There is a lot of gloom in Evanston, Illinois after the revelation that Northwestern Wildcats senior forward Drew Crawford would miss the remainder of the 2012-13 season with a torn labrum in his right shoulder.
The injury sets the Wildcats back a year in their hope to finally break the NCAA Tournament drought, but it is not the doomsday scenario everyone is thinking about. Crawford will apply for a medical hardship waiver from the NCAA, which officials at Northwestern are confident he will receive, meaning he will be back for the 2013-14 season. Besides the fact next season seems promising, this year’s team is not one to sleep on and take lightly.
It is true the Wildcats probably won’t be very consistent and won’t string together many winning streaks in Big Ten play, but that doesn’t mean the team is all of a sudden at the bottom of the standings. Northwestern has a lot of good talent which will now get a chance to shine in Crawford’s absence.
The most obvious person to take on the pressure is senior forward Jared Swopshire, who transferred to Northwestern in hopes of seeing more time on the court. He has already wowed the purple faithful with his MVP performance in the South Padre Invitational and his 6.2 rebounds per game is crucial for a team that struggles on the glass. Swopshire may only be averaging nine points per game, but that number will go up as Crawford’s role in the offense is filled by a variety of players.
The next person who will step up to fill the void is sophomore point guard Dave Sobolewski, who has already shown he is a better scorer this year than last season. He may be young, but he has a lot of poise on the court and will be more than willing to help compensate for Crawford’s loss by distributing the basketball and occasionally hitting open shots himself.
To keep the youth movement going is a pair of freshmen who wowed coach Bill Carmody during summer workouts. Their names are Kale Abrahamson and Sanjay Lumpkin and they will make an impact for the Wildcats in some capacity. Both of them are very lanky, but athletic small forwards, much like the program’s all-time leading scorer John Shurna. They can both shoot the lights out of the gym on a good day, but can help to eat some the minutes Northwestern lost from Crawford.
However, the person who has the heart and talent to lift Northwestern to victory this season is senior guard Reggie Hearn. He was a walk-on his first two years, but became the starting shooting guard before last season due to injuries and he never relinquished the role. Hearn is nearly doubling his points output from last season and he is shooting the ball so well this season.
The Wildcats’ leading scorer is one of the main reasons, Northwestern won’t just sink into the cellar of the Big Ten. Hearn has too much heart and this team is too resilient not to send some shockwaves through the conference. They may not be dancing in March, but the Wildcats may just ruin some other teams’ hopes of getting into the NCAA Tournament this season.