During his podium time at Big Ten Media Day in Indianapolis, Northwestern men's basketball head coach Chris Collins provided a preview of the upcoming basketball season. These are some of the topics he addressed.
Breaking down the 2021-22 roster
"If you look at our roster now, we have a number of guys in their third and fourth years. I don't want to call them juniors and seniors because I don't really know what class they are with the COVID rule last year, but headed by Pete Nance, Ryan Young, Ryan Greer, Chase Audige, four guys that are in their fourth year of college basketball, all guys that have become tremendous leaders for us, guys that have been key players. I think all of them are primed to be even better this year. The way they've led our program throughout this spring and summer, really proud of that."
"You add guys like Boo Buie, Robbie Beran to that group, they've been guys who have played a lot of basketball, they've been guys that have shown they can be really good players in this league. Then we've now added to that with some newcomers, Ty Berry, Matt Nicholson as sophomores. And our newcomers, Elyjah Williams, who we're impressed with as a grad transfer from Fairleigh Dickinson, and our three freshmen, Casey Simmons, Julian Roper, and Brooks Barnhizer. We feel like our roster is in a good spot."
On goals for the upcoming season
"Our camaraderie, our chemistry, our spirit, all those things to me are at a winning level right now. Now can our play be at a winning level? That's the next step. Like I said, I think this group has shown that they can play at a high level, but the consistency hasn't been there."
"In order for us to be successful in this league, we're going to have to be a little bit better in that regard. Once we hit a little bump in the road, you got to find a way to get a win and keep moving in the right direction. I'm really anxious, I'm excited to coach this group. They've been a fun group to come every day. They're about all the right things. They really want to win. They really want to get us back to that level of being a team that can play in the postseason. I'm excited to coach 'em and see what we can do."
An update on Brooks Barnhizer's injury status
"Brooks is recovering from a broken foot. Indiana boy. I know a lot of people locally know him well. Had a great senior year last year. I think was the leading scorer in the state of Indiana. Really excited about his future. He was out all summer. But he's back. He's been with us all fall. As we started practice a couple weeks ago, he's been cleared, ready to go. He's just a really good basketball player. That's what I love about Brooks. He can handle. He's smart, he's tough. He can shoot it. He's got good size. Those are the kind of guys I really like, those versatile guys that can do everything, play in different lineups. Son of a coach. Been in the gym his whole life, is a gym rat. Looking forward to see how he can integrate with the group we have."
On filling the void left by Miller Kopp's transfer to Indiana
"I'm still appreciative of what Miller did for us for three years. No one works harder. He's really competitive. Became a good player. Double-figure scorer in the Big Ten. He's going to add a lot to Indiana, those things that I mentioned. He comes every day. He's about the right stuff. He wants to win. He's a great teammate. He can really shoot it. He'll be a veteran guy for that team. Obviously I wish him the best."
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"Those are going to be some shoes for us to fill. He was a scorer for us. He was a leader for us. I think a guy like Ty Berry, someone who comes to mind. Ty was a guy last year as a freshman showed some signs, had some really good moments, can really shoot the ball, brings some pop to us. I think he'll be someone that we'll ask to do a little bit more this year in Miller's absence. As well as some of our young guys. We have three freshmen wings that I have high aspirations for: Casey Simmons; Brooks, who I talked about; Julian Roper. I think there will be more opportunity for some of those guys to be able to get out there and help us."
On building the team's identity
"I would love for the identity to be a lot like Bryant McIntosh. We need more Bryant McIntoshs. He was such a special player, helped lead us to our first NCAA tournament. I think last year we started to kind of create more of an identity, be a team that is multifaceted where we're able to open the floor, have a lot of guys who can pass, handle and shoot. I'd like to be able to play with a little bit of pace. That lends itself more to my personality."
"At the end of the day, I want our team to be tough, to be together, and to be a group that comes out that people don't like to play against. I think that's always the greatest compliment you can have as a team, when the other team is not looking forward to going out and playing against you because you know for 40 minutes that team's going to be competing, the effort, the togetherness. Those are things we're trying to continue to build."
Coach's final thoughts
"I really like this group. Like I said, I think the leadership is in a great spot. There’re some older players that have really grown a lot over the last couple years and are ready to take that step. It's going to be exciting for me to see what this can mean for us. The league is going to be as good as ever. We know that. The level of players, coaches, there are no off nights. You've got to play really well in order to win a game ... We're going to go about our business, get ourselves ready, and hopefully be a team that can contend this year."
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