Northwestern head coach Bill Carmody cannot catch a break.
Just one season after finding out that star forward Kevin Coble would miss an entire year with a foot injury, Carmody will once again be forced to play without the 6former second team all-Big Ten selection. Earlier this evening, Coble announced that he will not be rejoining the Wildcats this season.
"The recovery of my foot is most important and extends far beyond my basketball career," Coble said in a press release. "I will continue to follow my surgeon's rehabilitation schedule and have been told by my surgeon that I will have a full recovery. I will not be transferring to another school and with that, will be finishing the last of my classes at Northwestern this fall."
Coble will finish up his classes at Northwestern, graduating in December with a Political Science degree.
(photo credit: Daylife)
By all accounts, this was really a punch in the gut for Carmody, who had no idea Coble was considering leaving the team. (Ed. Note: My twitter feed lied; Carmody was expecting it.)
"We wish Kevin nothing but the best in his future endeavors," Carmody said. "We want to thank him for his contributions to the program over the past four years."
The Wildcats are the only team from one of the Big Six conferences that has never played in the NCAA Tournament. Last season was going to be the year they finally broke through. They were bringing back quite a bit of talent from a 2009 team that won 17 games, including eight of their last 14 in Big Ten play, and knocked off the likes of Minnesota, Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Purdue. But before the season even started, second team all-Big Ten selection Coble went down with a foot injury that would sideline him for the year.
Even without Coble, last season was about as close as Northwestern has ever gotten, winning 20 games and staying in bubble consideration until the final weeks of the regular season. This led many, including us, to believe that next season would finally be their year to go dancing.
Not only do the Wildcats return five of their top six scorers -- including rising junior John Shurna, who averaged 18.4 ppg and 6.2 rpg last seasons, and rising senior Michael Thompson, one of the more underrated point guards in the Big Ten -- but Coble was supposed to finally be healthy and ready to join Shurna in what was going to become one of the most versatile front courts in the conference.
Instead, Northwestern will once again be without Coble, but that does not mean that the Wildcats season is over. Shurna and Coble are essentially the same player -- 6'8" forwards that can shoot, get to the basket, and pass, a perfect skill set for a forward in Carmody's Princeton-style offense. Shurna is a bit thinner and rangier, more athletic, and probably more perimeter oriented than Coble, but there are no promises these two would have complemented each other on the court.
Shurna is also well on his way to being one of the best players in the Big Ten, and he should continue to develop given he spent last week in Vegas with the national teams. Thompson is an underrated player at the point. Drew Crawford was selected as the Big Ten freshman of the year. Luka Mirkovic and Alex Marcotullio also return, while freshman JerShon Cobb, a top 100 recruit, should be able to fill in Jeremy Nash's shoes.
This is essentially the same Northwestern team, just a year older. They weren't that far away last season. The Big Ten is loaded this year, with three or four top ten teams, so the Wildcats will have their work cut out for them if they do want to go dancing.
But don't consider it a lost cause.
This is the part where we speculate as to why Coble decided to leave.
Its possible that he was concerned about how he would project as a pro playing alongside Shurna, and I don't think it is out of the question that Coble has an eye on Europe after he graduates in December. Another thing to notice is that Coble thanked the university, the administration, the fans, and his teammates in his statement, but made no mention of the coaching staff. I'm sure there are those who will question his decision to make this announcement at such a late date as well.
But isn't it possible that Coble simply didn't like basketball all that much? I mean, this is a kid that has a PoliSci degree from Northwestern, so he clearly has enough brains for a career outside of hoops. He also spent the first nine games of his sophomore season in 2007 with his mother back in Arizona while she battled breast cancer.
This kid is more than just a basketball player. Maybe he felt that it was time to move on, that he wasn't willing to risk further injury to his foot.
Maybe it took him until the end of July to finally make that decision.
And if that is the case, is it really all that bad?
Kevin, we wish you the best wherever life takes you. Hopefully, you'll be supporting your former Wildcat teammates along the way.