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October 17, 2013

Collins installing a more free-flowing system

EVANSTON-For over a decade, Northwestern and the Princeton offense were synonymous, and broadcasters would delve into long explanations about backdoor cuts and ball screens whenever they would come to Welsh-Ryan Arena.

They're going to have to find some new material for discussion this year.

Whereas Bill Carmody's system was very disciplined and intricate, new head coach Chris Collins is employing an offense that allows his players to make more decisions on the fly.

"I'm more of a free-flowing coach," Collins said at Northwestern's media day on Tuesday. "I like to give my guys freedom. I want them to feel confident that if they're open, they can shoot the ball."

That goes for every position. Collins emphasized that he wants the front line to be able to shoot and pass, not just the wing players.

In this way, the new motion offense is similar to the Princeton. The offense features a four-out and one-in look, and everyone needs to be a reliable jump shooter. It's also like the former system in that it's very important to have a chemistry and awareness among teammates.

"It's kind of similar to the Princeton in ways [such as the need to] read and react off each other," redshirt junior JerShon Cobb said.

For every similarity, however, there are many more alterations. With so many "hybrid guys," as Collins calls them, the one-through-four spots are going to be interchangeable. Collins also wants his guards to be able to post-up more often than they have.

One of the most noticeable changes will be the pace of play. Under Carmody, the Wildcats tried to slow the tempo in order to hide their athletic weaknesses. Now, the offense is going to be more run-and-gun than Northwestern fans may ever remember.

"We try to push the ball and really get down the floor and score in the first ten seconds, which I think is great," sophomore Kale Abrahamson said. "We have a good set of people to do that."

Abrahamson may not have added that last part a year ago, but one of the main points of emphasis this offseason has been conditioning. Collins noted how Cobb, Alex Olah and Dave Sobolewski have all slimmed down and are in better shape now, ready for this new style of play.

When Carmody left, so did the system that has defined the program since he came to campus in 2000. While there's been a lot to adapt to, Collins and his players are happy with the progress they've made so far, and they're excited to keep improving.

"It's a new fresh start," Sobolewski said. "We've done our adjusting time, and we're really starting to get a lot better, which is exciting."



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