Changing The Culture

Northwestern's four seniors will be remembered for making the Wildcats a winner.

Welsh-Ryan Arena said goodbye to the most successful senior class to play at Northwestern. Prior to the home finale against Minnesota, Mike Capocci, Ivan Peljusic, Jeff Ryan and Michael "Juice" Thompson were honored in that order. They closed out Senior Night with a victory over Minnesota to improve their record to 17-12. The result of the game does not magnify what that group of four players meant to Northwestern over the last four seasons. They were the ones that began what is quickly becoming a different culture for the Northwestern basketball team.

After a rough 8-22 freshman year, the senior class will have earned births to three consecutive postseason tournaments after this year. Sure all four seniors have contributed significantly at times but the player that led this class for four years was Juice Thompson. Thompson scored 18 points, grabbed seven rebounds and drew a key charge to close out his collegiate career.

"I was a little weepy," Thompson said after the game. "Not as weepy as I'd thought I'd be. I did a good job of holding it in. Some tears came out. It was very emotional."

A consistent and steady point guard is one of the hardest things to find in any level of basketball and Thompson has provided that for four years making big play after big play. If Northwestern takes the next step and rises from respectability in the Big Ten to a Big Ten contender, Thompson provided the foundation. If Northwestern ever gets onto the right side of the bubble over the next few seasons, Thompson provided that foundation.

Now don't get me wrong. In no way am I saying Juice Thompson is to Northwestern what Johnny Dawkins was to Duke. Forever, Duke was in the shadow of North Carolina and North Carolina State in the ACC. Dawkins was the first major recruit Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski got and after winning with him for a couple seasons, not only did Duke compete at the national level, in many ways, they ran college basketball since 1990. Dawkins really started what is the Duke machine today. Let's be honest, Northwestern may never reach that point but if they get to the point of being a consistent top six team in the Big Ten, Thompson laid that foundation.

Thompson's final words after the game were, "Just happy I came here and it was a great four years."

To me, it is this simple. There were no expectations before Thompson's class arrived. In a short four years later, a season where Northwestern might win 20 games will be seen as a disappointment to many eyes. This senior class has won 62 games, four more than last year's senior class, which previously held the record. Who knows? Maybe in a few years, 62 wins for a senior class will be seen as a disappointment. If the program reaches that kind of success, this senior class would be a big reason for that.


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