Athleticism an emphasis on trail

Staff writer Sylvan Lane takes note of the recent trend in NU basketball recruiting.

Northwestern basketball isn't known for high-flying theatrics and incredible athletes, but if Chris Collins has his way, a new type of Wildcat might just emerge.

Since taking the helm of the program, Collins and Tavaras Hardy are focusing on courting players with broader skill sets and more innate athleticism—a marked contrast from the previous decade of Northwestern basketball.

Under Bill Carmody, Northwestern ran the Princeton Offense, which served as an effective means of making the most out of the players the program could realistically land. The system placed a premium on defined roles, which focused recruiting away from more exciting players to more realistic targets for a less-than-dominant extension of an academic superpower.

It was slow, methodical and somewhat effective. Now it's gone, and in its place is Chris Collins' unwavering belief in the program and its potential.

Collins made it quite clear in his introductory presser that his system would be dictated by his players, and not the other way around. In turn, some of his most recent targets show how much emphasis athleticism is receiving in the new regime.

Take Joseph Toye, a three-star 2015 small forward that's already hearing from Hardy. The Whitney Young freshman scored 27 points for his Illinois Celtics 16U team in a 64-52 win over Playground Elite in last weekend's Spiece Run N Slam AAU tournament. This all came after he won a triple jump and a long jump for Whitney Young in the Public League track championship.

His teammate, Aaron Jordan, is an adept shooting guard who matches up with Toye to make one hell of a scoring duo. While Toye operates primarily on the perimeter, Jordan moves about the floor creating his own offense off the dribble. At the Run N Slam, he showcased his ability to shoot, drive and keep his team levelheaded in the midst of an upset. Afterward, he told PW that Collins plans to watch him play in July.

Then, there's Trevon Bluiett, a four-star 2014 small forward who's already earned offers from Michigan, Indiana, UCLA, Florida, and Louisville. While his Northwestern offer doesn't sit at quite the same level as the former listed, Bluiett's quick trigger finger and athletic prowess again reveals the kind of players that may make up new-look NU.

This new-look Northwestern may not turn Evanston into the Big Ten's Dunk City, and this change may take a little while to manifest. However, if Collins and Hardy succeed, Wildcat fans may soon witness a more exciting team with a more flexible recruiting base.

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