Kyle Rowley (left) was given an invaluable opportunity on Monday when he was named a member of the senior national team of Trinidad and Tobago. Along with John Shurna's commitment to the U.S. U19 team, Northwestern now has two of its key rotation players learning on the job over the summer while playing meaningful basketball games.
Shurna has already started play in the FIBA U19 World Championships in New Zealand and Rowley's team kicks things off on in the 20th annual Caribbean Basketball Confederation Men's Basketball Championships in the Virgin Islands on Tuesday.
Both players have a chance to earn invaluable minutes and experience while playing for their respective national teams. Find out what Wildcat fans should be looking for after the jump.
As a freshman Rowley started 28 of 31 games for the Wildcats. Even still, he played 13.3 minutes per game and failed to make a large contribution in a number of games. While his 7'0" 280-pound frame was imposing, Rowley failed to use it to the best of his advantage.
When Rowley did play well it was a big help for Northwestern, which is why his development is a key to the Wildcats' ability to build on their 2008-09 season. Rowley's best game of the Big Ten season came in Northwestern's upset victory over Purdue on March 4. In that game Rowley was 2-3 from the field and grabbed three rebounds. While the stint was short, the plays loomed large.
For the season Rowley had an effective field goal percentage of just 46.5 percent. As someone who plays close to the basket on most possessions, that figure should be much higher. Rowley needs to become more confident about powering the ball up to the basket. Also, 1.8 rebounds per game, even in 13.3 minutes, is much lower than expected. Rowley has the height and frame to be a dominant rebounding force, but instead he rebounded at the same rate as 6'6" junior forward Jeff Ryan last season.
For Shurna the development might be a little more nuanced. As a freshman Shurna was already a solid rebounder and above average offensive player. The 6'8" forward from Glen Ellyn, Ill. showed good three-point shooting ability with the added dimension of being able to go to the rim. He started in 30 of 31 games and played 18.5 minutes per game. Against Michigan on February 2 Shurna played brilliantly with 17 points, eight rebounds and two assists. He also scored in double figures seven other times during the season.
The next step in Shurna's development appears to be the need to go from a solid fourth option to a consistent scorer during his sophomore year at Northwestern. That will require Shurna to cut down on his turnovers next season. If Shurna were to continue improving his rebounding it would also be very helpful for Northwestern.
A stronger Rowley and Shurna on the boards could help turn one of Northwestern's weaknesses from last season into a strength. Both players are a big part of the future for the Wildcats. It is great that they are both getting to play this summer. Hopefully they make the most of it.