With his teammates practicing on the court behind him, Jershon Cobb stood off to the side and met with the media. It was his first availability since being suspended for the entire season in September due to academic issues.
Cobb, a junior from Decatur, Ga., has watched each Northwestern game from the stands. All he can do is cheer on his team.
"As a competitor, when it's something you've been doing all your life, something that's taken away from you, it's hard to watch," Cobb said to the media. "To think you can help in different ways, it's really hard."
For now, Cobb continues to work toward next season. A strong fall quarter—his best yet, as he explained—should ensure a return to the court.
"Life is just getting my head right, maturing, getting back in basketball shape, making sure my classes are all going well, and cheering on my teammates," Cobb said.
In practice, Cobb's role is with the scout team. A projected starter this season, he now must work to improve his teammates.
"The scout team is looking so much better," said head coach Bill Carmody. "It's more real; [Cobb] puts the ball in the basket, and he's a very smart player. It just makes it more game-like and helps us all the way around."
The news hit Cobb hard when it was first delivered. He initially considered the possibility of transferring out of Northwestern. He quickly erased that thought from his mind.
"I want to be here," Cobb said. "I made the mistakes, not anybody else. I need to keep maturing, growing up, and step forward for my actions."
In the Northwestern locker room, Cobb has brought a positive vibe. He remains a part of the team, even though he isn't dressing in uniform for each game.
"He's just always upbeat, always smiling," senior forward Jared Swopshire said of Cobb.
"He's taking care of business, now," added Carmody. "He's got to continue to do that. We're all there supporting him. He just seems like a changed man, which is great."
Northwestern's record currently stands at 9-6, and it has dropped two-consecutive Big Ten games, though those were both against formidable, top-10 opponents. However, without senior forward Drew Crawford—also sidelined for the season—a young team has suffered through plenty of struggles.
Many have pegged it as a rebuilding season, with both Cobb and Crawford projected to return next season. Cobb sees a bright next year ahead, but his focus remains on the now.
"The future looks promising," he said. "But right now, it's about this year, being with these guys, and making them play better than they think they can."