Northwestern men’s basketball is taking two big hits this offseason. Arguably, these two losses in Tre Demps and Alex Olah are the toughest in the Chris Collins era. Demps and Olah have both signed contracts to play professional basketball on the same team in Belgium, but they’ve hung up their Wildcats jerseys for good.
Here’s what Chris Collins’ losses look like heading into 2016-17.
Alex Olah came in four years ago as a shy player from Romania. He left as a confident senior and as Northwestern’s all-time leading shot-blocker. Although he missed time his senior season due to a foot injury, he was still a crucial part of Northwestern’s success on the floor. Perhaps the most memorable moment of his senior year came when he made a two point jumper in the final seconds of regulation in the Big Ten Tournament against Michigan to send the game in to overtime.
Olah was one of Northwestern’s most consistent players on the floor. He was very reliable in the post. Players on the outside of the arc could throw in to Olah and he could find his way to the post to get a shot up within seconds.
He was also a gifted shot blocker. He knew how to block without fouling and he used his height, as a seven foot center, to defend extremely well.
As for Olah’s replacement, sophomore Dererk Pardon and freshman Barret Benson will take his minutes and most-likely split them almost in half. Pardon will probably see more minutes at the beginning of the season and the beginning of conference play, but by the end of the season, I would guess it will be close to 20/20 per game.
This loss is a tough one. Demps was a streaky shooter, but an incredibly good one. His ability to shoot from deep and create his own shot when no other player on the court could was a very valuable skill that Northwestern will miss. Demps was a reliable ball-handler and he had a great command of the floor. He defended without fouling, which allowed him to stay on the floor for most of the game.
Demps went through bad shooting slumps, like the one at the start of conference play this past season, but when he started to shoot, he was a reliable player for McIntosh to pass the ball to. Demps had great chemistry with Olah and McIntosh on the floor, which allowed them to have a great scoring option in the center and be a threat in the back court.
There will definitely be a competition for Demps’ spot as the season rolls in. Bryant McIntosh will absorb his ball handling and some of his scoring. Freshman Isiah Brown, who has a similar playing style to Demps, will have the opportunity to absorb a lot of Demps’ minutes if he adjusts well. Scottie Lindsey, Jordan Ash, and perhaps even Vic Law will compete for the remainder of his minutes. Depending on how the offseason goes and what the wings look like this year, Law may see minutes in the back court since Lindsey can also play the wing. Sanjay Lumpkin may even see minutes in the back court if he continues to develop as a more consistent shooting threat in the offseason.
Collins has options, but this spot is arguably more crucial to fill than the center spot because based on Dererk Pardon’s peformance in his freshman season, the Wildcats know they have someone with almost a whole season of game experience under his belt to take Olah’s place.
Without Demps and Olah, Northwestern is going to be a different team on the floor. There is no question about that, but if the players continue to develop and the freshman are successful, the Wildcats will succeed.