After week one of the regular season, Northwestern has valuable lessons to learn that will benefit both players and coaches throughout the season.
Having only four players returning from last year who contributed a lot, this team is new and entirely different. Having to learn the offense, finding chemistry and trust with each other on the court, and figuring out the roles Coach Carmody wants each player to play are the tasks these players have to accomplish.
As for the coaching staff, they are realizing that Northwestern has never had such a deep team in the school's history. As human beings, we are creatures of habit. Sometimes it's instinct for Coach Carmody to only think about seven guys who can help the team win, due to the talent he has had for 12 seasons. With these Wildcats you can play 10 legit guys and they'll produce. Even James Montgomery III and Omar Jimenez are great defensive players who are capable of helping Northwestern.
Talking to the coaching staff, they are excited to have so many options. Even for the Northwestern followers and fans, this is going to be a team you aren't used to seeing in Evanston.
What stood out the first week of the season, was the senior leadership and bench contribution displayed by the Northwestern Wildcats. Drew Crawford, after exploding game one with 20 points against Texas Southern, got in foul trouble playing only 13 minutes against MVSU. In past years, if the best player on a Northwestern team got into foul trouble, it usually resulted in a loss for the Wildcats.
However, the senior leadership of Jared Swopshire, Alex Marcotullio, and Reggie Hearn have been a bright spot for the Wildcats early on in the season. These seniors have shown the ability to settle the team down and make plays in crucial moments during the game.
Reggie Hearn, the teams leading scorer with 15.3 ppg, has also taken the responsibility of guarding the best player on the opposing team. Hearn has been the biggest surprise with his growth as a player over the years. A former walk-on, when I saw him as a freshman, I was impressed with Hearn's game and his ability to make shots. It's heart-warming for me watching Hearn play because I know he works on his game, he cares about winning, and I respect that.
Dave Sobolewski is having a great start to the season. He exudes confidence and you feel comfortable with him running the team as a point guard. Already 21 assists and only two turnovers, he is playing a lot older than a sophomore. I'm also loving the progress of Alex Olah; the 7'1 Freshmen looks good each game. I want Olah to keep working on being aggressive and physical because the Big Ten season is around the corner and it's going to be an eye opener for him if he isn't physical.
Michael Turner has been effective off the bench, playing tough inside. Finally saw Nikola Cerina in action against FDU. Cerina played well, but did suffer an ankle injury. I hope he will be okay.
Sanjay Lumkin, my player to watch out for, hasn't played due to mono. Hopefully Wildcat fans will get to see him in action this week. Kale Abrahamson and Tre Demps are still coming around and its going to take time and patience. Once they buy into the system, and understand that Coach Carmody and the staff, run an offense that makes you a better all-around player, they both will be phenomenal at Northwestern.
Right now, their focus is "attack mode," which is great being aggressive, but playing for Coach Carmody your goal is to make the team better. In doing that, you will become a good player.
I somewhat struggled with finding my niche or role early on in my career. Once I understood how to use my strengths to compensate for the weaknesses in the team, I flourished as a player at NU. I hope Kale and Trey can do the same.
Follow on Twitter: @JitimYoung
Jitim Young was a standout for Northwestern from 2000-2004. A Chicago native, he now serves as color commentator for NU basketball on WGN Radio 720.