Coach Bill Carmody understands the concept of a “quick hook.”
Often, when his players make defensive lapses or inexcusable turnovers, he looks towards his bench for an immediate substitution.
There is one major exception. In a comfortable 69-50 win against Delaware State, starting point guard Dave Sobolewski still played 37 minutes.
His coach can’t help it.
“I don’t take him out for a reason,” Carmody said.
The list of reasons runs long. Although the sophomore is far from a finished product, he provides a steadying influence on this Northwestern team.
Sobolewski led the Big Ten in assist-to-turnover ratio last season, and should expect a repeat effort. He had no turnovers for the third consecutive game.
For many other floor leaders in the conference, turnover-free performances are anomalous. For Sobolewski, it’s standard fare – it happened 11 times in his freshman year.
Carmody pointed out last week that practice statistics suggest Sobolewski is the best shooter on NU. That showed on Tuesday, as he knocked down 4-of-5 triples in a 14-point outing. But overall, the team put forth an imperfect performance.
The Wildcats – for the second time this season – struggled to finish off a weaker opponent. The lead slipped to eight midway through the second half, before NU regained its offensive rhythm. Senior Drew Crawford said the team knows how to keep its composure despite adversity, and that begins with the floor general.
“We maintain a level of calmness, especially with Dave leading us at the point guard,” Crawford said. “We’re always calm out there. When (they’re) making a run, we talk as a team and make sure we lock in on defense.”
From the moment he first took the floor at NU, Sobolewski has demonstrated impressive awareness. He understands the Princeton offense, and was a catalyst in helping the many new faces on this team adjust to the difficult schemes. When practice began, freshman center Alex Olah pointed out that Sobolewski was willing to take a leadership role in just his second year on campus.
Carmody trusts his point guard to take the reins. In fact, he even takes tips from the 19-year-old.
“He’s not afraid to tell guys what to do, including the coach,” Carmody said. “We need him out there. He’s a valuable guy. That’s all.”
Sobolewski credited his relationship with Carmody for some of his success. Rather than being the sole voice on the bench, Carmody solicits help from a variety of players, particularly Sobolewski and senior Alex Marcotullio.
“Any of us can go to him saying, ‘We think this will work,’” Sobolewski said. “He trusts our opinion, and nine times out of 10, he’ll do what we ask to do.”
Sobolewski, one of only four returning players for the Wildcats, will be called upon as a sort of “glue guy.” He certainly has areas for improvement, particularly his perimeter defense. No doubt, though, Carmody hits the mark in labeling him a valuable player.
Late last season, Sobolewski cooled off, missing all of his 12 shot attempts in the final three contests. A year later, he's back and ready to lead a young but promising NU team.
And with a trip to South Padre Island upcoming, Sobolewski is itching for challenges.
“Our non-conference schedule this year is harder than it’s ever been,” he said. “We’re excited to get going on these tougher games.”
Follow on Twitter: @NicholasMedline