Unlike so many recruits who view Northwestern's lack of March pedigree as a negative, guard Jaren Sina intends to embrace the challenge of getting the Wildcats to their first-ever NCAA tournament.
Sina committed to Northwestern on Monday night in part because he wants that to be part of his legacy as a player. The 6-foot point guard from Gill St. Bernards High School in New Jersey chose the Wildcats over Alabama and a host of other schools, giving Wildcats coach Bill Carmody his first consensus top 100 player of his 12-year tenure.
"Jaren had opportunities to go to a lot of different schools and he chose the hardest one in terms of people saying they may never get to the NCAA tournament," his father and high school coach Mergin Sina said. "To me, that shows that a kid is pretty tough in his thinking. I'm happy he made a point of saying, 'You know what, I'd like to do something good for this school.' A lot of kids are not going to take that angle."
There are reasons to believe Sina could have success in his quest to get Northwestern into the field of 68 even if other quality players have failed before him.
Sina has helped transform Gill St. Bernards High School from a perennial underdog to a perennial threat to powerful St. Anthony's in the state title hunt. His game is an ideal match for Northwestern because the Princeton style offense masks his lack of speed with its screens and cuts and highlights his excellent decision-making and perimeter shooting.
"We play the same way on the high school team.," Mergin Sina said. "A lot of pick and rolls, flare out screens, a lot of ball movement. So obviously Jaren's comfortable with that. It's a great fit."
It's a testament to Northwestern assistant Fred Hill that Sina became serious about the Wildcats roughly six or seven months ago. Hill, who once was the first coach to offer Sina a scholarship when he coached at Rutgers, built on his preexisting relationship with the family, selling Sina on Northwestern's academics, style of play and proximity to Chicago.
Sina originally committed to Alabama as a high school sophomore before opening up his recruitment again last year. It came down to the Tide and Wildcats this week, but Sina felt more comfortable at Northwestern.
"The coaches at Alabama were very disappointed when Jaren told them," Mergin Sina said. "They really took it hard. They understand what Jaren brings to the table. We love the program and the coaches there. There were a couple schools that we really had interest in and honestly it was really between Alabama and Northwestern at the end."