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Northwestern likely to lose top recruit if Bill Carmody is fired

Northwestern University head coach Bill Carmody works sidelines front Wildcats bench during Northwestern's 66-59 loss Penn State Thursday March 7

Northwestern University head coach Bill Carmody works the sidelines in front of the Wildcats bench during Northwestern's 66-59 loss to Penn State Thursday March 7, 2013. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: March 13, 2013 2:45PM

Not only will Northwestern land one of the best basketball recruits in recent memory, but a respected high school coach in a talent-rich region promises to help bring more talent to Northwestern under one condition: Bill Carmody returns for the final year of his contract.

Whether Carmody returns for a 14th season remains very much in doubt heading into Thursday night’s first-round Big Ten Tournament game between the Wildcats and Iowa at the United Center. Athletics director Jim Phillips is expected to meet with Carmody to discuss his future when Northwestern’s season ends, which means the meeting could happen as early as Friday.

Meanwhile, Mergin Sina, the father of top recruit Jaren Sina and the coach at Gill St. Bernard’s in Gladstone, N.J., increased the stakes when he said not only is it unlikely that his son will play for Northwestern is Carmody is fired, but the program could lose a promising recruiting foothold on the East Coast.

“I’m not saying Jaren won’t come but it will be very difficult for him to step on the floor at Northwestern if coach Carmody doesn’t stay,” said Mergin Sina.

Mergin Sina doesn’t understand why Carmody’s future would be an issue after one top returning player was lost to a suspension and two more to season-ending injuries. Carmody has had only seven scholarship players available, including four freshman who play regularly, during their current seven-game losing streak.

“I’m a coach as well, and when you look at Northwestern’s program it’s not an easy place to get kids in,” he said. “The academic standards are very high and you’re going to lose highly-rated recruits. Watching the way he coaches and what he gets out of those kids, as a coach, I’m impressed to a point where I can’t figure out why there’s even a discussion here. He runs a nice system, he doesn’t have the talent he needs but that’s why you bring a kid like Jaren in. I’m just trying to figure out where the school is going with this.”

Jaren Sina, a point guard, averaged 22.6 points and 7.8 assists per game this season and scored more than 2,000 points in his high school career.

He has offers from Butler, Memphis, Virginia, St. John’s and Miami after originally committing to Alabama.

He remains close to Northwestern assistant coach Fred Hill, who recruited him when Hill was the head coach at Rutgers.

Mergin Sina said Jaren could be the first player in a New Jersey-to-Northwestern pipeline that could forever change the fortunes of a program that has never played in a NCAA Tournament.

Mergin also coaches a 16-and-under Boys AAU team that finished in the Top 20 of the 2009 national tournament.

“I want to help Jim out,” Mergin Sina said. “I’m a guy here in New Jersey who has been coaching and has played for a while and knows a lot of these kids. I’m pretty much saying, ‘I’ll give you all the support in the New York and New Jersey area.’ There are kids here like Jaren who could help the program. I’m willing to do that for you, and this is how recruiting works. Why would you not want to do that?”

Former Northwestern player, athletics department employee and Big Ten Network analyst Shon Morris said the Wildcats could end their NCAA Tournament drought as soon as next year if Sina returns and senior Drew Crawford returns for a fifth season instead of transferring as a graduate student, which he could do after earning his undergraduate degree this spring.

Mergin Sina agrees.

“I hope Jim Phillips really thinks about this,” Mergin Sina said. “This affects kids and the future of a program. He has got one more year. I don’t understand the reason behind letting him have this last year. I’m almost guaranteeing they will have a very successful season next year. That’s where you move on from. You can hire a different coach right now but it could go completely a different way. This next year is crucial for the program.”

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