It may not always show up in the stat sheet but Alex Marcotullio provides invaluable services to Northwestern. His energy off the bench provides a boost at both ends of the floor. But last season, the injury bug bit Marcotullio, as he missed four games and an estimated 20-25 practices over the course of the season with ankle and toe injuries, along with a concussion.
Prior to the start of the 2012 season, Marcotullio sat down with North by Northwestern to talk about what he hopes will be a healthier, deeper team – and what was the shot of his career.
Reggie Hearn said one of the things he did in the offseason was watch all the close games that you ended up losing last year. As painful as it might be, have you been able to go back and re-watch those close games against Ohio State, Michigan and others?
Yeah, it’s nice to always go back on that film and reflect on what you could’ve done and how you could have changed things. But that’s just a thing you have to build on and continue to work for and strive to fix in this offseason. I think we all did that and we all had that in the back of our minds. It’s just a hunger about us that we’re trying to get over that little hump that can help us win those games.
Was there kind of a unifying theme to one of those games where you could say, “This was something we didn’t consistently execute?”
It was a variety of things. Mainly it was that we didn’t make some plays defensively or we gave up some key rebounds. I think we’ve gotten faster and stronger in the offseason with the added size we’ve got with the freshman class. [Jared] Swopshire coming in will really help us with the rebounding aspect. Defensively, I think we’re going to be able to move our feet a little better.
It's interesting that you’re losing the leading scorer in the Big Ten and Northwestern history in John Shurna, but could be a more balanced team. Is that how you see it this year, even without him?
Yeah, John’s a irreplaceable guy. It’s tough losing a guy like that who gives you so much on a night-to-night basis. But I think we have a variety of guys that are coming in that can help accumulate stats like he did – not individually, but as a whole. Everybody can pitch in at a couple points here and there. Someone is capable of having a big game at any point in time. It’ll be a change but it’ll help out a lot.
Is it weird at this point that you’re a senior and this is going to be it for your Northwestern career?
Yeah it’s kind of surreal. But at the same time, it’s a challenge and there’s a lot of responsibility on our shoulders as seniors to follow up with the tradition and continue to build this program into what it’s become and what we know it can become in the future. We’re looking to take that next step every day.
Do you feel like, as a Northwestern player, you’re in a unique position of having made a postseason tournament every year that you’ve been here? Does that mean anything to you looking back at the history of the program?
Definitely, because the program has continued to progress when we attended. The senior class, if we win something like 17 or 18 games, we become the winningest class in Northwestern. That (record of being the winningest class) is something to be proud of and that’s something that John [Shurna], Nick [Fruendt], Davide [Curletti] and Luka [Mirkovic] would be proud of that we broke. I think it would be the same thing if it continued through Dave’s (Sobolewski) class and JerShon’s (Cobb) class. That would be a huge thing for the program.
You personally had a few injuries that interrupted your season and it was particularly tough because the roster was so thin. How have you bounced back from those injuries?
I did a lot of hard work in the offseason to try to get my body right, to get in shape and be prepared for the beating that I’ll take during the season. Our athletic training staff and our sports performance staff has done a really good job with preparing us for the season. We’re all ready and just trying to stay as healthy as possible. You’re always going to have these bumps and bruises along the way but hopefully nothing serious comes along. I think that will be a big key. If we stay healthy and keep our bench, with the depth we can have, it will be really key for us.
It’s a more extensive bench this year?
Yeah. Hopefully we don’t have to play six guys a game. Guys can be shuffled in and out. We just have to get a solid rotation once games start.
The shot that you hit towards the end of the game against Ohio State: would you say that’s the biggest shot of your career?
Yeah – very short-lived though. We took a timeout after and for about a minute it was a great moment. That’s what I’m saying. That’s something we can build on and look back on to say, "We could have done things differently." That’s part of our built-in hunger.
You’ve heard [play-by-play announcer] Gus Johnson’s call from that shot. Do people quote that to you often?
Yeah I’ve gotten a few things. People have posted it to me. Gus is a great guy, and he and I have a pretty good relationship. To hear him say that was pretty cool.
Would you say it’s one of his best calls?
Oh I would say so. He has so many but I think that’s one of his best.