WNUR’s Jason Dorow (@jasondorow) looks at how Chris Collins has built a top-25 recruiting class in his first year at Northwestern.
As college basketball’s early signing period opens and high school stars around the country begin to pen their national letters of intent, the Northwestern hoops program is already seeing signs of the improvement in the “NU era”. Northwestern’s 2014 recruiting class, assembled by first year head coach Chris Collins, features four commits and is ranked 21st in the nation. In only a matter of months, Collins has put together the best recruiting class in school history.
From day one, Collins stressed the importance of recruiting, making it one of his first priorities as head coach. He believes he has a lot to sell to prospective players. In his introductory Northwestern press conference, Collins said, “You hear the name Northwestern, you automatically think of excellence in not only athletics but well rounded excellence, academic excellence.” He went on to add, “You throw in being in a great city like Chicago, to me the best sports city in the world.”
Collins hopes that Chicago is more than just a selling point for Northwestern. He wants Chi-town to become a pipeline for Wildcat hoops. High school basketball talent is abundant in Chicago. Two of the top three players in the class of 2014 are from the windy city, and every year there is a handful of players from Illinois in the top 100. Collins fits the perfect mold to reel these stars into Evanston. A Northbrook, Ill., native and 1992 Mr. Basketball Illinois himself, Collins calls this area his home. He recruited the Chicago area during his time at Duke and helped them secure many local standouts, including Jon Scheyer and Jabari Parker. However, that’s Duke, one of the most successful college basketball programs in history. Northwestern presents a true recruiting challenge for Collins.
For former head coaches, selling Northwestern has not been so easy. Bill Carmody gradually improved the program, but he struggled to bring in top prep stars. And despite Chicago sitting only 20 minutes away, Northwestern still isn’t a popular landing spot for top-notch talent from the windy city. Many cite the academic rigor and unimpressive basketball history as restraints on the school’s recruiting capabilities. Collins, on the other hand, embraces the academic values at Northwestern. “I view the academic requirements as a positive because I think it adds to the value of the young man that I want to bring in. Talent is one thing, but you can only win if you have talent and character,” Collins stated. That mentality may be just what Northwestern needs.
Above all, Collins wants recruits to buy into the Northwestern program. He believes that not far down the road this team will be successful, and he wants that mentality instilled in his incoming players. Collins remarked, “There’s good players out there, that are good students, that want to believe in a place like Northwestern, and its up to me to go out there and find those guys and get them to Evanston.” So far, Collins has had no trouble doing just that. His 2014 recruiting class is ranked 21st nationally and features two four-star prospects. Take a closer look at the 2014 recruiting class:
Often regarded as the best commit in Northwestern history, Victor Law is the crown jewel of the 2014 class. Law, a 6-foot-7, 185-pound small forward, is a four-star recruit and ranked 66th in the ESPN top 100. He has amazing athleticism, can run the floor, and throw down some nasty dunks. The St. Rita’s high school product can also rebound and is improving his jump shot and ball handling to polish his game. A native of South Holland, Ill., Law could change the perception of Northwestern hoops for Chicago area prep players.
Considered to be a four-star recruit by ESPN, McIntosh adds more high-end talent to this recruiting class. The 6-foot-4, 175 pound guard has a definite feel for the game and sees the court well. McIntosh, who hails from Greensburg, Indiana, is also a skilled ball handler and is excellent at running the break. He’s capable of playing either guard spot, but for his freshman year, McIntosh will play off guard alongside Dave Sobolewski. He turned down offers from Memphis, Florida State, Purdue, Xavier, and Auburn, among others.
Lindsey is a pure shooter with great scoring ability. Like McIntosh, Lindsey has a strong basketball IQ and good size, 6-foot-5, 180 pounds. The Oak Park, Ill., native, who attends Fenwick High School, was not recruited by Carmody. Collins saw in Lindsey another piece for his backcourt, and the three-star recruit could see early playing time.
Skelly is the only true post in the 2014 recruiting class. At 6-foot-8 and 225 pounds, he has the size to take the Northwestern power forward position right away. The three-star commit from Westlake, Ohio, is a strong rebounder and can finish inside. He can also knock down the mid range jumper. Skelly’s range of skills should translate well to the college game.