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New Northwestern basketball coach looking to instill winning culture

In this Monday Oct. 28 2013 phoNorthwestern new head basketball coach Chris Collins watches over team practice EvanstIll. Collins was

In this Monday, Oct. 28, 2013, photo, Northwestern new head basketball coach Chris Collins watches over team practice in Evanston, Ill. Collins was hired in the offseason and they believe he is the man to establish the Wildcats as contenders in the Big Ten and shoo away that NCAA tournament albatross hovering above them. He is embracing the challenge. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

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9 vs. Eastern Illinois 7:30

14 at Stanford 10

17 vs. Illinois State 7:30

20 at UIC 7

22 vs. IUPUI-x 7

25 vs. Gardner-Webb-x 7

28 vs. Missouri-y 9:30

29 vs. UCLA-y 10:30


4 at N.C. State-z 6:30

7 vs. Western Michigan 4

16 vs. Mississippi Valley St. 6

22 vs. Brown 1

27 vs. DePaul 8


2 vs. Wisconsin 6

5 at Michigan TBA

9 at Iowa 8

12 vs. Illinois 6:30

15 vs. Michigan State 6

18 at Indiana 1:30

21 vs. Purdue 8

25 vs. Iowa 11 a.m.

29 at Wisconsin 8


1 at Minnesota 1

8 vs. Nebraska 12

13 at Michigan State 6

16 vs. Minnesota 5

19 at Ohio State 6

22/23 vs. Indiana TBA


1 at Nebraska 4

6 vs. Penn State 6

8/9 at Purdue TBA

x-Las Vegas Invitational in Evanston y-Las Vegas Invitational in Las Vegas z-Big Ten/ACC Challenge


1 Drew Crawford G/F 6-5 Sr

3 Dave Sobolewski G 6-1 Jr

13 Kale Abrahamson F 6-7 So

14 Tre Demps G 6-2 So

15 J. Montgomery III G 6-4 Sr

22 Alex Olah C 7-0 So

23 JerShon Cobb G 6-5 Jr

31 Aaron Liberman F/C 6-10 Fr

32 Nathan Taphorn F 6-7 Fr

34 Sanjay Lumpkin G/F 6-6 Fr

42 Chier Ajou C 7-2 Fr

45 Nikola Cerina F 6-9 Sr

Updated: December 7, 2013 6:14AM

Northwestern basketball coach Chris Collins preached a clean slate to his players when he was hired in March.

The Wildcats have a futile history in basketball, never having made it to the NCAA tournament and rarely even coming close.

So what makes Collins the guy who will take the program dancing for the first time? A seismic shift in the culture.

‘‘The hunger that he’s brought to the program and the energy that he had going into the year have been awesome,’’ senior Drew Crawford said. ‘‘And just creating a winning culture within the

Winning — at least during the Big Ten season — didn’t happen consistently enough under former coach Bill Carmody. His Prince-
ton offense was regimented and
became predictable.

Fewer rules govern Collins’
motion offense, making it more marketable to recruits. He’s an out-of-the-box thinker and was able to persuade Crawford, who had the option of leaving to play at another school after graduating in June, to stay.

But no one is more excited than JerShon Cobb, who will be allowed to return to his high school roots and play point guard. Cobb was the primary ballhandler for his AAU team, the Atlanta Express.

‘‘Coach allows us to go out there and play,’’ Cobb said. ‘‘He doesn’t give us too much [grief] for taking good shots. If it’s a good shot, he’s all for it.

‘‘If I feel like I have a matchup in the post I can take advantage of, I go to the post. Any way you can
really think of — pick-and-roll stuff, just getting into the lane — he allows us to do a lot of things.’’

But don’t expect Collins to
rewrite history too quickly. NU’s rotation might go only seven or eight deep, which will present problems in a talented Big Ten.

It’s refreshing, though, that Collins doesn’t spew ‘‘one day at time” coach-speak. He said he is focused on building a program and isn’t afraid to talk about the big picture.

‘‘The hunger and the fight and the culture stuff, that should be the fun part,’’ Collins said. ‘‘When you know you’ve gotten to that point [developing a program] is when the guys embrace that kind of

‘‘We’ve tried to embrace this new era of Northwestern basketball. It’s a fresh start; it’s a new beginning.’’

That begins in earnest Wednesday, when the Wildcats host Lewis in an exhibition game. It won’t count toward NU’s record, so most coaches might use it as an opportunity to feel out a team. Not Collins, though.

When asked what he wants to get out of the game, Collins’
answer wasn’t surprising, considering what he has preached.

‘‘I want the guys to play to win,’’ he said.

NEXT: Illinois


Twitter: @SethGruen

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