Going south, in a good way

Going south, in a good way

We're learning that Northwestern basketball is turning some of its recruiting efforts to the south.

Oddly enough, Northwestern basketball fans hold their stars up with more passion than perhaps any program in the country. Juice Thompson and John Shurna were not components of this revolving door of success. Rather, when you speak about the team's checkered history, you add the caveat that some people were above it all.

Weeks ago, I posted a Marcus Bartley story, including his direct quote that you could "start" tradition at NU. Never mind that the Wildcats have yet to make the tournament; there was this quiet and undeserved anger surrounding the comment. "That's an insult to Shurna [and others]," someone said. And it made me think: Having the elusive great player never turned out to be a problem. It was a lack of depth that consistently sunk the Wildcats.

I'll rant about this more tomorrow–in what should be an exciting free column–but the "broad-based" ties I quote at length apply to depth. This team has scholarship flexibility. This team's current roster may eke out double-digit wins, but I don't believe they will. What NU could use is depth, and to succeed in that area, the coaching staff needs to look beyond the in-state stars and find people who can really make it work. It's called "good recruiting."

This partially explains my enthusiasm to realize that Patrick Baldwin has started to recruit the south. A former Missouri State coach, he's likely more familiar with the area than anyone else. He's seen them play, and believes he can lure some players to Evanston.

The latest name, Makinde London, gave me pause. When's the last time NU–from out of nowhere–started to pursue a new Scout Top-100 player at a position of need? There's this fearless energy surrounding the program, and that begins with the staff and its intense efforts.

We'll talk to London soon, but this extends beyond one example. The staff has reached out to center Isaac Haas (from Alabama) and center Ben Lammers (from Texas), hoping that some of these guys will grow intrigued enough to visit and subsequently love the program.

To recruit quality, you work in quantity. The old staff found its guys, many of who only held mid-major offers and NU, and then turned the page. If you had any questions regarding whether the Collins strategy followed a similar strategy, they should be answered. It's different these days.

My current list of NU targets, just for the 2014 class, is more than 20-deep at this point. Every day, there's someone new. Today, I'm starting to realize there's an entirely new vision, a pattern if you will. Baldwin is not focused on one individual, but instead attempts to build the NU reputation down south—which could translate to commitments.

There are few solutions on the current team. Alex Olah might be the group's most valuable player, in that he can serve as a competent–or better–Big Ten center. Dave Sobolewski is the only true point guard. Tre Demps still has to find where he fits in (and might benefit from the Collins system). Drew Crawford is gone after one year.

They could use some help at just about every position. That takes time, and this thorough evaluation of the south might yield some surprise guys worth offers. With Baldwin's veteran experience, he can likely scope out some decent guys and close on them.

It's a new era. And now, more so than ever, the NU efforts are expanding quickly.

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