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Northwestern's McIntosh takes on crucial role for the Wildcats

As Chris Collins attempts to build Northwestern into a NCAA tournament contender, young guard Bryant McIntosh takes on the role of leading from the point.

Bryant McIntosh has played an important role for Northwestern thus far
Bryant McIntosh has played an important role for Northwestern thus far
Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

Needless to say, it was a crazy freshman year for Northwestern's Bryant McIntosh.

After entering the Wildcat program in 2014 as a three-star recruit, the New Castle, Indiana native was suddenly thrust into a starting role, taking over the point guard responsibilities for offensively-challenged senior Dave Sobolewski. To the eye, McIntosh might not look like much. His slender, 6-3, 177 pound frame coupled with his baby-faced look makes for less of an intimidating appearance as does his docile personality. Yet regardless, he gets it done on the court.

In his first year at Northwestern, McIntosh averaged 11.4 PPG and 4.7 rebounds, taking on a solid portion of the Wildcats' scoring throughout the season. In late December, he dropped a career high 22 points in a win over UIC, then followed it up with another 21 point performance the next month at Maryland. By the end of the season, McIntosh had been named to the Big Ten All-Freshman team, a very high honor especially from a guy in a second tier Big Ten program.

Big picture, McIntosh is a key building block for the future of the Northwestern program. When Chris Collins took over the head coaching job for Bill Carmody in March of 2013, he sought to build the Wildcats into a tournament contender. To do this however, he needed a cornerstone. Collins needed a player he could trust, one that could be an extension of himself on the court, not just then, but for the future as well. That was McIntosh. Even Dave Sobolewski understood.

When McIntosh won the starting job from Sobolewski, the senior saw a drastic decrease in playing time. After starting every game in his freshman season, Sobolewski was now riding the bench, taking on more of a coaching role than that of a player. Yet rather than complain about his lack of playing time, the captain embraced the situation.

"I want to leave Northwestern as a better place than when I got here. I'm not even thinking about anything else," Sobolewski said on the situation.

This type of leadership is one of the qualities that Chris Collins hopes the young freshman will develop over the coming years. While his play on the court will be on the rise in his sophomore year, his role as a leader will be just as essential. With Sobolewsi officially gone to graduation, it's McIntosh's show to run. His ability to score from the outside (36.4% 3P%) and distribute the ball makes him an equally dangerous threat to shoot or dump the ball inside to Alex Olah, another Cats asset.

For the next three years, McIntosh is the man. Early projections can estimate he will up his scoring by a point or two per game, same goes for his assists. The challenge however will be battling against the stern competition the Big Ten promises to offer this coming season. As Northwestern nears the promise land of post-season basketball, watch out for Bryant McIntosh. He just might surprise you.