July 22, 2024

Marshawn Wilson and Northern Illinois Basketball: A Familiar Tale

Marshawn Wilson and the Northern Illinois basketball program agreed to “mutually part ways” prior to Wednesday night’s game against Ball State in DeKalb. Via HuskieWire:

“After meeting with Marshawn, it was mutually decided that the best course of action at this time is for him to have a fresh start with another program,” NIU coach Mark Montgomery said. “We appreciate Marshawn’s contributions to our program and wish him nothing but the best in his future endeavors.”

Wilson came to NIU after being selected as “Mr. Basektball” in the state of Minnesota as part of arguably the best recruiting class in modern Northern Illinois basketball history. As a freshman, Wilson lived up to expectations as he was named to the MAC All-Freshman team after averaging 11 PPG (third amongst freshman in the conference) while shooting 41% from three.  In addition to Wilson, Laytwan Porter, Jaylen Key, Levi Bradley, and Austin Pauga all were key contributors for a 21 win team last season, the most wins for the program since 1990-1991, and a seven win improvement from the prior season.

The five sophomores to be, combined with Marin Maric a healthy Dontel Highsmith, and highly touted freshman Eugene German were expected to compete for a MAC Championship this season. However, the team has failed to live up to expectations posting a 14-12 (6-7) record thus far.

Wilson in particular was unable to carry over any momentum from his strong freshman campaign. Playing in only 18 games, Wilson averaged only 4.9 PPG on 35% shooting in just over 14 minutes per game. Wilson was suspended during the NIU Invitational in November, but showed his talent with a 19 point performance in his home state against Minnesota. However, he was never able to string games together and was a healthy scratch the last three games (two of which were losses) before the decision to mutually part ways was announce.

Dec 16, 2015; Columbus, OH, USA; Northern Illinois Huskies guard Marshawn Wilson (0) pulls up short in front of Ohio State Buckeyes forward Keita Bates-Diop (33) at Value City Arena. Ohio State won the game 67-54. Mandatory Credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports | The Tailgate Society

For fans in DeKalb, the Wilson story is an all too familiar tale in an ever growing line of talented players to play for the Huskies only to transfer before the conclusion of their eligibility.

Jake Anderson was a double figure scorer his three years in DeKalb in the late aughts before infamously being asked not to return by then coach Ricardo Patton. Anderson went on to average 13 points and 7 rebounds a game as a senior at Iowa State.

Abdel Nader was the prize recruit of the early years of now head coach Mark Montgomery, averaging 10.4 and 13.1 points per game as a freshman and sophomore in DeKalb. Just as Anderson did, Nader would transfer to Iowa State and play out the remaining two years of his eligibility in Ames. As a senior, Nader started 35 games for the Cyclones and averaged 13 PPG before being drafted by the Celtics in the second round of the NBA draft.

Darrell Bowie averaged just under 10 PPG as a sophomore and junior at Northern Illinois before transferring to, you guessed it, Iowa State where he is currently playing his senior year as a member of the Cyclones.

The list doesn’t end there. Akeem Springs played his freshman season at NIU, averaging 8 PPG,  before transferring after the 2012-2013 season. As a senior, Springs is averaging 10 PPG in the Big Ten this season as a member of the Minnesota Golden Gophers.

To sit here and place the blame only on the shoulders of head coach Mark Montgomery would be unfair to the coach who has taken the Huskies from a bottom 50 program in all of college basketball to respectability. Wilson, Springs, and especially Nader deserve to shoulder some of the blame for their defections as well.

Eventually, the excuses fall on deaf ears. College sports, especially college basketball, is filled with transfers in this day and age. Hundreds of players transfer to new schools every offseason in college basketball. It’s “amateur athletics” version of free agency.  At some point, Montgomery and the Northern Illinois basketball program must find a way to hang onto their talented players. Anderson, Springs, and especially Nader proved to be productive players at big time programs without much incident after being shown the door by the Huskies.

After being suspended multiple times the last two season, it’s likely Laytwan Porter is looking for a new school along with Wilson in the coming months. The best recruiting class in school history is quickly dwindling to an afterthought.

It’s too early to place Montgomery on the hot seat. There’s still talent there. Maric, Key, and Bradley are as talented of a trio of bigs as there is in the MAC. German has showed flashes of greatness. Montgomery has shown the ability to continue to bring talent to DeKalb, as he did with Wilson who I promise you will be a productive player at a prominent program. If history teaches us anything, it will probably be at Iowa State.

Can Montgomery keep talent at NIU? I’ll believe it when I see it.

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Nick Burzych 1 Article
Former Staff Writer

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