- Scott Powers, ESPN Staff Writer
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Now that Chris Collins has been hired as the Northwestern Wildcats’ coach, he has some work ahead of him if he’s going to establish it into a consistently winning program.
Here are five immediate objectives for Collins to start his tenure:
1. Move on from the past and create a winning mentality: You saw this when John Groce took over at Illinois and it worked to perfection. The message is important right away. Collins has to first convince his current players, then recruits and the fan base, that Northwestern is done with its past and is moving on to a brighter and winning future. Luckily for Collins, he might just have enough quality pieces to make a run at the NCAA tournament next season. If he can somehow get the Wildcats into the tournament in his first season, he can really get the program rolling. The first part of achieving that is to sell his team on the idea that it’s possible.
2. Convince Drew Crawford to stay: Next season’s fate likely depends on whether Crawford decides to stay at Northwestern for his fifth year or take advantage of the graduate school loophole and transfer to another program. Crawford, a 6-foot-5 guard, medically redshirted last season and had surgery to repair his right shoulder. He’s one of the more gifted players Northwestern has ever had. He’s a big-time scorer and team leader, but he also can rebound and defend. He was an All-Big Ten third-team selection as a junior, averaging 16.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.2 steals.
3. Re-recruit Jaren Sina: Sina, a 6-foot-3 point guard, was ranked in ESPN’s top 100 in the Class of 2013 when he originally committed to Northwestern. He’s since dropped in ranking, but he would still be a major recruit for the Wildcats. He asked and was released from his letter of intent when Bill Carmody was fired. Sina’s father, Mergin Sina, said the family would still explore Northwestern as an option when a new coach was hired. Sina has reportedly also been contacted by Alabama and Seton Hall. Northwestern has a steady point guard in Dave Sobolewski, but Sina would add depth at the position and be the team’s point guard of the future.
4. Establish relationships with local high school and club coaches: Northwestern has to recruit nationally to fill a roster, but the Wildcats should still be able to pull players from the state whenever they fit their criteria. In the recent past, Michael Thompson, John Shurna, Crawford and Sobolewski are among the players Northwestern has recruited from Illinois and the Chicago area. Getting those players from the state is key for the program’s future as well.
5. Keep Tavaras Hardy on staff: Hardy, who was an associate head coach under Carmody, is the full package to get Collins going at Northwestern and recruiting the state. Hardy starred in high school in Illinois, played at Northwestern, coached at Northwestern and has been the program’s main in-state recruiter. He knows Northwestern inside and out. He also can quickly open for Collins a lot of doors to the state’s high school and club coaches. Collins is likely to bring an assistant or two with Duke ties, and that could helpful in a lot of ways, but it’s also vital to have someone who knows Northwestern and the state.