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The Wildest of Cats

John Shurna was arguably the best player in Northwestern history.

He's the Wildcats' all-time leading scorer. He's been a third-team, second-team and first-team All Big Ten player. He's led the conference in scoring. He holds a host of individual game scoring, shooting and rebounding records.

In short, John Shurna was Northwestern's best hope to break into the NCAA Tournament for the first time. And as he leaves, so goes the hope of ending that streak for the foreseeable future.

A fantastic high school career was barely noticed. Shurna set school records at Glenbard West with averages of 22.9 points, 12.1 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per game. He was twice named special mention All State by the Chicago Tribune. Still, neither RIvals nor Scout had Shurna in their rankings at all. ESPN listed him as the 53rd best power forward in the country.

But it became clear early that the Wildcats had more than what was advertised.

Shurna dropped 17 while grabbing nine rebounds and blocking three shots against Texas A&M Corpus Christi in November of his freshman year. By the time the season was over he would score 16 or more four more times. In February, the baby-faced assassin endeared himself to all Northwestern fans forever when he hit a 3-pointer with 3.3 seconds left to beat Ohio State.

Northwestern lost to Washington yesterday in the NIT. Fittingly, Shurna scored 24. He's always been the best player on the team that just wasn't quite good enough. As a result, he seemed to be perennially underrated.

The Wildcats were 77-54 with Shurna on the roster. Before he got to Evanston, Northwestern notched six consecutive losing seasons. Shurna changed the culture and gave fans and alumni a reason to hope.

He leaves a void the the Cats will struggle to fill. Shurna will go down as one of the best players in the history of the Big Ten.