Cobb-Collins relationship keying success

Before the season, it seemed as though Collins set strangely high expectations when he said that Cobb could be the team's leading scorer. "Him even saying that was letting me know he has belief in me," Cobb said. "It's just him being a great coach."

Jershon Cobb's been the story: He leads Northwestern in scoring, while adding his signature close-out defense and improved rebounding to this Wildcats team.

After missing all of last season due to suspension, Cobb returned without any of the "rust" associated with absence. Instead, past the injuries and the academics, the junior embraced the new era that changed right around him.

When Cobb first met with Chris Collins, he said that NU's head coach was "selling the program," talking about everything that he planned on changing.

Asked if he'd seen it in the early season, Cobb grinned: "I've seen it a long time ago, from the first workout. The biggest thing is mindset: changing into a tough, blue-collar team and putting in that expectation to win."

It's impossible to quantify, but you get the feeling that the player-coach relationship has contributed to success. Collins joked after the win against IUPUI that the "free spirit" Cobb teases him for various reasons, like excessive sweating on the sidelines.

Cobb certainly added the "blue-collar" edge to his game, becoming more of an effective team rebounder. He's grabbing 4.8 per contest, and finally looks comfortable facilitating this offense by himself. Collins simply labels him the "creator."

Before the season, it seemed as though Collins set strangely high expectations when he said that Cobb could be the team's leading scorer. Many, including yours truly, thought this was insane — but Cobb currently leads the team with 15.1 per contest.

"Him even saying that was letting me know he has belief in me," Cobb said. "It's just him being a great coach."

Collins also adopted a widely praised "open door" policy. Earlier this year, Kale Abrahamson – frustrated with his lack of playing time – visited Collins' office to vent. He recently scored 19 points against UCLA, easily the best game of his career.

Cobb also spoke to a strong player-coach relationship: "I can go to him with anything, on the court or off the court. If I need help with anything, I can go to his office. His door's always open."

And Collins was open with the media, as he usually is, and spoke Tuesday about how Cobb beat his expectations. The junior, despite missing that full season, has already adjusted to game pace.

"There's an adjustment period and to be quite frank, it's happened a little bit quicker than I imagined," Collins said. "I thought we were going to be to Big Ten season before I really thought he had his timing and rhythm. He's a talented guy, as you guys know, and I think he's very confident right now.

"With each game, I think he's showing more and more of what he can do."


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