The devoted fans might remember when highly touted prospect Jershon Cobb signed with Northwestern. The three star shooting guard of Atlanta Express (AAU) never quite fell into the geographical mold, and NU took full advantage despite the more relaxed recruiting methods adopted under Bill Carmody.
Now, nearly four years later, NU has found its primary outlier. Patrick Baldwin–with his southern background from Missouri State–identified current four-star talent Makinde London as an immediate target. The assistant coach began sending the Columbia (Tenn.) power forward some informational letters about Northwestern in June.
Then, everything intensified. July evaluation periods allow for coaches to focus on players outside of the region, and Makinde London became one of NU's primary guys. Tyler Ulis, Bryant McIntosh and London are arguably the three most important players on the current recruiting board. Ulis (Illinois) and McIntosh (Indiana) are relatively close to Evanston, but London likely needed an extra push to consider the Wildcats.
Tennessee and Vanderbilt reportedly offered the new Scout.com Top-100 talent. But what if London wants to consider somewhere out of state? NU is trying to present itself as something different, and London recently told PurpleWildcats.com that he's "proud NU is recruiting him and that Baldwin sounds like a good influence." Because of Collins' selective approach to offering players, NU has concentrated on some major targets. Some will fall through; others can find the perfect fit in Evanston.
This particular situation is extremely reminiscent of Cobb's journey to NU. Regardless of how well the shooting guard performed, he represents some ways that the Wildcats can succeed in recruiting. They're doing an exceptional job–with much more to come–but Baldwin embraces that "outlier" player and appears to be especially ambitious in his approach.
Collins, Baldwin, Armon Gates and Brian James all contribute something to this unique equation. Baldwin, with that diverse coaching background, looks poised to find some elite talent outside of the traditional "pipeline." Really, when you sign between two and four players every recruiting class, it hardly matters where they come from. Some schools establish the broad-based ties that athletic director Jim Phillips encouraged. Others hone in on the perfect local targets and close with perfection. We can obsess over those "Chicago ties," but it's conceivable that NU could excel with one Vic Law and three players outside of Illinois.
Law, in fact, met London at the Reebok Classic Breakout Tournament in Philadelphia. The two built something of a relationship during that tournament. It's certainly an uphill battle to land another four-star player, but again, it's about finding the surprise fits. No doubt, with London's rising national profile, he's well worth the attention for a team that refuses to settle in Year One of the Collins era. Why would they?
London arrived in Las Vegas with his Nashville Celtics team this week. He saw the likely culprits, I'm sure. Assistants or head coaches from Vanderbilt, Tennessee and some other SEC schools graced him with their presence. And then London saw that lone Big Ten school, one with that "meaningful" degree he told me he wanted.
NU probably misses. But maybe, maybe they land another top-100 player in Collins' first class. It's the ambition that we admire. Two months ago, few expected the Wildcats to have any chance of landing Law—but Collins proved his worth. This school is stuck with its broad-based focus, and in the end, some guys just work out. There's no way they slow down.