Last weekend, On Point Scouting was in attendance for a important BIG10 Conference matchup between Northwestern vs Iowa and had a chance to speak with Canadian Grad Transfer Forward Ben Krikke. We discuss the keys to his breakout season, his lessons from his own recruitment and transfer portal process, his team’s upcoming matchup tomorrow (March 10) vs Illinois and much more.

On Point Scouting: First, your thoughts on the game in a charged-up atmosphere (Northwestern’s Billy Mckinney jersey retirement night, 1st ever in Northwestern MBB program history) that just finished, an 87-80 Win for your team?

Ben Krikke: I thought it was huge. There was a point where we made run, were up 11 and they started to come back. They made some big shots, I mean credit to their guys, but they played well . They were lights out from three and (Brooks) Barnhizer as well. I’m just proud of the guys for staying the course, staying aggressive and hitting some big shots in our own right. Patrick (McCaffery) hit that three in the corner which was huge. Josh Dix and Payton Sandfort played well all night long. (Editor’s Note: Northwestern was indeed lights out from three, shooting 10-20 3PA).

OPS: You grew up as an Edmonton Oilers fan. The BIG10 is reputed as the most physical league in the NCAA. Do you feel like you’re in a hockey arena sometimes?

BK: Sometimes, they’re calling it and it’s a little bit of a tighter whistle and you can’t get away with as much but there’s a lot of big, big bodies out there. They’re just monsters, guys like (Northwestern’s Matthew) Nicholson and another Canadian, (Purdue’s) Zack Edey. Obviously, those guys are huge and there are many others. The list goes on.

Photo courtesy of Stephen Mally; Hawkeyesports.com

OPS: In the same vein, at the Iowa program, you have the reputation to be running a system that consistently features two bigs. Can you tell me a little bit about the defensive principles that your coaching staff tells you?  

BK: There are different adjustments. For a guy like Zack Edey, we would (send) a double-team. Tonight, we knew that their bigs were primarily screen and rollers and they’re really good at that. We knew that we needed to tag off the corners and go hit the bigs before they roll right to the rim. They got wide open dunks the few times that they got loose. That’s our main strategy when you have to guard (Northwestern) Boo (Buie). You have to worry about him first and then just hope the backside (defensive line) are doing their job. 

OPS: What objectives did you set for yourself at the beginning of the year, and how would you reflect on those objectives?

BK: I think the biggest thing for me is when I came to Iowa was wanting to be a part of a winning program. I’m just trying to play my role as best as I can. That means hit some shots, be aggressive, stay confident and be a team guy. I think that it goes hand in hand with the Iowa culture. Everybody’s about the team. I think today we had a ton of assists (25) on the amount of field goals we had (33). That’s been on par with who we are during the course of this year. A lot of unselfish guys on this team who are just trying to win (Editor’s note: Iowa is in the 88th percentile in total assists in NCAA D1). 

OPS: You’ve had a fairly productive season in terms of individual numbers and drill statistics. Do you attribute that to experience or are there specific things you worked on this summer that you see translating to your game this year? 

BK: A bit of both. I’ve played a lot of college games and whether it’s in the Big 10 or not, it’s still college basketball. I’m very thankful for those years at Valparaiso. This summer, preparing for increased physicality like we talked about was a huge adjustment as well as preparing for the Iowa pace of play. (Editor’s note: Iowa is in the 91st percentile in pace in NCAA D1). 

Photo courtesy of Stephen Mally; Hawkeyesports.com

OPS: What would you say is your goal personally and for the team now onwards?

BK: We got Illinois (tomorrow) Sunday and The BIG10 tournament coming up, so the goal is to win as many games as we can, control what we can control by locking into the scouting reports and take it one game at a time. We can’t look too far ahead. 

OPS: I went to see Illinois earlier last week, when they were hosting Minnesota, and they have a plethora of versatile wings headlined by Terrence Shannon Jr. In your mind, what jumps to you, when you think about that team in terms of the challenge that’s in front of you? 

BK: I mean, like you said, they’re a very versatile team with a lot of guys who can get buckets. Shannon, (Coleman) Hawkins, who had a great game last time we played him, (Marcus) Domask and guys off the bench like (Dain) Dainja and the list goes on. We have to do our best but it obviously starts with (containing) Shannon and Domask and guarding our yard by defending one through five. We can’t let Hawkins get loose like he did last time and a lot of that was kind of on me. He got cooking with a couple of threes early and then things opened up for them. Despite that, we still played them competitively, but then we had a tough stretch in the second half, got a little confused offensively, Domask hits a three and it just snowballed from there. This (Sunday), I think we’re going to be very competitive, especially at home. (Editor’s Note: 30 pts on 9-11 FGA for Coleman Hawkins vs Iowa on February 24, 2024).

OPS: I’d like to take a moment to look back on your high school career from a recruitment standpoint. You’re in your 5th year and your college career is drawing to an ending. If you were going to talk to the Grade 9 or Grade 12 version of Ben Krikke to share one lesson, one advice, or a general philosophy about how to approach recruitment as a high school kid, what would you tell them?

BK: Ask a lot of questions. Understand what you’re getting into and understand that especially with NIL stuff, it is a business now. A lot of people are going to tell you what you want to hear and you can’t buy into that. For me, coming from Edmonton, I wasn’t necessarily highly recruited. Although I did have some National Team experience, the biggest thing for me was to go to a place where you are wanted. It was important to me that I have an opportunity to play a lot and continue to grow your game. That would be the main thing for me and then if you’re a high school kid, don’t let everything get to your head you know, a lot of guys you know think they’re great for you know, their time. There’s a lot of great players you just got to keep working so stay in the gym. (Editor’s note: Krikke was a Team Canada Member for the 2017 FIBA U16 Americas and 2017 U17 FIBA World Cup).

Photo courtesy of Stephen Mally; Hawkeyesports.com

OPS: Lastly, from a transfer portal standpoint, I’d ask you the same question. What’s one piece of advice that you would tell your younger self or other players who are considering (transferring) right now?

BK: I would say transfer for the right reasons. The grass is not always greener on the other side. People point fingers to the coaches sometimes. “Maybe they didn’t like me, maybe they weren’t giving me a fair chance”, instead of looking at themselves in the mirror first and realizing what you could be doing to help your situation. In my case, listen, I’m not a perfect player. I have flaws and coaches see them. You might be in a tougher situation, but you could also look at yourself and see what kind of work and changes you need to make to your game. (Ultimately) like I said, transfer for the right reasons. In my situation, it was my grad year and there was a change in the coaching staff at Valparaiso. I’d like to think that I stayed true to my commitment to Valpo and moved when it was possible and for a good reason.

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