At Northwestern, midterms are in full swing.
But for Dave Sobolewski, class is about to begin—and he's the teacher.
A large load rested on the 6-foot-1 point guard's shoulders as a freshman, tasked with not only learning Northwestern's intricate Princeton offense, but also running it on the floor full-time. Now a sophomore, Sobolewski's responsibilities have increased even further.
Northwestern welcomes several new faces, including five freshmen. Sobolewski and the other returners carry the task of getting everyone up to speed.
"It's a challenge to get all these guys on the same page and get them picking up the offense quickly," said Sobolewski. "It's a challenge we're all ready to accept—we've got four returning starters, but at the same time there are nine guys who've never played a game for Northwestern. It's going to be a whole different team than last year, and we're ready for it."
As a freshman Sobolewski quickly grasped Northwestern's system, averaging 8.3 points and 3.7 assists while earning Big Ten All-Freshman team honors in the process. With a year under his belt, Sobolewski embraces the chance to help his new teammates integrate into what should be a deep rotation.
"I've always liked kind of being the coach on the floor," he said. "It's important for us older guys to help the freshmen immensely, I saw it firsthand last year. It's not that easy to come in and try to process this offense right away, you have to be patient with it. It's tough to pick up, so we all try to help in terms of offensive schemes."
Even so, head coach Bill Carmody would like to see his point guard grow as a leader on the court.
"I got on [Sobolewski] pretty hard two days ago for not telling people what to do," said Carmody. "I have all these new guys, and I don't want him to be this little guard who passes, goes through and is never heard from again—you have to tell people what to do. He has to be telling them before it happens, so they can get in a groove and do what they're good at."
Another challenge for the Wildcats is replacing leading scorer John Shurna, whose 20 points per game will be sorely missed. Northwestern will need contributions from multiple players including Sobolewski to make up that gap. In anticipation, the sophomore put in heavy work on his midrange game.
"My pull-up jumper was a huge focus for me in the offseason," said Sobolewski. "After watching film from last year, most of my shots were either threes or getting to the rim. I felt that an in-between game would be a huge help for me this year in terms of trying to put the ball in the hole. Losing Shurna's going to hurt our scoring, so I might have to put up a couple extra baskets a game to help fill that void."
Carmody agreed, hoping for increased aggressiveness out of his point guard. Sobolewski shot 35.7 percent from behind the arc last year and his coach sees room to improve on that percentage.
"I want him to take over a little bit out there," said Carmody. "The ball's in his hands a lot, [I want him to] do something with it. There's nothing wrong with his shot, I'd like him to take it more. Know you're going to be open, catch it and shoot it, be confident. He's a very good shooter, he just has to be a little more fluid. Don't just stand and look at [the basket], shoot it. I want him to be more offensive minded."
As the Wildcats' first game of the season approaches on November 13 against Texas Southern, Sobolewski is poised to take his game a step further. The key, he says, is keeping his approach simple.
"I'm confident with my knowledge of the Princeton, I feel I know all the different looks throughout the offense," he said. "I just want to do whatever the team needs, run the floor, stay within myself and try and not do anything too crazy."