The best incoming class in Northwestern basketball history just got even better.
Chris Collins and staff locked up perhaps the biggest fish in the 2018 grad transfer pond this morning, landing the commitment of Evansville graduate transfer Ryan Taylor. Taylor, the defending Missouri Valley Conference scoring champion, averaged 21.2 points per game this past season for the Aces while shooting an elite 42% from downtown.
Seemingly every high-major program showed interest in Taylor when he announced his departure in mid-March, including Butler, Ohio St,, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Illinois, Georgetown, Indiana, UCLA, Arizona, Miami, Purdue, Maryland & Missouri. However, Northwestern clearly made him feel at home, as Taylor told ESPN’s Jeff Goodman this morning that “the connection I made with Chris Collins and the staff was huge.”
As for Taylor’s impact on Northwestern for 2018-19, he’ll provide a vital extra scoring punch for a team losing its top 2 scorers from a season ago. Combine him with incoming freshman Miller Kopp and Boston College transfer A.J. Turner, and Northwestern’s 3-point shooting (an area of weakness a season ago) gets a MASSIVE lift. I see Taylor coming in and starting right away at the SG position and averaging 12-14 points per game.
It’s also important to note how Taylor fits into the way Chris Collins has molded his roster for 2018-19 and beyond. Collins and his staff have clearly emphasized recruiting lots of versatile, athletic players capable of shooting, defending, and playing multiple positions.
Northwestern’s defense and 3-point shooting should improve in a big way by adding more high-level athletes like Taylor, Pete Nance, Turner, and Jordan Lathon to the rotation in exchange for Bryant McIntosh, Scottie Lindsey, Gavin Skelly, and the undersized Isiah Brown. Collins appears to be embracing more small-ball, playing more traditional wings and combo forwards at the PF spot rather than Skelly or Aaron Falzon, who struggled defensively when matched up against quicker players. The style of offense Northwestern has run the last couple of seasons may see adjustments as well, with a more free-flowing system embracing pace and space seeming to fit the roster better than the pick-and-roll & isolation-heavy offense that the Wildcats deployed with McIntosh running the show.
The only major question mark left on this roster is the point guard position. Freshman Jordan Lathon, a highly-touted prospect from Grandview, Missouri, is one option. Lathon averaged 12.9 points, 6.7 rebounds, 7.0 assists, and just 1.8 turnovers during his senior season at Grandview HS, where he led the Bulldogs to a state championship. The Wildcats also return Jordan Ash at the point guard spot, and Anthony Gaines played some minutes at the 1 when McIntosh and Ash were out with injuries late in the season. It’s also possible that the Wildcats add one more piece to the 2018-19 puzzle, as Northwestern is reportedly showing interest in South Dakota grad transfer Matt Mooney, with Mooney hosting members of the Northwestern staff for an in-home visit this past Sunday. Mooney, a native of Wauconda, IL, averaged 18.7 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game for the Coyotes this season. He could factor in at either guard spot if he elects to join the Wildcats in the 2018-19 season.
Whether or not Northwestern adds another piece, the Taylor commitment was a huge win for a program looking to recapture the magic from just a couple seasons ago.