JerShon Cobb has been through a lot.
He’s fought through numerous injuries throughout his Northwestern basketball career, experienced the transition to a new coaching staff and matured into one of the leaders of this basketball team, and will be a captain this year. Cobb, a six-foot-five redshirt senior sporting a new haircut, will look to use his setbacks as learning experiences for younger players.
But just two years ago, he was a completely different person. Immature and with low grades, Cobb was suspended for academic reasons for the entire 2012-2013 season.
“I had to grow up a lot,” he said. “I realized that not anybody can do this at a place like Northwestern. I just had to grow up.”
And that’s exactly what he did.
Despite not being able to play, Cobb didn’t disappear from the team. Some wondered whether he would transfer; others thought he would be discouraged.
Instead of getting down on himself, he doubled-up on his academics and continued to practice with the team.
“When I had to sit on the bench and watch my team lose because they needed me, that hurt,” Cobb said.
To make his teammates better in practice, he played the part of their opponents’ best player in order to get them ready for their next game.
Starting with that change of mindset, Cobb hasn’t looked back. After missing that season, he stormed back to play in 25 games before being sidelined by an injury last season. He averaged more than 33 minutes per game (second most on the team) and had to assume the position of point guard.
That transition, he thinks, will help translate into leadership in his senior season.
“I think I’m a good leader,” Cobb said. “I had to get out of my shell a little bit, talk more, but playing point guard last year helped me do that. But, I like to show the guys by example. I think the guys can look up to me, because I’ve been through a lot.”
The Decatur, Ga., native played a huge part in Northwestern’s upset over No. 14 Wisconsin last season. In the second half, he put up ten points to go along with his six rebounds to hold off the Badgers. Cobb said that win was one of, if not the most, memorable victories during his Northwestern career.
He’s played with some Northwestern basketball legends. From John Shurna ‘12 to Drew Crawford ‘14, he has had the opportunity to learn from historic Wildcats.
When last season ended, he knew that he had to assume an even greater role on this team than before. Without Crawford ahead of him, this is now his team.
“He had a great example last year, learning from Drew [Crawford] and how Drew led,” head coach Chris Collins said. “One of the ways I wanted JerShon to lead, more than anything, was by his ability to work to get back healthy.”
The first order of business for a team captain: Be present on the court. Cobb has not been able to remain healthy the entire season in his collegiate career.
“This offseason, I really keyed in on weight training and my diet,” Cobb said. “I think those two things will help me finish this year.”
There’s no doubt that Cobb is the leader of this team. He’s got all the experience a player could ask for, and a very young squad to lead.
“Guys look to me as a leader of the team,” he said. "I’m a captain, so I have to be there as we get into game weeks. I have to show them how we go about our business in game weeks.”
Cobb knows what his goal is. He has a few of them – both personal and team-oriented – but he has his priorities in line.
“Number one is to win. That’s more important than my individual goals. I want to do well and lead the team and go to the NCAA tournament.”