Chris Collins: Man on a Mission

Chris Collins showed his ability once again. And Gavin Skelly is well worth the scholarship.


Man on a mission.

High school basketball players now use this catch phrase. Regardless of talent levels, they all remain motivated by clinging to character. The one constant: Everyone has something to prove. Everyone. Whether you're the five-star talent neglected by Duke or the unranked talent looking for high-major offers, there is some mission. And there always will be.

Chris Collins identifies with these players. He first finds the right guys and closes with this killer instinct reminiscent of the football coaching staff. Collins hard-balled Skelly into committing to Northwestern. He read the signs, and thought: "We want our power forward. We've found him. Let's get it done." Mission accomplished.

With Gavin Skelly, there is something. For the record: Regardless of how many people trash me for carrying enthusiastic material, let me communicate one thing. I watched Gavin Skelly play—usually a prerequisite for covering basketball recruiting.

And without careful attention to the intricacies of this process, we might never have known who Gavin Skelly was. The real process takes place quietly, during those visits and phone communication.

NU assistant Patrick Baldwin brought Skelly to campus in June and sold him on the program. He's done that before, in hopes of finding the right player. This one worked out.

I hope he's taking one nice long drink tonight, because after landing his dream job, Baldwin proved that he was capable of succeeding in this job in mere months.

At the end of the day, though, success begins with leadership from the top. Collins devised his plan: leverage the sleeper power forward into committing right away.

You've seen what I think about Skelly. And here's what matters. Chris Collins, Armon Gates, Patrick Baldwin and Brian James think the exact same thing. They're incredibly selective with offers, evaluated tons of power forwards and then believed that Skelly could do it.

I do too. No shame. He will be one serviceable role player and an incredible asset to the team.

It's also so much easier to teach players how to shoot. I watched tall player after tall player make shots but show no ability to score on the interior. Skelly needs to round out his game with a more comfortable perimeter shot, and he can do that with practice.

Skelly was the right choice. Can I bold that? His play transcended the star rankings. He scored 22 points with hard-nosed intensity when I was in attendance. Skelly's teammates respected him–and oh, you sure can tell–for his demeanor and leadership and general good effort.

We're not talking about the next Drew Crawford or the next Evan Eschmeyer. We're talking about one potential excellent role player on a team that should fill up around him. Collins closed with precision on someone who can shore up the power forward depth chart. They have four scholarships, and yes, I am blown away with the recruiting savvy demonstrated by this head coach. It's something we should admire, and something that should carry over to future seasons.

This team will make the NCAA Tournament with Gavin Skelly and Vic Law on the roster. I've said there is more to come, and oh, there will be.

But even independent of my personal enthusiasm, Collins wanted one player. And he nailed it. Fans have wanted this for so long, and now they have it.

There will be two more strong commitments to the class of 2014, most likely. And fans will cheer again. This staff wants excellence, and believes it found something along those lines on Monday afternoon. You don't need me to confirm that. Collins is a man in control, on a mission.

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