Northwestern Hoops Player Preview

Player capsules for the 2013-14 Northwestern Wildcats.

PROJECTED STARTERS

Dave Sobolewski

Point Guard, JR.

Last season, Sobolewski faced the most difficult adjustment. Without Drew Crawford and Jershon Cobb, Northwestern lacked sufficient scoring options, and the floor distributor Sobo struggled to adjust. There were strong moments, like his 8-of-16 shooting performance against Nebraska. There were lowlights, like Sobo's increased turnover numbers and his 28 percent shooting in the final 11 games.

Still, though, this could be the defining season for Sobolewski — the former Illinois Wolves standout. He's an able distributor with several weapons; he's set to benefit from a coaching staff loaded with former guards. Out of the Princeton, Sobo needs to adjust and excel before Bryant McIntosh arrives to steal his job.

PROJECTED STATS:

34 MPG, 9.5 PPG, 4.5 APG

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JerShon Cobb

Shooting Guard, RS JR.

The true enigma, Cobb returns to Northwestern basketball following his yearlong suspension. Chris Collins praised Cobb for proving himself an effective scorer and perimeter defender. Despite past injuries, Cobb struggled to be an effective third scoring option — and has perhaps the most to prove in year one of the Collins Era.

Much of the Wildcats' success, however, should be predicated on their overall defensive ability. Here, Cobb excels, with his aggression leading to frequent steals. If he adds another scoring dimension, and consistently reaches double-digits, NU might be able to discuss NCAA Tournament hopes. For now, we're just guessing.

PROJECTED STATS:

25 MPG, 8.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG

---

Sanjay Lumpkin

Small Forward, RS FR.

Lumpkin lost his freshman season to injury and also returns to considerable hype. Recruited for his all-around game, he figures to work well in Collins' offense, with his slashing ability valuable to this team. He's the likely starter for NU tomorrow against Lewis and should lock down the position with continued effective performances.

But what can we expect? As with so many players, there's a wide range of outcomes. Lumpkin could be the "glue guy," as Collins labeled him, and contribute mostly throughout defense. Or he could find his scoring niche and provide another impressive weapon on offense. Regardless, they seem hyped about the freshman phenom.

PROJECTED STATS:

25 MPG, 5 PPG, 4 RPG

---

Drew Crawford

Power Forward, RS SR.

The incredible thing about Crawford: He improved in each of his first three seasons. In the 2011-12 campaign, he discovered the three-point shot that rounded out his game — hitting 41 percent of his tries behind the arc. Finally the star, with John Shurna long gone, Crawford can realize his full potential under Chris Collins.

I'd imagine Crawford takes on an even larger role, as Collins should focus on proving to recruits that he can concentrate on maximizing their game. The shots will fall, but can he rebound? Part of a small lineup, he and all others will need to contribute away from comfort.

PROJECTED STATS:

33 MPG, 18.5 PPG, 5.5 RPG

---

Alex Olah

Center, SO.

Olah and his hook shot hinted at their potential last season, with the Romanian holding strong in the non-conference slate. Against better and bigger opponents, though, Olah occasionally looked like the "freshman," struggling to establish his offensive game.

Still, with slight adjustments, Olah could be mightier this season. In Collins' "four-around-one" set, he'll need to gain consistency and improve his defense and rebounding. Collins wants to rely on his tested center, who averaged 6.1 points and 4.1 rebounds last year — numbers that should rise with marginal improvement.

PROJECTED STATS:

24 MPG, 8 PPG, 5 RPG

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KEY RESERVES

Nate Taphorn

Forward, FR.

It was wise of him to stay. Taphorn has four years to play for Chris Collins — which will most likely include the school's first NCAA Tournament berth. He should be immediately effective as a perimeter threat; that's where he thrives. Still, he needs to bulk up before settling into the starter's role by the 2014-15 season.

PROJECTED STATS:

16 MPG, 6 PPG, 38% 3-PT FG

---

Kale Abrahamson

Forward, SO.

Abrahamson seemed one-dimensional last season, but refocused on improving his communication and ball skills. He's one guy who could fall into a wide range of overall numbers; I say it takes one more year for him to be the ideal off-the-bench scoring threat for NU.

PROJECTED STATS:

12 MPG, 4 PPG, 2.5 RPG

---

Nikola Cerina

Forward/Center, RS SR.

He's one of the quietest names, and that makes shockingly little sense. Cerina is the perfect hybrid for NU — someone who can back up Olah at center and post solid minutes as a true four. Though not blessed with incredible talent, Cerina can haul in offensive rebounds and contribute on the interior.

PROJECTED STATS:

16 MPG, 5 PPG, 4.5 RPG

---

Tre Demps

Guard, RS SO.

I'm predicting some regression for Demps, who lacks the polish necessary to succeed as we once thought. The redshirt sophomore earned the "chucker" reputation, and often looked out of sync with his teammates. Can you cure that overnight? I'm not so sure, but not everyone has it easy during transition periods.

PROJECTED STATS:

12 MPG, 4.5 PPG, 35% FG

---

Chier Ajou

Center, RS FR.

He'll probably never do much for Northwestern. Ajou is unpolished and stands as the team's third most competent center, behind Olah and Cerina. This was a strange Carmody era recruiting move — and another reason Northwestern will search for transfer or 5th year seniors this offseason.

PROJECTED STATS:

3 MPG, 0.5 PPG, 0.5 RPG

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Stay tuned for more previews of the 2013-14 Northwestern basketball season.

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