NU looking for even better

An informed glance at other players Northwestern is most likely to land for Collins' first class...

The Vic Law commitment changed everything. He promised to help recruit other top players, including point guard priority Tyler Ulis and elite small forward Josh Cunningham. Law not only gave the team future hope with his own decision; people are now naturally concentrated on the next players to follow.

To state the obvious: This helps everyone's recruitment. Aside from the potential offers on the fringe–small forwards like Peyton Aldridge, for example–no one really suffers from Law committing. My one question was whether it would perhaps distract from Cunningham's recruitment, but one extremely well connected source assured me otherwise. Law "loves" the idea of playing alongside Cunningham, and that combination of athleticism would fill seats at Welsh-Ryan Arena for four seasons.

After several interviews with prospects, I can say with certainty that the vision for this class has become apparent. I was somewhat wrong last week in assuming that Collins felt completely comfortable with the future at shooting guard; he's still working the phone lines everywhere. The nearest player to an offer appears to be Patrick McCaw, a St. Louis high school player who moonlights with Mac Irvin Fire on the AAU circuit.

So, due to sudden interest in NU basketball recruiting, we'll keep our focus on the rest of this class. No one is at all apprehensive. Now that Law fell into place, fans can only hope for greater things. Informed by these interviews and multiple sources, here are my early predictions regarding who will fill out the rest of the class. These will change on the fly.

Marcus Bartley

I've liked Bartley ever since watching his stifling defense live in early May. Though Bartley has yet to fill out–and should add maybe 20 pounds before college–he boasts the skillset necessary to succeed. He's a solid perimeter scorer and pass-first point guard who earned an offer from Collins. The new head coach has been rather strict in dishing out these offers; this one meant a lot.

It is more likely now that Tyler Ulis commits to NU, but it's still not even close to likely. I'd still bet that Michigan State and Iowa lead his recruitment. Another thing: It's not like MSU can't fill out its class with top talents like Law. Having a four-star talent helps the cause for Ulis, but it's not something that would vault NU ahead.

Still, it's important to note that Northwestern will not take two point guards. If Bartley feels the urge to commit, he probably shouldn't waste any time. Ulis and Bartley are the two point guard targets; I predict they will land the latter. That would be another impressive get.

Josh Cunningham

In recent weeks, many have labeled Josh Cunningham the most underrated player in the country. It does surprise me that the projected small forward failed to crack the top 100—though he did earn the elusive fourth star. He's somewhat overshadowed by Jahlil Okafor, Cliff Alexander and Jalen Brunson on his own AAU team. Still, with improved perimeter shooting, he's a guaranteed star in my mind.

Cunningham earned an NU offer after thorough evaluation from this coaching staff. They didn't rush to express their confidence, but instead studied Cunningham's game. He liked that, telling Purple Wildcats: "They know what's good for me." As of now, no school leaps out in his recruitment, but I don't expect it to blow open. Why? Some have reservations as to whether he can excel at the 3-spot in college. He's more comfortable playing at power forward for Morgan Park, and that adjustment amounts to concern for some analysts.

I'm still a big fan. I also think he's even more likely than Bartley to join the class, though I believe that both will pledge by the end of July. That, mark my words, would change everything—you'd be betting on NU to make the tournament by 2016.

Combo guard

Collins looks to address as many needs as possible in this first class. He looks intent on evaluating combo guards—guys who can help bring up the ball. Local 2015 point guard Jordan Ash remains one of the team's priorities, but they have no depth at point guard and could benefit from some more.

One major target is Patrick McCaw, whom I expect to receive an offer within the next two weeks. He's an outstanding shooter, and at 6-5, can manage and distribute the basketball. Another Mac Irvin Fire standout, this would represent the continued strong efforts with local AAU programs. A sleeper is Scott Lindsey, who could see his stock rise with strong performances during July evaluations.

Otherwise, McCaw stands as one of the most important names for NU recruiting fanatics to watch. (I'll be keeping a close eye on that.) Help at the two might be in their plans, after all.

Power forward

They will sign a power forward. You heard it here. Once Nikola Cerina is gone, they need serious help on the interior. Vic Law and Josh Cunningham don't count; this group would be willing to land high-upside power forwards. The list is extensive.

Some guys to watch: Peyton Aldridge, Gavin Skelly, Mack Mercer, Makinde London, and Reid Travis. (I don't think there is any serious shot at Paul White, though I could be terribly off base.) This is their clear position of need, and the equivalent to football's current focus on defensive ends. I expect the team to find room for all four scholarships this offseason. One should be used on the 4-spot.

So, yes, the Law commitment helped things. But it will take much, much more for NU to find itself in tournament contention. The staff is working harder than ever with a direction that has never been so clear.


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