Chicago Colleges: Chris Collins



Andy Katz discusses Northwestern finding an identity during Big Ten conference play.

The state of the Big Ten

November, 5, 2013
11/05/13
10:00
AM CT


In recent years, the Big Ten has boasted an assembly of athletes who have boosted the league to the top of college basketball’s conference rankings.

Players who could’ve turned pro returned and granted the league a lineup of experienced players who carried their respective squads for multiple seasons. Evan Turner, Trey Burke, Cody Zeller, Draymond Green, Deshaun Thomas, Jared Sullinger, JaJuan Johnson, Tim Hardaway Jr. and others had opportunities to sign NBA contracts a year or two earlier than they did. Instead, they stayed and strengthened their teams and subsequently, the entire conference.

Prior to changes at Minnesota and Northwestern this past offseason, only four of the 12 Big Ten schools (Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois, Penn State) had changed head coaches in the previous five seasons. That continuity has fueled immense success for a league that has earned 20 total bids in the last three NCAA tournaments.

There are, however, more questions now.

Other than Michigan State, the Big Ten’s membership enters the season possessing promise but also dealing with a rare uncertainty. Michigan and Ohio State return elite talent, but you can’t ignore what both lost from last season. Indiana could blossom behind some youngsters, but how many teams improve after a pair of top-five picks turn pro? A fleet of seniors have left Madison. Iowa is still a “maybe” to many.

Illinois and Purdue? They’ll either surprise or spend the year at the bottom of the league.

Even with four teams cracking the Associated Press’ Top 25 preseason poll, the Big Ten is somewhat of a mystery as this weekend’s tipoff to the 2013-14 season approaches. Still, there’s plenty of hope for many squads in this league.

There’s just a lot we don’t know (yet) about the Big Ten.

The Contenders

[+] EnlargeTom Izzo
AP Photo/Andy ManisTom Izzo has a Michigan State team with enough talent to return to the Final Four.
Michigan State: Tom Izzo has another capable crew in East Lansing this season. Adreian Payne and Keith Appling anchor the Big Ten favorite and national title contender. Gary Harris is a future lottery pick who could campaign for All-American honors. Whenever Izzo has this much talent and experience, his teams usually reach the Final Four.

Michigan: The answer is no. No, the Wolverines won’t replace Wooden Award winner Burke no matter how productive Derrick Walton Jr. is in his freshman season. But John Beilein’s pillars -- Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary -- and his stellar recruits should give Michigan State a serious shot at the Big Ten crown.

Ohio State: Somehow, Aaron Craft is still eligible and available to squash the dreams of perimeter players throughout the country. Without Deshaun Thomas, the Buckeyes will probably spread the ball around more than they did last season. But LaQuinton Ross -- assuming we see the same player who lit up the Big Dance a few months ago -- might be the star Thad Matta needs to make a postseason run and snatch another Big Ten crown.

The (Possible) Contenders

Indiana: If exhibitions are to be believed, then Yogi Ferrell has become a more dangerous threat from the field since registering a 45.4 effective field goal percentage last season. That matters, but not as much as the maturation of the rest of the roster does (will). How much production will Noah Vonleh and a bunch of inexperienced youngsters give Tom Crean? We’ll find out soon.

Wisconsin: Say it with me three times: “I will not doubt Wisconsin, I will not doubt Wisconsin, I will not doubt Wisconsin.” Once again, however, there are a few reasons to doubt the Badgers, simply because they’re entering the season without a trio of seniors (Mike Bruesewitz, Ryan Evans and Jared Berggren) who made a major difference last season, and they’re depending on a point guard who's returning from a serious knee injury (Josh Gasser). Sam Dekker and Co. will probably maintain Bo Ryan’s streak of 20-win seasons (10 in a row) and top-four finishes in the Big Ten.

Iowa: The rebuilding phase is over, folks. The Hawkeyes return every meaningful player from a team that won 25 games and finished 9-9 in conference play during the 2012-13 season. It’s time for Iowa to finally make some noise in the Big Ten race and get back to the NCAA tourney. Fran McCaffery has the pieces to achieve both.

The Questionable

Purdue: The last thing Matt Painter needed was a bout of early drama involving young star A.J. Hammons. But that’s exactly what he’s facing after Hammons was recently suspended for three games after violating team rules. If Hammons gets his act together -- it’s always if with him -- the Boilermakers could sneak into the at-large mix.

Illinois: Same for John Groce’s squad. Groce adds eight new faces to the program. This is a much different team compared to the one that reached the NCAA tournament last year. But if Groce can help transfer Rayvonte Rice become the star he was at Drake two seasons ago, Illinois might make a case for another berth.

The Bottom

Minnesota: Richard Pitino has his father’s last name and hair, but nothing resembling the players Rick Pitino used to win the national title with Louisville in April.

Northwestern: Chris Collins is already making strides in recruiting, but he doesn’t have the beef inside to compete in the Big Ten yet.

Nebraska: The Cornhuskers have a new arena, but Tim Miles’ squad has the same problems.

Penn State: Tim Frazier will have to carry a very heavy load. Again.

NU surprises Montgomery with scholarship

October, 23, 2013
10/23/13
4:49
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Northwestern senior James Montgomery III, a walk-on for the Wildcats for the past two seasons, got a big surprise from head coach Chris Collins on Thursday.

In front of the Wildcats' team, Collins announced Montgomery would receive a full scholarship this year.



"He has as much energy as anybody on the team. ... He's our best perimeter defender," Collins told the team in a clip posted on Northwestern's You Tube channel. "The guy through 12 practices that has done the best job of doing what he's supposed to do every day is James."

The video clip also shows Montgomery, who is from Los Angeles, sharing the news by phone with his overjoyed mother and sister.

Montgomery spent his freshman season as a practice player with the women's team before making the Wildcats' roster as a sophomore. He scored 17 points in limited action over the last two seasons under coach Bill Carmody and clearly made a quick impression on his new coach, Collins, this season.

NU's Turner to take leave of absence

September, 15, 2013
9/15/13
3:11
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Northwestern redshirt sophomore forward Mike Turner is taking a leave of absence from the team due to personal reasons, the school announced Sunday.

Turned, who is from Chicago, played in all 32 games for the Wildcats as a redshirt freshman last season. He started three games and averaged 1.9 points and 2.0 rebounds.

“Mike will take some time away from the program to focus on aspects of his life other than basketball," Northwestern coach Chris Collins said in a statement. “He has our complete support and we will revisit his status within the program once the time is appropriate."

The Wildcats went 13-19 overall and 4-14 in the Big Ten last season. The Wildcats will return 11 players from last year’s roster.

PG McIntosh commits to Northwestern

September, 9, 2013
9/09/13
10:54
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Class of 2014 point guard Bryant McIntosh committed to Northwestern on Monday.

The 6-foot-3 McIntosh, who attends Greensburg (Ind.) High School, chose the Wildcats over Dayton, Purdue, Vanderbilt and Xavier.

Northwestern coach Chris Collins and assistant coach Armon Gates spent nearly eight hours at an in-home visit with McIntosh on Monday. McIntosh committed to the Wildcats near the end of the evening in an unique way.

"On my [campus] visit, the coaches kept telling they were all-in on me,” McIntosh said in a phone interview. “They said they weren’t looking at any other point guards. I had a poker chip with the word ‘all’ and one with ‘in’ and slid them across the table and said, 'I am all-in on you, too.'

“It just felt like the perfect fit for me education-wise and with the relationship I built with coach Collins and coach Gates and everyone else who had a part in my recruitment. Everyone made me feel at home. I had a great visit, a great in-home visit. I’m a believer in Northwestern basketball and what they’re doing right now, and that’s why I committed.”

McIntosh is convinced Northwestern can be an NCAA tournament team early in his career, too. The Wildcats have never made the tournament.

“I really think we’ll have an opportunity to advance our freshman year,” McIntosh said. “The class is still being built, but we have some quality pieces. We’re just believing in Coach Collins. I think we’re going to be dancing early on. I’d be shocked if we’re not in the NCAA tourney by our sophomore year.”

ESPN recruiting coordinator Reggie Rankin said McIntosh provides the Wildcats with a versatile guard.

“He’s a combination guard that is smart, has a great feel, can make open shots and can slide over and contribute at the point without missing a beat because he has a nice handle and ability to involve teammates on the break or within the half-court offense,” Rankin said. “He’s a hot prospect coming out of the July evaluation period.”

McIntosh is Northwestern’s third class of 2014 recruit. He joins St. Rita (Chicago) small forward Vic Law and Westlake (Ohio) power forward Gavin Skelly in the class.

Collins has Northwestern believing

August, 27, 2013
8/27/13
1:46
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It always begins with the cold. New alumni trickling off the Purple Line "L," young parents carrying toddlers, white-haired die-hards docking old Cadillac boats in reserved parking: No matter who you are or how you get there, the first sensation of attending a Northwestern men's basketball game at Welsh-Ryan Arena is that bone-shattering North Shore Chicago cold.

This is true of most places during basketball season; they play the game inside for a reason. But nowhere in major college basketball does the futility and depression of winter seep so thoroughly into the gym itself.

That's the next part of the Welsh-Ryan experience, and it hits just as hard. Thing is, Wildcats fans know -- not gut-feeling know, but know know, because after all it is a provable historical fact -- that not only will the Wildcats lose, but they'll do so in a gym half-full with gleeful opposing fans.

Read the entire story.

Ohio PF Skelly commits to Northwestern

July, 29, 2013
7/29/13
7:53
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Westlake High School (Ohio) senior power forward Gavin Skelly committed to Northwestern on Monday.

Skelly, who is 6-foot-9 and 215 pounds, also considered Bucknell, Elon, Florida Gulf Coast, Notre Dame and Stanford.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Skelly said. “They said they would offer me if I committed to them. ‘If you commit to us, we’ll commit to you.’ We kind of committed to each other.

(Read full post)

Top-100 recruit Law commits to N'western

July, 4, 2013
7/04/13
2:33
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Chicago St. Rita senior forward Vic Law committed to Northwestern coach Chris Collins on Thursday and became the highest-ranked recruit in the program’s history.

Law, a 6-foot-8, 190-pound small forward, chose Northwestern over Dayton, Georgia Tech, Harvard, Stanford and VCU. He is ranked No. 66 by ESPN in the Class of 2014.

“There’s nothing like being No. 1,” Law said of becoming the first top-100 recruit ever to commit to Northwestern. “Knowing that, I really believe in coach Collins. I think [Northwestern] can go to the [NCAA tournament] this year. I think the sky’s the limit for them and they can only go up. I really believe in coach Collins. I just think he has a great basketball mind.”

St. Rita coach Gary DeCesare, a former Division I assistant coach, thinks Law and Northwestern are perfect for each other.

“I think it’s an all-around fit for everyone,” DeCesare said. “As far as Vic playing, his greatest characteristic is his versatility. He’s a very skilled wing with great size. He has an ability to knock down shots and create shots. Defensively, he can guard multiple positions, which is a huge plus.

“He’s been a three-year starter for me. Every year, he’s gotten better and better. There aren’t too many guys who are 6-8 and can knock down the deep 3 and get to the rim and finish. If he puts his mind to it, he can be one of the best players in the state.”

Law believes he is just the start for Northwestern in attracting top-100 players.

“I’m going to bring in some guys with me,” Law said. “I’m not worried about it. Being No. 1 means nothing until there’s No. 2.”

Law averaged 15 points and seven rebounds last season for St. Rita of the Chicago Catholic League.

Northwestern assistant coach Armon Gates was the lead recruiter on Law.

Collins was hired in late March to replace Bill Carmody, who was fired after 13 seasons. Northwestern has never been to the NCAA tournament.

Law is Northwestern’s first Class of 2014 recruit.

Source: Gates to complete N'western staff

June, 17, 2013
6/17/13
3:44
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Northwestern first-year coach Chris Collins is set to hire Armon Gates as the final assistant to his staff, according to a source.

Gates has spent the past two seasons as an assistant to Loyola coach Porter Moser. He was also an assistant coach at TCU and Kent State and a graduate assistant at Western Kentucky.

Northwestern is expected to announce the hiring of Gates once he is cleared through a background check, according to the source.

Moser said Monday that Collins was receiving a quality coach, recruiter and person.

"I think Armon is a rising star," Moser said. "He did a great job for me the two years he was here. He's a high-energy guy, a high-character guy. He was a good friend as well as a good colleague. I wish him all the best. Chris is getting a good one. Northwestern is getting a good person and good coach."

Gates is from the Chicago area and played at Hillcrest High School in Country Club Hills, Ill. He played at Kent State and earned his master's degree from the school in 2007.

Gates will complete Collins' staff. Collins previously announced the hiring of assistant coaches Brian James and Patrick Baldwin. Tavaras Hardy recently left Northwestern's staff to take an assistant position at Georgetown.

Collins adds James to N'western staff

June, 13, 2013
6/13/13
4:15
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Northwestern coach Chris Collins named his former high school coach Brian James to his coaching staff as an assistant on Thursday.

James coached Collins at Glenbrook North High School in Northbrook, Ill. James spent the last three seasons as an assistant to Collins' father, Doug Collins, with the Philadelphia 76ers.

"We're very excited to add Brian James to our staff," Collins said in a statement. "He has been a big part of my family going back to my high school days when he was my coach. Brian has been a great mentor for me. A lot of the things that I have carried with me throughout my playing and coaching career are things that I've learned from him. I look forward to having him on staff to lend his expertise. His experience coaching great players in the NBA for so many years will be a huge asset to our program as we move forward."

James has 14 years of NBA coaching experience. He was also an assistant on the Milwaukee Bucks, Washington Wizards, Toronto Raptors and Detroit Pistons. He was also as an NBA analyst for ESPN.com and spent two years as an advance scout for the Seattle Supersonics.

"This is somewhat full circle for me personally," James said in a statement. "Chris Collins and I have been extremely close since he starred for me at Glenbrook North at the age of 14. Now 25 years later, I get to coach with one of the most competitive big-game participants I've ever been associated with, regardless of the level. I'm elated that Chris would ask me to rejoin him as our staff strives to make Northwestern basketball a household name."

Collins still has one assistant opening to fill because Tavaras Hardy recently left the program to become an assistant coach at Georgetown. Collins previously hired Patrick Baldwin to his staff.

Coach K optimistic Collins will succeed

May, 3, 2013
5/03/13
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Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, not surprisingly, is optimistic that Chris Collins will make an immediate impact as the new men's basketball coach at Northwestern.

"It's a great opportunity for Chris, and also for Northwestern," Krzyzewski told "Mike & Mike In the Morning." "The one thing that Chris brings right away is immense energy. He's an emotional guy. He's been such a huge part of our program. He's been with us as a coach and player for almost 20 years. He'll recruit outstanding players. He's been accustomed to recruiting outstanding players at Duke. Northwestern is a great school, a great opportunity. A new system, new spirit. It's a great, great fit. I'm excited for him."

Collins was a star player at Glenbrook North before attending Duke.

"He's returning home," Coach K said. "That's what he calls home, where he was a great player at Glenbrook North. The people up there are kind of welcoming him as the guy who came back home. And he's already lived the dream, the Chicago fan's dream. He shot a puck at a Blackhawks game, he's thrown out the first pitch at a Cubs game, and he sung the seventh inning. I told him to get all that stuff in before you lose a game."

RecruitingNation: Coaching Carousel

April, 12, 2013
4/12/13
1:25
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Dave Telep and Paul Biancardi offer a blueprint for success for coaches taking over programs this offseason.

Chris Collins has plans for Wildcats

April, 11, 2013
4/11/13
2:55
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New Northwestern coach Chris Collins left his comfort zone as an assistant at Duke. But he didn't venture outside his area of expertise when he returned to where he grew up.

He is now at a school where the pool of talent is small and is limited by the highest academic standards in the Big Ten.

Collins, who been on the job for a little more than a week, has one goal, and that is to get Northwestern to the NCAA tournament for the first time.

Since he arrived in Evanston last week, his main focus has been on these five items:

NU's Collins retains Hardy as assistant

April, 5, 2013
4/05/13
3:31
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Northwestern coach Chris Collins announced Friday he retained Tavaras Hardy as the first member of his coaching staff.

Hardy, a former Northwestern player, was on former Wildcats coach Bill Carmody's staff for the last seven seasons and was the associate head coach for the last two years. Hardy was the lead recruiter for a number of Northwestern's top players, including John Shurna and Drew Crawford, and was on staff for four consecutive NIT appearances.

"I'm thrilled to have Tavaras as a member of our coaching staff," Collins said in a statement. "His first-hand experience as a student-athlete at Northwestern is a tremendous asset to the program in that he understands what a special place this is and what it takes to be successful here. He is an outstanding talent in our profession and has a great understanding of the game. Tavaras has an excellent ability to communicate with young players which makes him a terrific recruiter and mentor."

(Read full post)

Deng thinks NU has winner in Collins

April, 2, 2013
4/02/13
7:02
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WASHINGTON D.C. -- Chicago Bulls forward and Duke alum Luol Deng is happy that one of his former coaches, Chris Collins, was named the head coach at Northwestern on Tuesday.

Deng believes that Collins will be able to get the Wildcats back on track.

"I'm happy for him," Deng said. "I think he will do well. I think he's a good recruiter. I think he'll be able to give them different looks and different options of kids going in there, that's the first thing. In terms of basketball, he's a great guy. I think the kids will love him. But (he's) also a hard worker and has a high basketball IQ."

(Read full post)

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