helped Mike Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils land high-level recruits including current NBA stars Luol Deng, Kyrie Irving and Chicago-area prep phenoms Sean Dockery and Jon Scheyer. His most recent catch for Duke was none other than Jabari Parker, a four-time state champion at Chicago Simeon who will arrive in Durham this fall.
Locally rooted, Collins was a McDonalds All-American at Glenbrook North in the early 90s. Northwestern's inability to consistently recruit big names out of talent-laden Chicagoland has often been viewed as a stumbling block to postseason success. On the surface, Collins' suburban roots may not seem like enough to break that cycle. But according to Parker's father Sonny, now is the time for change.
"[Chris] is going to do well at Northwestern," said Parker, a former NBA player and longtime friend of Collins' father, Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doug Collins. "We have some good kids [in the city] that can do the work there, that are student-athletes. Everybody knows who Collins is—he's got a great reputation in this area with recruits. He's going to get some good players."
Given the wealth of in-state talent in Illinois' 2014 and 2015 recruiting classes, Collins will have the opportunity to make his mark, though he'll need to move quickly.
Prospects including former Carmody target Vic Law of St. Rita and point guard wunderkind Tyler Ulis from Marian Catholic, both rising seniors, should be on Northwestern's shortlist. Another standout point guard, Stevenson junior Jalen Brunson also ought to make his way onto the Wildcats' radar.
Landing a player or two of that caliber would go a long way to expedite Collins' building process. His first step is assembling his coaching staff. Several names have popped up, including potential holdover Tavaras Hardy, Ohio State video coordinator and former Duke player Greg Paulus, and 76ers assistant Brian James, Chris' high school coach and one of Doug's right-hand men. Whomever Collins brings with him, the right personnel will be key to Northwestern's recruiting clout.
"I think [Collins] will get it done over there," said Simeon assistant coach Jeff Duncan, a close friend of the Parker family. "Everybody respects him, he'll do it the right way. I think he'll have good connections depending on what coaches come in with him, hopefully somebody that knows Chicago. He'll be alright—he got Jabari, so that's a plus."
And recruits love Collins as well. Though he didn't lead the recruitment of McDonalds All-American Matt Jones, he certainly made a good impression. Jones, who hails from DeSoto, Texas, sees the former Duke assistant as the right man for Northwestern.
"When I found out, I was happy for him," said Jones. "At the same time, I was looking forward to being coached by everyone I met [at Duke], but it's part of the game. He's a great coach, a great person and I definitely see him having great success."