Failed signings ease Collins rebuild

Collins arrived to a bad team with expendable players. With Ajou and Turner transferring, and likely another to come, we're watching a rapid and effective rebuild.

Five strong recruits. A transfer, and perhaps another. Chris Collins arrived to the perfect roster, one he could rebuild in the span of a single year — and one that fits his overall vision for the program.

Given the likelihood of another Northwestern transfer, which multiple sources have discussed with, Collins might enter next season with a roster comprising seven new players. That's more than half of the team (7 of 13).

It's a business, and Collins embraces it. Not responsible for members of the team he inherited, the new head coach set higher standards. He removed center Mike Turner from the team – described as "personal reasons" – and then earned a verbal commitment from point guard Johnnie Vassar before Turner even announced his intention to transfer.

Then, we're hazy as to the details of Ajou's transfer, but this likely arrived through mutual decision. He never played, was never going to play (even stranded behind walk-on Aaron Liberman) and then sought an opportunity to continue his basketball career elsewhere.

Multiple sources have also told to expect another transfer from the current roster — a whopping three in Collins' rebuild. It's almost impossible to blame his overhaul given the team's enormous current struggles. The Wildcats sit at 7-8, with many complaints about how Bill Carmody may have found more success coaching this team with his Princeton offense.

The greater Carmody fact, though, is this: His multiple failed recruiting projects gave Collins considerable roster flexibility. Despite a couple of decent performances, Turner never quite meshed with any system. He shot an unseemly 34 percent and averaged just 1.9 points in 16 minutes per game last season. And from the business standpoint, he was immediately expendable to the new coaching staff.

Ajou, meanwhile, doesn't possess the talent to see the floor for this team. It might be hard to deny talent potential upside with any seven-footer, but another scholarship player struggled — playing just one game this season. The potential of his transfer was rumored weeks ago, but before then, he wasn't even the most obvious candidate to do so.

We're watching several other players who have yet to meet their potential, namely Kale Abrahamson and Nate Taphorn. Abrahamson continues to occupy the bench despite recent strong performances, though there's always a reason behind it. Though it's too early to evaluate his upside – especially considering he's a freshman – but in recent games Taphorn appeared lost on both ends of the floor.

Collins arrived to a team that wasn't close to being positioned for long-term success. He sealed up a strong recruiting class early, watched two (likely three players) and triggered an almost dream-like rebuild for any new coach. He's not bound to older players, because they struggled. After one painful season, he can begin the true "new era" with his guys and his roster.

These transitions can be difficult – and are definitely gradual – but Collins has moved quickly to win. And when that's not happening in the present, he can make correct investments for the future.

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