Recruiting Expectations

What types of players will Chris Collins recruit? Publisher Nick Medline fleshes it out in this Insider story.

Last week, Jaren Sina chose to attend Seton Hall, mercifully closing his dramatic recruitment for the final time. Seton Hall and Alabama–his other major suitor–desperately needed a program-turning point guard. Northwestern, under the new system and one continuous wave of enthusiasm, does not at this point.

The Chris Collins timeline is spelled out in handfuls of years. He will be given ample time to mold this program into his ultimate vision. That takes seasons, not weeks. And no doubt, the Drew Crawford return gives the team some hope. They'll compete.

Regardless, we don't know the exact look of Collins' final product. We might not have even met–or seen from–members of that first tournament team.

Although athletic director Jim Phillips is eager to see his entire staff hit the recruiting trail in the coming months, positive results may take years. Even Tom Crean struggled–and badly so–for three season before Indiana regained its powerhouse reputation.

The process involves Collins finding the correct players to excel with his style. And at the end of the day, we can take solace in the fact that Collins never recruited Sina at Duke. The bond takes time, and begins early in the high school years.

It's about more than hauling in top recruits. Even Craig Robinson succeeded on that front in Oregon State, as he failed to give the program new life with top-25 recruiting classes. It's about finding the right guys, and those fall under several categories.

Collins worked with pure, successful athletes at Duke. For several years, the team excelled with this mixture of athletic defensive-minded guards and dominant perimeter threats.

It's no wonder he likes the intangibles of Marcus Bartley, the 2014 point guard from MacArthur (Ill.). Collins gave Bartley his second major offer, and though he lacks size, he exemplifies the natural "point guard" mentality. Bartley can score, but he's eager to lead the team and distribute the basketball. In fact, I'd be shocked if Dave Sobolewski didn't see an immediate spike in production under Collins. He seemed lethargic at times late in the 2012-13 season. Collins is experienced in this area, having coached players ranging from Chris Duhon to Nolan Smith to Greg Paulus. At 6-4, Bartley could potentially fit into a variety of schemes for Collins. Still, don't be surprised if a solid four-year point guard highlights Collins' inaugural NU class.

It also makes sense to shore up that entire backcourt. When Jershon Cobb leaves after his senior season, he'll leave a significant void behind. Ideally, Nate Taphorn and Kale Abrahamson will be more comfortable alternating between the "3" and "4" spots. The 2-guard has enjoyed considerable success in the past few seasons, especially given that Reggie Hearn captivated fans with his impressive performances in 2012-13. That will only continue with new faces.

It will be interesting to see whether NU continues its pursuit of 2014 shooting guard Wade Baldwin. He's an accomplished high school scorer who continues to receive attention from elite teams. Fred Hill led his initial recruitment, but he could be an intriguing addition to this team. They may look different ways, but Baldwin seems like one option they might explore.

And, of course, they need big men. The Carmody era was defined by frontcourt futility. Davide Curletti and Luka Mirkovic became the punchline two seasons ago. Though Alex Olah showed progress late in 2013, Collins could use depth up front. Highly touted recruit Paul White of local Whitney Young (Ill.) seems a less feasible "get" than Vic Law. But in this aggressive period of recruitment, expect Collins to pursue several options. The future of the program could depend on it.

Bartley said last week that Collins' "first class" could begin to define his time as Northwestern head coach. With several areas of need, we'll wait and see how everything falls into place.

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