Big Ten

After he 'got the ball rolling' for Chris Collins, Chicago native Vic Law proving he was right to pick Northwestern

After he 'got the ball rolling' for Chris Collins, Chicago native Vic Law proving he was right to pick Northwestern

SALT LAKE CITY — Northwestern's rise from the bottom of the Big Ten standings to the NCAA tournament had to start somewhere.

Considering the job he's done in four years at the helm of the program, it would make sense to point to the day Chris Collins was hired as head coach.

But ask Collins, and he might say it was the day Vic Law committed to the Wildcats.

The St. Rita product was ranked just outside the top 100 nationally by Rivals back in 2014, and he had offers from perennial tournament teams. But Law instead picked Northwestern, a decision a lot of people didn't understand. But fast forward to now, and Law buying what Collins was selling is a big reason why the Cats are in the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history.

"I can't play anymore. All I can do is stand over in the sideline and call plays and run practices. I needed to find players that believed the way I did," Collins said Wednesday. "And Vic was the first guy, and it was a monumental recruit for us. He was a local product, Chicago kid. He had a perception in the city of being a very good prospect, recruit, was recruited by a lot of top programs. For him to have the courage to say, 'I see something in this coach, I see something in this program,' it really got the ball rolling for us to start what we've been able to build over the last four years."

Law's commitment was a big deal for Collins and Northwestern, the highest-rated recruit the program had ever seen. And the journey of the last three seasons since he arrived on campus has been an even bigger deal for Law. There were folks saying he made a bad call in picking the Cats over others, blasting the program for its non-existent winning history.

But this season has changed all that. Law — along with a roster full of Collins' other recruiting successes — has helped Northwestern to a program-record 23 wins, big wins in the regular season over Wisconsin and Michigan and in the Big Ten Tournament against Maryland, the team's first-ever trip to the conference-tournament semifinals and obviously the program's first-ever trip to the NCAA tournament.

A special season has established Northwestern as a winning program, it's shown that Collins rebuilding effort has resulted in his team's arrival on the scene. But it's done one other thing: It's made Law right.

"'Why would you choose there, a place with no culture, no tradition?'" Law recounted, giving some examples of what people asked him three years ago. "They were saying it was a bad choice, I was just going there because it was close to home.

"But now this year, this is the year that everything’s kind of come into the light. It feels like all my hopes, everything that I knew about this program is finally coming true, finally happening. And when you make all those haters and nonbelievers into followers, it feels really good."

And just like so many of the other storylines involving this Northwestern team, things can only get better. Wednesday, the entire team had the same message, that the Cats aren't satisfied with simply making the NCAA tournament, that they want to win in the NCAA tournament. Law was saying the same thing.

Just like he had a belief that Northwestern could one day reach this spot, he has a belief that there's no limit to what the Cats can do.

"Obviously we came in here to show not just that we can make it but to show we can win games," Law said. "If we win tomorrow, it's just another step in the road for what we're really trying to accomplish, and that's to win the whole thing."

Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately

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USA TODAY

Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately

Tough news out of Evanston this morning: Northwestern announced that running back Jeremy Larkin will retire immediately after being diagnosed with cervical stenosis.

Cervical stenois is the narrowing of the spinal canal in one's neck, according to Mayo Clinic. Larkin's condition is thankfully not life-threatening, though it does prevent him from continuing to participate in the game of football. 

"Football has been a lifelong passion and it has been a process to reconcile the fact I won't be on that field again, given I've played this game since I was five years old," Larkin said.

"I'm extremely appreciative of the Northwestern sports medicine and athletic training staffs for uncovering this condition, and for my coaches and the medical staff for always putting my health first.

"I came to this University to engage at the absolute highest level on the field and in the classroom, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to continue one of those while supporting my teammates from the sideline." 

Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald called the news "heartbreaking."

"This is heartbreaking because I see every day how much Jeremy loves the game, loves his teammates, and loves to compete," Fitzgerald said in a statement. "But this is the absolute best possible outcome for him.

"The discovery of this condition allowed Jeremy and his family to make an informed decision for his long-term health and well-being. For those of us who have known Jeremy Larkin since his high school days, his future is exceptionally bright. I can't wait to see the impact he makes in our world."

Larkin is a sophomore from Cincinnati. He finishes his Northwestern career with 156 carries for 849 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns.

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

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USA TODAY

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

Former University of Illinois tennis star Kevin Anderson completed a marathon upset against an all-time great on the highest stage of professional tennis.

Anderson came back from two sets down to beat Roger Federer in Wimbledon’s quarterfinals 2-6, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 13-11 on Wednesday morning. He will play in the semifinals of the tournament for the first time in his career.

As a native of South Africa, Anderson played three seasons with the Fighting Illini and won the NCAA doubles championship during the 2005-06 season as a sophomore. The 32-year-old was a three-time All-American in singles at Illinois.

Now, as the eighth ranked singles player on the ATP World Tour, Anderson is a force to be reckoned with at the professional level. He made it all the way to the US Open final in 2017.

The former Illini star will look to keep his recent success going when he represents Illinois in the semifinals of Wimbledon this Friday.