Weeks after visiting and falling in love with NU campus, Gavin Skelly showed high major coaches what…
The thing is: He's 6-9, 215, and undoubtedly the most unique target on Northwestern's board. At times, Skelly even surprises himself.
"I don't know how I did it," he said of his assist numbers. "It was kind of weird."
Unconventional prospects often arrive with otherworldly upside. Skelly, despite his relatively quiet recruitment, boasts several plus-skills. Coaches call him "versatile"–the key phrase for NU basketball–and praise his endurance and shooting ability.
Patrick Baldwin immediately latched onto his recruitment upon arriving at NU. Baldwin built an excellent relationship with Skelly, one that the 2014 power forward said is only improving.
"I love Coach Baldwin," he said. "He's awesome. We're really starting to develop a bond. We're starting to become more like friends than acquaintances. It's very friend-related."
So, his friend scheduled a campus visit. Skelly and his father traveled to Evanston on Tuesday and left with an incredibly positive impression. Aside from the lone negative–that he would have liked to see more "academic buildings"–Skelly loved the experience.
Several factors play into his love of NU: the academics, the Big Ten and his willingness to establish tradition. His dad left with an equally powerful impression. He turned to Skelly after the visit and said: "If you get an offer, this could be the one."
Collins will make his round of visits in July. He'll watch tens of prospective recruits throughout the month, judging whether each player is worthy of an offer. Skelly knows that, of course, he needs to impress the head coach.
For now, Baldwin made another savvy move on the trail. By recruiting Skelly and Peyton Aldridge–his teammate and very close friend–Baldwin established ties with Team Work of the AAU circuit. As well, the two exchanged glowing reviews of their respective visits.
"[Aldridge] is one of my best friends," Skelly said. "I tell him: ‘Let's try to find a school we both kind of like.'"
Why? They play well together. In AAU, they run the high-low and exploit mismatches with their overpowering size and versatility. Coaches project Aldridge to play small forward and Skelly to play power forward; NU clued into this potential package deal.
They're also especially sentimental about the program. Skelly not only sees a school he loves, but also embraces the idea of building tradition. He compared the program to Cornell, which made the Sweet Sixteen in 2010 after years of futility.
He also brought up Florida Gulf Coast, which, aside from the lax academic standards, relates to NU in the sense that they won "style" victories. Skelly watched them race up the floor, a key component of Collins' plans, and pull off impressive upsets.
"The thing Peyton and I like about Northwestern: Let's be part of the dream," he said. "Let's be part of this one class that can get to the Sweet Sixteen or Final Four. I want to be a part of that. We love Northwestern and talk all the time about it."
The dream. It sounds so far off but so appealing. NU, at the very least, is starting to find players who really believe in it.