Head Coach Chris Collins Q&A

    Head coach Chris Collins led the Wildcats to the Big Dance for the first time in program history, but his visions haven’t been fulfilled. The 2017-18 team is arguably the best squad on paper that Northwestern has ever had, and Collins discussed his expectations for the season, this group of players and the program looking forward.

    On new goals:

    “We haven’t won a championship. There are various ways you can win a championship, and it’s going to start for us early in the season. We’re in the Thanksgiving tournament, the Hall of Fame Classic in Connecticut. Can we win that tournament? To me, that’s got to be a goal. You have an opportunity to be a champion in your league. Can we do enough during our regular season to put ourselves in a position to have a chance to win a championship?”

    On starting the season strong:

    “You have to take advantage of the early part of your schedule, and you have to play well. Especially this year, with teams in our league, it’s going to be the most intense, condensed early-season schedule that any of us have ever had. When you add two conference games the first weekend in December on the heels of playing your ACC game … that’s a heck of a challenge. If you want to be relevant late, you have to play well early.”

    On returning starters:

    “We have really good leadership in our core group of guys that have been a part of winning and tasted what winning is about in postseason play. Hopefully we’ll use that to want it even more this year. My main thing with this team is how hungry they are going to be to want more. Judging from how they’ve been in practice so far and this summer, I think we’re off to a great start.”

    On the fifth starting spot:

    “It’s up for grabs. I want a lot of guys to have a starter’s mentality. For four years, [Sanjay Lumpkin] was kinda the guy. I don’t think anybody on our team is going to replicate what he did. But guys can bring their skillsets. You return a guy like Gavin Skelly, who’s a senior who has played a lot as an energy guy. Can he become a key guy who’s counted on every night? I think he can. The return of Aaron Falzon is going to be huge to our team – when he’s on the court, somebody’s got to be tagging him at all times, and that allows us to do some more creative things on offense. The return of Rapolas Ivanauskas – I think he’ll give us minutes on the front line.”

    On recruiting:

    “The end game for us is to be a nationally relevant program year-in and year-out, and we’re still not there. We’ve got a ways to go to get there. You’ve gotta string back-to-back season to get that going, and I feel like the good thing about it is young guys across the country are seeing this is a place where you can have it all. You can go to a great city, go to a great school, play high-level basketball, get a great degree and put yourself in a position to achieve on the court as well. I am noticing a difference in the response when we make those calls and talk to those coaches around the country. When they hear Northwestern now, it’s a different narrative, and I think it’s exciting for us to try to build on that and continue to push forward our program.”

    On playing at Allstate Arena:

    “We have to make it our home. We have no other choice. There are no excuses … that’s our home court, let’s make it the best home court it can be. I’m hoping people will still come out and support this team. We’ll do things for the students with shuttles to get them out to the games, but also with season ticket holders and casual fans. I’ve said it since day one: if you play well and you win, it’s like the old field of dreams. If you build it, they will come.”


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