Chris Collins aimed to change the culture around Northwestern basketball, and in just six months on the job the new head coach has managed to do just that in terms of recruiting.
With the commitment on Sunday of shooting guard Scott Lindsey to the Wildcats' Class of 2014, Collins's first group could be Northwestern's best...well, if not ever, certainly in a very, very long time.
The Rivals recruiting database stretches back to 2002, which, conveniently, also happens to be previous coach Bill Carmody's first class at Northwestern. This 2014 quartet -- Lindsey joins fellow three-star recruits Bryant McIntosh and Gavin Skelly and four-star headliner Victor Law -- ranks higher than any group the Wildcats have reeled in during that period.
Law, the No. 86 player in the country, is most likely the highest-ranked recruit the Wildcats have landed since Evan Eschmeyer signed a letter of intent in 1993. That was 20 years ago, when Bill Clinton was in his first year in the White House and vice president Al Gore was just starting to make his Internet invention available to the rest of the world.
And while none of the three other Wildcats are ranked in the Rivals150, one look at their offer lists will show that these are no ordinary recruits.
McIntosh, for example, decommitted from Indiana State in July and had 10 major offers within 48 hours. He chose Northwestern over offers from Cincinnati, Clemson, Iowa, Missouri, Purdue and West Virginia, among others. Lindsey had offers from Iowa and Vanderbilt. Skelly didn't have any other Big Six schools among his 15 other tenders, but he had shown well during the July evaluation period and was bound to pick some up before committing to Collins.
Carmody landed just one four-star player during his 13 years in Evanston: redshirt junior Jershon Cobb, who committed to NU with a No. 90 national ranking in 2010. Cobb had offers from Cincinnati, Auburn and Georgia Tech but dropped to three stars and No. 103 shortly after committing, touching off one of a series of periodic firestorms on the WildcatReport Basketball Board charging Rivals with intentionally devaluing NU commits.
Be that as it may, Cobb was one of a slew of three-star prospects that Carmody managed to lure to Evanston, and that in itself was seen as a big upgrade in talent level from previous years. From the Class of 2004 through his final group last year, Carmody signed 18 players who had earned a three-star designation, including all-time leading scorer John Shurna and stars like Michael Thompson and Drew Crawford.
However, only two times in the last dozen years was Carmody able to land more than three three-stars in a single class.
In 2008, the Wildcats hauled in an impressive quintet of four three-stars (Shurna, Kyle Rowley, Luka Mirkovic and Nick Fruendt) and one two-star (Davide Curletti). Shurna was a late bloomer who committed to Northwestern before the big boys came calling, but Rowley (DePaul, Marquette, Georgetown, Pittsburgh, Wisconsin) and Mirkovic (DePaul, Louisville, Marquette) snagged some major offers despite being unranked (that's what happens when you stand close to 7-feet tall). Ironically, it was Fruendt, who would wind up as a bit player in purple, who was the highest ranked of the lot.
Then, in 2012, Carmody again signed four three-stars, including Kale Abrahamson, the No. 135 player in the nation who also had offers from Boston College, Iowa, Iowa State, Stanford and Wake Forest. None of the other members of that class -- Chier Ajou, Sanjay Lumpkin and Alex Olah -- collected any major offers, but it was still regarded as a strong class by Northwestern standards.
Until now, that is.
Law was Collins's first recruit, and the coach couldn't have picked a better player for an opening salvo to announce his presence on both the Chicago and Big Ten recruiting scenes. Now he's followed that up with three other players who made an impact felt throughout the recruiting community.
Not bad for his first six months on the job.
Next up on the rookie coach's to-do list is to lead Northwestern to the NCAA Tournament. He may have gotten one step closer to that goal on Sunday.