The Northwestern Wildcats have lost six basketball games in a row and stand at 6-15 (1-10 in the Big Ten) with roughly one third of their season left to play. Five of those losses were relatively close, though, as most of their defeats have been. In fact, Coach Chris Collins’ squad has averaged 65.1 points per game and surrendered 67.8.
Close calls don’t make losses easier to take. After falling to No. 14 Michigan State 79-50 on the road on January 29, the Wildcats regrouped nicely, then dropped a 61-58 cliffhanger at home to a talented Purdue squad this past Saturday. So it’s definitely time for a break, at least from the rigors of the road and the glare of the spotlight.
“We’ve had some ups and downs,” said Robbie Beran, the Wildcats’ 6-9, 205-pound freshman forward and a 2019 Collegiate graduate. “Right now, it’s a test to see how we’ll respond. I have the utmost confidence we’ll turn things around. Our break is coming. It’s just a matter of when.”
Beran was an All-Prep League, All-VISAA, and Richmond Times-Dispatch All-Metro performer last winter when he averaged 19.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 2.8 blocks per game. Rivals.com rated him the No. 97 recruit and No. 24 power forward in his class nationally. According to 247sports, he was the third highest rated recruit in Northwestern history.
This season, Beran has started nine of 21 games. He’s averaging 5.4 points and 3.3 boards. He has eight blocks, 12 assists, and 19 turnovers.
On a recent off day before the Wildcats began preparation for their trip to Rutgers February 8, Beran spoke of the journey that has taken him from youth leagues in Henrico County to the spotlight of the Big Ten.
Were you prepared for the next level coming out of high school and AAU ball?
There’re still a lot of things I need to learn about the college game, but I definitely felt prepared. Obviously, Big Ten games are more physical, the pace is quicker, but I’ve done a pretty good job adjusting.
How have you juggled the demands of academics and basketball plus travel?
We have a great support staff behind the scenes. Everybody wants to see us do well whether it’s the teachers or tutors or people who work in athletics. It’s a credit to everybody how I’ve learned to manage my time and maximize my time. I wake up and get out of bed, and I don’t go back to my dorm until night. College-tired is a different tired, but it’s all good. I’m very fortunate to be playing basketball at this high level.
What have been the biggest challenges?
On the court, everything is very detailed. I had to learn to pick up on the details. Here, every game is scouted. Every game has a blueprint to follow. When I first got here, I was just running the floor, trying to get comfortable. Then, I transitioned to learn more of the wing spot once I felt comfortable with the floor.
Speak about playing in front of large crowds in Big Ten arenas and on national television.
At the end of the day, it’s five guys on court, just hooping. Obviously, the stakes are higher than they are in high school. I’m playing against teams I watched when I was growing up. That’s a cool thing, but when I’m in the moment, I don’t think about (the crowds and cameras).
Was it hard coming off the bench when you were used to starting and playing sometimes 32 minutes?
No, it wasn’t hard. I don’t think about minutes. Starting is not really my concern. It’s whatever I can do to help my team win, whether that’s playing 40 minutes or playing two possessions on defense and getting a stop.
Speak about your team experience.
We spend a lot of time together. It’s kind of crazy how much we’ve jelled and learned about each other and from each other. Because we spend so much time together, we have to be close. I got here in late June, but I feel like I’ve known (my teammates) a lot longer.
Sounds like you’ve found a home at Northwestern.
I felt at home the minute I moved in. Everybody was very welcoming. The transition was very easy. As far as basketball, it took a little bit to settle down and understand the game and how we did things. I’m still learning game by game, just trying to get better.