WNUR Sports Director Zach Kisfalusi @zKisfalusi profiles the youth of the Northwestern men’s basketball team and touches on how the roles of each contributor should change.
If you have watched a men’s basketball game this year, you have probably felt a roller coaster of emotions. Depending on which game you have seen, you opinion on this team could be polar opposite of the person next you on Sheridan. This team has played well against teams like Baylor, Illinois, and Illinois State, but played horribly against Mississippi Valley State, Maryland, and Michigan.
The struggles this season are well documented with inconsistent 3 point percentage, average defense, and a below average, yet improving, defense. Many have placed these struggles on the losses of the team’s best three scorers from last year’s team: the graduation of John Shurna, the suspension of JerShon Cobb, and the season ending shoulder injury of Drew Crawford. This has left the scoring load on the backcourt tandem of Reggie Hearn and Dave Sobolewski for the majority of games with each averaging over 33 minutes played per game.
However, this team is being fueled not by the youthful legs of their freshmen. The wildcats have 7 on their roster this season with 4 seeing significant minutes: center Alex Olah, forwards Mike Turner and Kale Abrahamson, and guard Tre Demps. Demps and Turner have the advantage of being redshirted last season and having a year to learn the team system and the speed of college basketball.
Demps is the scorer off the bench. He has a shoot-first mentality that reminds of a young Jamal Crawford who can make pretty plays both off the dribble and spotting up, but also can gain the “chuck it up” syndrome that plagues many scorers as their invincibility soars internally. His scoring punch is needed on this team however and I suggest that his role does not change one bit on this team as their offensive efficiency has been suspect at time.
Turner is the backup “center” for this team. He brings energy, an occasional shot block, and great vision as a passing big man in the Princeton offense. Turner may still need to gain more weight to better rebound in the conference yet he fills his defined role quite well.
Abrahamson is the awkward release, deep ranged shooter that we have only been missing for a few months. His shot almost always sings the nylon song with his precision and accuracy. His skinny frame and lack of experience make him a bit of a defensive liability and have been the main reason why his minutes on the floor have fluctuated so randomly. I expect big things from Abrahamson offensively, just not in the near future.
Olah is the back to the basket center all Wildcat fans have been waiting for since the three young big men came into the program 4 years ago. He has an established post game that favors a right hand jump hook over his left shoulder or a drop step from the left block. Olah is a solid passer in the offense but his lead feet have made him susceptible defensively against more athletic big men. His presence on the boards has fluctuated drastically from game to game, but if he blocks out and put his big frame into his opponents, this team will greatly improve in this area.
Out of the three other freshmen: Aaron Liberman, Chier Ajou, and Sanjay Lumpkin, the latter excites me the most. Lumpkin is a do it all kind of guy. The glue pours from his game as he rebounds and plays defense with lots of energy. I am not sure if his offensive game will develop into a double digit scorer but his intangibles are sky high. Unfortunately, illness and an injury to his right wrist have limited his minutes on the court to this point in the season.
This Wildcat basketball team will not be the high scoring team of years past nor will it be a bubble team for the NCAA tournament, yet this team is a glimpse into the future of Wildcat basketball for years to come with a large and talented group of Diaper Dandies.