NCB On The Trail: Northwestern Wildcats

Forty-six Division I schools came into the season with a new basketball coach. The vast majority of those changes were met with optimism and enthusiasm.

But with conference play now revving up, many first year coaches are dealing with the harsh reality that rebuilding isn’t going to happen overnight. And in those types of situations, sometimes your first year recruiting class can be more important than your win-loss record.

A coach’s first recruiting class is absolutely critical to his long-term success. It’s about more than just filling out next year’s roster. It’s about setting the tone for the way in which the staff and program will be viewed by prospects, high school coaches, and AAU coaches moving forward. And this time of year, when the product on the floor isn’t always something a coach can sell, making an initial splash on the recruiting trail is often times all it takes to develop the type of positive momentum to build on.

With that in mind, here’s a look at how seven first-year coaches are doing on the trail:

Collins, Northwestern announce class

November, 13, 2013
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First-year Northwestern coach Chris Collins announced his four-player recruiting class on Wednesday.

The former Duke assistant inked ESPN 100 SF Victor Law (South Holland, Ill./St. Rita) along with SG Bryant McIntosh (Greensburg, Ind./Greensburg), SG Scott Lindsey (Hillside, Ill./Fenwick) and PF Gavin Skelly (Westlake, Ohio/Westlake).

"We're very excited about this class," Collins said. "We feel like we have addressed a lot of needs in our team. We have added length, athleticism and skill to what we already have in the program. All four are great young men and terrific student-athletes. They all love to play, and that's something that really stood out. They live in the gym and they want to get better. They're hungry to improve and are excited to be a part of our program. All of them are great fits for Northwestern."

The Wildcats have the 21st-ranked class in ESPN.com's RecruitingNation Top 40.

Top five undervalued classes 

September, 19, 2013
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Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings landed a commitment from his second four-star prospect in as many weeks over the weekend when Matthew Fisher-Davis (Charlotte, N.C./Charlotte Christian) joined Wade Baldwin (Hillsborough, N.J./St. Joseph).

With a pair of four-star prospects now on board in mid-September, Stallings’ class is considered good, but not great, by most national standards.

But the reality is that each school comes into the summer with different needs and priorities, and ultimately those objectives are tied to winning basketball games, not class rankings. Coaches consider fit, style, personnel, and a variety of other variables.

For Vanderbilt, that means looking for high-character guys who fit their system and culture. Given that approach, the Commodores are one of five schools off that couldn't hope to be off to a better start.


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PG McIntosh commits to Northwestern

September, 10, 2013
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Class of 2014 point guard Bryant McIntosh committed to Northwestern on Monday.

The 6-foot-3 McIntosh, who attends Greensburg (Ind.) High School, chose the Wildcats over Dayton, Purdue, Vanderbilt and Xavier.

Northwestern coach Chris Collins and assistant coach Armon Gates spent nearly eight hours at an in-home visit with McIntosh on Monday. McIntosh committed to the Wildcats near the end of the evening in an unique way.

"On my [campus] visit, the coaches kept telling they were all-in on me,” McIntosh said in a phone interview. “They said they weren’t looking at any other point guards. I had a poker chip with the word ‘all’ and one with ‘in’ and slid them across the table and said, 'I am all-in on you, too.'

“It just felt like the perfect fit for me education-wise and with the relationship I built with coach Collins and coach Gates and everyone else who had a part in my recruitment. Everyone made me feel at home. I had a great visit, a great in-home visit. I’m a believer in Northwestern basketball and what they’re doing right now, and that’s why I committed.”

McIntosh is convinced Northwestern can be an NCAA tournament team early in his career, too. The Wildcats have never made the tournament.

“I really think we’ll have an opportunity to advance our freshman year,” McIntosh said. “The class is still being built, but we have some quality pieces. We’re just believing in Coach Collins. I think we’re going to be dancing early on. I’d be shocked if we’re not in the NCAA tourney by our sophomore year.”

ESPN recruiting coordinator Reggie Rankin said McIntosh provides the Wildcats with a versatile guard.

“He’s a combination guard that is smart, has a great feel, can make open shots and can slide over and contribute at the point without missing a beat because he has a nice handle and ability to involve teammates on the break or within the half-court offense,” Rankin said. “He’s a hot prospect coming out of the July evaluation period.”

McIntosh is Northwestern’s third class of 2014 recruit. He joins St. Rita (Chicago) small forward Vic Law and Westlake (Ohio) power forward Gavin Skelly in the class.

PF Gavin Skelly picks Northwestern

July, 29, 2013
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Gavin Skelly (Westlake, Ohio/Westlake), a 6-foot-8 power forward from the Class of 2014, gave Northwestern a verbal commitment on Monday, according to multiple reports.

Cleveland State, Miami (Ohio), Ohio, Bucknell, Toledo and Kent State were among the schools after Skelly.

The big man joins ESPN 100 SF Victor Law (South Holland, Ill./St. Rita) in new head coach Chris Collins' 2014 class.
New head coach Chris Collins is on the board with his first recruit at Northwestern, and it’s an important, highly ranked prospect from the fertile, in-state ground of Illinois.

ESPN 100 small forward Victor Law (South Holland, Ill./St. Rita), the No. 66 overall player in the Class of 2014, committed to the Wildcats on Thursday over the likes of Dayton, Georgia Tech, Harvard, Stanford and VCU.

What will the No. 6-ranked prospect in Illinois bring to Northwestern?

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Law a historic recruit for Northwestern 

July, 4, 2013
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The Chris Collins era got off to a fantastic start in recruiting on Thursday when ESPN 100 small forward Victor Law (South Holland, Ill/St. Rita) committed to Northwestern over VCU and Dayton.

Law, who is the nation’s No. 66 prospect in the Class of 2014, is Collins’ first recruit at Northwestern and the highest ranked for the Wildcats in recent memory.

If he makes it to Northwestern, he would be the program’s first ESPN 100 player since the rankings began in 2007. ESPN 100 point guard Jaren Sina originally signed with Northwestern in the 2013 class but decommitted and signed with Seton Hall after the Wildcats fired Bill Carmody this spring.

Victor Law
Kelly Kline/Getty ImagesESPN 100 SF Victor Law gave Chris Collins his first commitment at Northwestern and the program's highest-ranked recruit in recent memory.
As a junior, Law averaged 15 points and seven rebounds per game for St. Rita.

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PG Jaren Sina signs with Northwestern 

November, 15, 2012
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ESPN 100 PG Jaren Sina (Lake Hopatcong, N.J./Gill St. Bernard's) made it official with Northwestern on Thursday, signing his letter of intent, the school announced.

SF Nate Taphorn (Pekin, Ill./Pekin) also inked with the Wildcats.

"We're excited about the addition of Jaren and Nathan to the program," head coach Bill Carmody said. "They continue the positive momentum that we have been able to experience in recruiting in recent years and we look forward to having them join us next season."

Sina averaged 20.1 points and 8.4 assists as a junior last season while Taphorn went for 13.3 points and 5.8 rebounds.

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UCLA adds SF Noah Allen 

November, 6, 2012
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UCLA landed a verbal commitment from three-star small forward Noah Allen (Salinas, Calif./Palma) on Tuesday. The news was first reported by www.scouthoops.com.

Allen originally committed to Harvard in July before recently reopening his recruitment. He was also considering Colorado, St. Mary's, San Diego State, San Francisco, Washington State and Northwestern.

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SMU lands PF Ben Moore 

October, 16, 2012
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Ben Moore (Bolingbrook, Ill./Bolingbrook) became the second Chicgao-area product to commit to SMU this week when he picked the Mustangs on Tuesday, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Shooting guard Sterling Brown (Chicago/Proviso East) gave his pledge on Monday. Moore chose SMU over offers from Illinois, DePaul, Minnesota and Northwestern.

"The very first time (SMU) coach (Larry) Brown saw Ben play he called me immediately," Bolingbrook coach Rob Brost told the Sun-Times. "He recognized all the things Ben could do as a player, how he could handle it, pass it, his basketball I.Q. There was no doubt coach Brown thought Ben could play at the highest level."

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SMU gets first 2013 recruit in Brown 

October, 15, 2012
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New Southern Methodist head coach Larry Brown landed his first verbal commitment from the the 2013 class on Sunday.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, shooting guard Sterling Brown (Chicago/Proviso East) pledged to the Mustangs. Brown held offers from Miami, Missouri, Xavier, Memphis, Northwestern, Providence and DePaul.

"This was just the best fit for him," his father, Chris, told the paper. "He feels he can learn, grow and develop as a player under Larry Brown. He's comfortable there. It's a great atmosphere there and a great opportunity for him."

Larry Brown coached Sterling's older brother Shannon Brown with the Charlotte Bobcats in the NBA.

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Simeon PG Tate commits to Illinois 

October, 4, 2012
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Point guard Jaylon Tate (Chicago/Simeon Career Academy) verbally committed to Illinois on Thursday, according to ESPN Chicago.

Tate made his decision while on an official visit Thursday when Illini head coach John Groce offered him a scholarship.

"It's great," Simeon head coach Robert Smith told ESPN Chicago. "They're getting another quality guy who knows how to win, is going to work hard and gives them that relationship with the (Chicago) Public League again."

Tate held some mid-major offers and was starting to see high-major interest from schools like Georgetown and Northwestern. He will join his high school teammate and ESPN 100 SG Kendrick Nunn, along with ESPN 100 SG Malcolm Hill (Belleville, Ill./Belleville East) and C Maverick Morgan (Springboro, Ohio/Springboro) in Groce's 2013 class.

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Auburn gets on the board with 2013 pledge 

September, 13, 2012
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The Auburn Tigers landed their first recruit from the 2013 class on Thursday with a verbal commitment from 3-star point guard Tahj Shamsid-Deen (Decatur, Ga./Columbia).

The news was first announced by the Southern Stampede's Twitter account and confirmed by multiple sources. Shamsid-Deen ran with the Stampede on the AAU travel circuit.

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Northwestern lands ESPN 100 PG Sina 

July, 2, 2012
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The Northwestern Wildcats received significant news Monday when ESPN 100 point guard Jaren Sina (Lake Hopatcong, N.J./Gill St. Bernard’s) committed to the Wildcats after considering a host of schools, including Alabama, Seton Hall and Rutgers.

Sina, ranked No. 75 and the nation’s No. 13 point guard, is a breakthrough recruit of sorts for Bill Carmody’s Wildcats. Northwestern hasn’t landed a bona fide top-100 player since center Michael Thompson transferred into the program after spending a season at Duke in 2004.

Sina, a son of a high school coach, was impressed with Northwestern's style of play and noticed the fit early in the process. “I think it’s the offense,” Sina said. “They shoot a lot of 3s, and with their style there’s a lot of screens and ball movement. It’s similar to how I played in high school and I see myself in that system.”

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