Position Group Evaluation: Forwards
Players Included: John Shurna, Drew Crawford, Mike Capocci, Ivan Peljusic
Some people might object to this group getting just a B, but while the guards at least got some production off the bench, after John Shurna and Drew Crawford (who was inconsistent) the forwards did nothing. Mike Capocci and Ivan Peljusic played some backup forward, but neither averaged more than 8 minutes a game. Basically, when Shurna or Crawford went to the bench NU played a three guard lineup. I think this fact really shows just how much NU lacked depth. A Big Ten team shouldn’t only have just two decent forwards, but that’s all NU had this season.
The good news is that while NU had just two forwards, they were two of the team’s better players. John Shurna led the team with 18.4 ppg and 6.4 rpg. He was also named 2nd-Team All-Big Ten and The Sporting News Most Improved Player of the Year. He also proved the responsible party for some of NU’s best individual performances this season. Shurna dismantled future NBA players Luke Harangody and Craig Brackins at the Chicago Invitational Challenge. He also posted 31 points in East Lansing in NU’s loss to Michigan and seemingly scored at will until his last shot in NU’s loss in Madison, Wisconsin. Overall, Shurna’s stats are pretty much solid all around. His 35.5% three point percentage is not spectacular, but it is more than respectable. The same goes for his 77.5% free throw percentage. The area where I’d like Shurna to improve most is shot selection. Sometimes I think he settled for threes too quickly when he could have taken the ball to the hoop. Hopefully, an offseason of work on developing his inside game will give him more confidence in the post.
Drew Crawford was the Big Ten’s Freshman of the Year. He slipped a bit late in the regular season, but finished the year with back to back double-doubles in the postseason. I’d say Crawford’s 10.0ppg and 4.3rpg actually hide just how good he could become. Those numbers are solid, sure, but Crawford has the raw talent to become the type of versatile small forward players like Evan Turner and Manny Harris are in today’s Big Ten. The key for Crawford will be becoming a more consistent shooter. He converted 34.2% of his shots from three and 64.2% of his shots from the line. Those numbers need to go up next season. Since Crawford clearly showed that is possible (see 35 points in a single game) it is possible to believe Crawford can post 15-plus points and 6-plus rebounds a game. If he does, he’ll be first team All-Big Ten by his junior year.
NU’s backup forwards, which I guess were Mike Capocci and Ivan Peljusic, basically filled space every once and awhile. Their big highlight was connecting on an ally-oop dunk at the end of NU’s blowout win over Michigan. They didn’t really have any serious lowlights, but simply weren’t consistent enough to crack the lineup. The reason is because neither is much of an offense threat. Capocci can play some defense and is okay around the hoop, but he can’t shoot. Peljusic is an underrated rebounder, but really isn’t a confident scorer anywhere. Northwestern will need some sort of production from these two next year or I suspect we might see a lot more three guard lineups.