ROSEMONT When asked how his basketball team will improve its rebounding, Northwestern coach Bill Carmody responded with his own question.
Just throw out some raw steaks on the court? What are you going to do? he said during a press conference Thursday at Big Ten Media Day.
You can do rebounding drills forever. You gotta get the ball. The guys have to go after it. Thats all I can tell you.
The Wildcats could improve their rebounding this season after adding size and physicality through recruiting. And their frontcourt is considered a strength, despite the loss of the schools all-time leading scorer, John Shurna.
Thats exactly what we needed. We needed some rebounding and inside presence. Im the only normal-sized guy weve got now, guard Dave Sobolewski said. Its a lot of fun playing with bigger guys. Seeing the Big Ten last year as a freshman and seeing how big those other teams are, I know this is exactly what we needed to make that next step.
Northwestern added two 7-footers, 7-foot-2 Chier Ajou, who is the cousin of the Chicago Bulls Luol Deng, and 275-pound Alex Olah. Other newcomers are 6-foot-8 Louisville transfer Jared Swopshire, 6-foot-7 Kale Abrahamson and 6-foot-6 Sanjay Lumpkin.
With the newcomers, the Wildcats have the potential to quality for the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history, Carmody said.
As valuable as John was, when he was down in the low post, he got knocked around a lot, Carmody said. These guys are stronger, maybe not as talented, definitely not in the same way. But that interior will help our outside shooting. We wont take as many threes as weve done in the past. Itll help if our guys down there can score inside.
Carmody noted Olah, a freshman center, has been impressive in practice recently. Olah has been receptive to coaching and doesnt need to be a star right away alongside the Wildcats veterans, Carmody said.
Hell only get better, Carmody said. Hes 7 feet, he can run, hes 275 pounds. He can actually make a shot at the top.
The Wildcats also added size and experience with the arrival of Swopshire, who averaged 3.3 points and 2.8 rebounds as a reserve for Louisville last season. As a sophomore, he averaged 7.5 points and 6.1 rebounds. He missed the 2010-11 season due to injury. Hes a graduate student at Northwestern.
Hes got really long arms, Sobolewski said. He moves well. He runs the floor well, and he finishes around the rim pretty well. Im fully confident hell be able to bring a new physical nature to our team, and hes already been showing that in practice.
The added size and physicality could help the Wildcats shore up their issues last season. Northwestern went 19-14, 8-10 in the Big Ten, and qualified for the NIT.
With these new guys at center, the frontcourt is looking great, Sobolewski said. Its something we didnt have last year. We have a really good backcourt and our wings are strong as well. I dont see any major weakness with our team. Last year, our weakness was our defense and rebounding, mainly rebounding. We gave up too many second and third chances, but with our size and physicality, thatll really be an advantage for us.