As the Northwestern men’s basketball team tries to build on its first-ever 20-win season, head coach Chris Collins is hoping that two prized recruits can play a role in the team’s success – while a third is forced to watch from the sidelines. We took a closer look at this year’s recruiting class:
While Brown will be backing up star guard Bryant McIntosh for his freshman season, don’t be surprised to see a lot of him on the court – and on the stat sheet. Brown is a scorer, plain and simple. A three-star recruit from Seattle, Brown impressed in the team’s first exhibition game with an efficient, game-high 19 points. Listed at 6-foot-2, Brown isn’t the biggest player on the court, but he will provide a much-needed scoring punch off the bench right away.
Head coach Chris Collins on Brown:
“In Isiah’s case, he just can score the ball. He’s the all-time leading scorer in the history of Seattle basketball. There’s a storied history of players out in that city and to be the all-time leading scorer he can just score…I don’t care if you’re playing out there alone if you’re scoring 35 points a game in 32 minutes in a high school game you can put in the basket … He’s going to be a key guy for our back court.”
“When I came here I kind of fell in love with the place, I fell in love with the family atmosphere. Being a west coast kid, it was a totally different atmosphere. I was attracted to it automatically and knew this was where I wanted to be.”
“My job is to come in and do whatever my coach asks me to do. I think I bring a lot to the table I can do a lot of different things. Whatever they put me in the game and whatever my task is for the night or whatever my task is for the season, my job is to go out there and do it.”
Benson, a 6-foot-10 center hailing from Hinsdale, Ill., immediately became the biggest guy on the team when he joined the ‘Cats. Benson will backup sophomore center Dererk Pardon, and as the only other center on the roster, Benson will play significant minutes, being thrown right into the fire. At 250 pounds, Benson certainly has the body and strength of a top-notch big man, and Collins hopes he can harness that strength into results. There will definitely be a learning curve and Benson will have trouble adjusting to the Big Ten level in his first year, but the early experience should have long-term benefits.
Collins on Benson:
“I’m anticipating Dererk and Barret to be the guys at the five position. He’s got a Big Ten body: He’s legitimate 6’10, he’s close to 240 pounds, and he’s not afraid to bang. He’s a physical player and a smart player. Certainly as a freshman, he’s going to have his ups and downs, but I think he’s going to get valuable minutes. I anticipate both [he and Brown] having outstanding careers here, I’m really high on both of them.”
“My role is going to be to bring energy. In practice, it’s going to be battling with Dererk every day and pushing each other. When I get on the floor, I have to rebound and have to be a physical presence in the paint, and definitely hustle. The biggest change [from high school] is just the speed – the pace of the game is way faster. You’ve gotta be on your toes and ready at all times.”
“I’m just looking forward to finally getting out there on the court with my teammates. Excitement has been building up starting in the summer and all through the fall – I can’t wait to get out there with my teammates. A lot of things to be excited about.”
Ivanauskas, a 6-foot-9 forward from Barrington, Ill., received some brutal news early in October: He wouldn’t be playing all season. After a nagging shoulder injury didn’t go away, Ivanauskas decided to undergo shoulder surgery that would make him miss the entire season. Ivanauskas, a long-armed, athletic forward, plans to redshirt in order to earn a fifth year of eligibility. While he won't be able to make an impact this year, Ivanauskas will be a large part of NU's long-term plans.
“I knew for a while that I tore my shoulder, but I tried playing through it for a while and do a lot of rehab. That didn’t work, so I decided to get surgery, and it was devastating. Especially having to work so hard before the season and in the summer to get where I am, it was disappointing, but I can’t wallow in the disappointment, and I look at the good side of things. I have an extra year to develop physically and develop academically and learn the system and learn all the plays.”
“I think we have a great recruiting class. We’ve been bonding really well; we’ve got a good all-around class – we’ve got a big, I’m a wing, and we’ve got a point guard so it’s good heading toward the future.”