Since 2000, the Big Ten conference has been loaded with elite talents and some of college basketball’s greatest players. Fans have seen numerous Big Ten players earn All-Americans and National Player of the Year honors during that time.
But who have been the best?
With the offseason in full swing, BTPowerhouse has decided to sit down and break down the Big Ten’s greatest players since the start of the 2000-’01 season. We will be taking a look at each program and how it fits into the league.
This time, we will look at the greatest players from the last 17 seasons for the Northwestern Wildcats. Please note that this evaluation only looks at college contributions at the particular school. It does not include a player’s contributions at another school or at the professional level.
Brief Recap Since 2000
However, before we jump into the discussion regarding Northwestern’s greatest players over the last 17 seasons, let’s take a moment to recap what the program has done during that time frame. Before we get to the best players, let’s dive into some of the statistics.
Brief Stats Since 2000
- NCAA Tournament Appearances: one
- Winning Seasons: 6
- Big Ten POTY Winners: Zero
- Consensus All-Americans: Zero
Northwestern’s basketball history since 2000 has, for the most part, followed what it has been as long as I can remember. It was one heartbreaking season after another. Bill Carmody was the coach of Northwestern from the 2000-2001 season until the 2013-2014 season, when he was fired and Chris Collins took over at the helm.
In Carmody’s years, Northwestern was inches from making the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats went to four straight National Invitational Tournaments between 2008 and 2012 and fell just short of making the dance. Whether it was Jared Sullinger’s free throws in the Big Ten Tournament in 2011 that prevented Northwestern from upsetting the number one ranked Buckeyes in overtime or never rebounding in the Princeton offense, the ‘Cats always fell just short.
In 2013, Chris Collins left Durham and his Alma Mater, Duke University, for his first head coaching job. The first two seasons were tough to watch, but every year since he has been at the helm, Northwestern has finished better than the season before.
This past season, he lead Northwestern to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history. While this Mount Rushmore looks the way it does now, the caliber of players he has brought in means this may change in the coming years.
But, for now, here is the Mount Rushmore of Northwestern players since 2000.
Northwestern’s Mount Rushmore Since 2000
Drew Crawford (2011- 2015)
Drew Crawford will be remembered as one of the greatest players in Northwestern history. He collected many accolades throughout his time at Northwestern both on and off the court. Following his freshman season, the media named him Big Ten Freshman of The Year. In his junior season, his stock really started to rise when he was named Consensus Third Team All-Big Ten. He was named to the Capital One All American Academic Second Team.
In his senior season, he took a medical redshirt after injuring his shoulder. After his redshirt season, Bill Carmody left, and Crawford had the opportunity to transfer and play his final year of college eligibility elsewhere. But instead of walking away, he chose to stay for his final season.
He walked away playing the most minutes and in the most games in Northwestern history. He earned four Academic All Big Ten selections, finished his senior season on Third Team All Big Ten by the media and Honorable Mention by the Coaches. Crawford earned weekly Big Ten Player of the Week Honors as well.
Crawford didn’t just play well on the court. He was a team leader and well respected by other Big Ten coaches and the media.
Don’t know what impact Crawford left on Northwestern? Read this.
Bryant McIntosh (2014- Present)
Would Northwestern have made it to the NCAA Tournament this year without Bryant McIntosh? I’ll answer that for you. No. Would the team have had the success it has had the past three years without him? No.
Yes, he has his moments, and yes, his numbers regressed this season. But, McIntosh’s success goes beyond the statistics sheet. His leadership and his presence on the court simply cannot be replaced by any other player. When McIntosh isn’t on the court for less than five minutes a game, he’s needed. McIntosh is the all-time assists leader at Northwestern.
McIntosh has put the team on his back when they were struggling and he’s a selfless player. Because of his free throws against Vanderbilt, the ‘Cats were able to win their first-ever NCAA Tournament game.
McIntosh’s game isn’t just about what is on paper. It’s the little things he does on the court and his leadership that have lead the Wildcats to be where they are.
John Shurna (2009 -2012)
John Shurna, the soon-to-be Northwestern Hall of Fame member, is the third member of the Northwestern Mount Rushmore. Simply put, if you know anything about Northwestern basketball, you know about John Shurna and the four seasons he had in purple and white.
He finished his career scoring the most points in a single season (661) and most ever (2,038). Shurna earned Big Ten Player of the week awards in his career and finished on the All Big Ten team list. However, Shurna wasn’t just noticed in the Big Ten. He entered his senior season as Second Team All-American by Sporting News and Third Team All-American by Athlon Sports.
The jump he made from his freshman year to sophomore year allowed for him to have the success he did on the court. He was a key factor in Northwestern’s four straight NIT appearances. In his senior season, he averaged 20 points per game and became the Big Ten Scoring Champion in 2012.
Michael “Juice” Thompson (2007-2011)
Michael Thompson, or better known as Juice Thompson, was Bryant McIntosh before Bryant McIntosh came along. Thompson played guard and alongside John Shurna. Thompson was the all-time assists leader at Northwestern, tallying 528 career assists, before McIntosh broke the record this year.
Thompson was a stellar three-point shooter, which Northwestern relied on heavily during the Carmody era because of the Princeton offense. He was a pass-first guard and set up shots for his teammates. He finished his senior season earning Third Team All Big Ten honors.
Honorable Mention: Tre Demps, Reggie Hearn, Vic Law, Alex Olah, Dave Sobolewski