For our final installment of Northwestern basketball player grades for the 2015-2016 season we look to the Centers, where the Wildcats will see the most turnover of any of the position groups. Senior Alex Olah and fifth year Senior Joey Van Zegeren will be gone, leaving the bulk of the job to this year’s red shirt Freshman Dererk Pardon. Olah’s shoes will be the most difficult to fill on the roster and in the locker room, and while his Senior season skidded a bit when he broke his foot toward the end of the year, he still showed why he is one of the best big men ever to play for Northwestern.
Alex Olah – B+
Olah’s Senior season didn’t go exactly as planned – he missed six games during conference play with a foot injury – but he still showed why he was one of Northwestern’s most valuable players in his four years. His numbers were by no means through the roof this year, 11.4 points per game with 5.6 boards, but he was the emotional leader of the team and the key to opening things up for their outside shooters. This year he became the 33rd player in school history to reach 1,000 career points, and even played through his broken foot just so that he could finish off his farewell tour on the court instead of the bench. He saved his best for last in the final game of the season, Senior Night, against Michigan. Olah scored 20 points to go along with 13 rebounds in 37 minutes to lead Northwestern to their best record of Olah’s career.
Dererk Pardon – C
The injury to Olah forced Northwestern to burn Pardon’s red shirt ahead of schedule, and the youngster showed what he was capable of right away. On December 30th against Nebraska, Pardon had 28 points and 12 rebounds in 30 minutes. He hustled to every offensive board and looked college-ready. But his inexperience caught up to him as Pardon never matched that performance again. His season averages of 6.7 points and 4.2 rebounds reflected his growing pains, even with ample opportunity to make an impact. Pardon is a bit small for a traditional center, he’s built more like a four, but if Collins goes with four shooters to surround him next season, Pardon will need to become more of a presence in the paint the way Olah was.
Joey van Zegeren – D
Van Zegeren came to Northwestern as a fifth year transfer and some much needed depth behind Olah, but he was rarely able to produce they way they needed him to. He played well on Northwestern’s Spain trip last summer, but it did not translate to NCAA play. JVZ has the height and the athleticism but he never quite looked comfortable on the court. He was a decent inside presence on defense but a complete liability on offense, which affected his minutes. He showed some flashes in games – five blocks and eight rebounds against SIU Edwardsville – but failed to impact games while putting more pressure than necessary on Pardon.