Guyton back in the Big Ten with Wildcats

It’s all so new to A.J. Guyton, yet not altogether foreign.

Nearly two decades years after his star-studded four-year run concluded at Indiana, Guyton is back in the Big Ten. He joined Northwestern’s basketball staff this past fall, relishing the opportunity to work with Wildcats coach Chris Collins and begin a new chapter of his post-playing career.

On Sunday afternoon, his new world and his old life will collide when Northwestern pays a visit to Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

“It’s been an enjoyable experience,” Guyton said of his new job this week. “I’m surprised at how different the game is and how different everything is when it comes to college basketball. I haven’t been around it in 17, 18 years. I’m surprised at how the skill level of the players and how the game is played has changed, how fast it’s played.”

Guyton’s job as director of player development is a non-coaching role, so he’s not on the floor during practice providing on-the-fly advice.

Instead, he works behind the scenes, assisting with game and practice preparation, along with working closely with individual players and getting them mentally ready to handle the rigors of Big Ten basketball.

“You can dig deeper into the psyche of a college athlete in a way that, hopefully down the line, no matter what level you’re coaching, it’ll help you understand the type of kid there is today,” he said. “They type of kid playing college basketball today is totally different. The good thing is it’s a position you can be extremely creative with. That’s what I’ve been spending a lot of time doing, thinking of ways I can impact winning without actually coaching.”

Guyton calls it a great entry-level position, but this is really just the latest checkpoint in a basketball life.

Inducted into the IU Athletics Hall of Fame in 2014, Guyton earned Big Ten Most Valuable Player honors in 2000 after leading the league in scoring at 19.7 points per game. He was only the second IU player to be named Indiana’s Most Valuable Player all four years and finished his college career with 2,100 points, the fourth-highest total in Hoosier history.

The Peoria, Ill., native played professionally for 10 years, including two seasons with the Chicago Bulls. Upon his retirement as a player in 2010, Guyton began working as an assistant at various levels. There were stints at junior college (Illinois Central College), high school (Peoria) and a run as the head coach of the semi-pro Central Illinois Drive.

Last year, he worked as an assistant for the Windy City Bulls of the NBA’s G League. Collins, now in his fifth season leading Northwestern, discussed bringing Guyton aboard his staff in 2016 before the former Hoosier latched on with the Bulls.

Going back to the college level wasn’t always on Guyton’s radar, but this season has turned into an eye-opening experience.

“The No. 1 thing was that there was a coach who wanted me to be a part of this staff,” Guyton said of his decision to give college another try. “What I’ve learned in coaching is that the first available job is not always the right opportunity. It’s all about who you work with and how they feel about you.

“I had the opportunity to join in the 2016 season and I decided to go coach in the G League, and for Coach Collins to still want me to be a part of the program after that season was over, that told me how he felt about me and my abilities as a coach and the respect he had for me as a player. It was all about who I was working for and how he felt about me.”

Guyton admits he hasn’t thought too much about his Indiana homecoming this weekend. After back-to-back losses to begin the second leg of Big Ten season, the Wildcats snapped their funk with an 83-60 dismantling of Minnesota on Wednesday night.

Next up? Guyton’s first trip to Bloomington since his hall of fame induction three years ago.

“It’ll be loud, and it’ll be great to experience it on the other bench and see what those other teams went through trying to win games in Assembly Hall,” he said. “I’m excited to see the new things that the new building has to offer and to be in that moment. And honestly? I hope we pull the win out.”

3 comments

  1. Always loved watching Guyton play. He really exceeded expectations. Listening to Dackich (an assistant at iu during Guyton’s time) it sounded like Guyton fought the system under Coach Knight, but Guyton maintains great respect and admiration for Coach Knight publicly.

  2. Dakich again! As though Buckner did not “fight the system”, as though Isiah did not “fight the system”…as though Benson did not “fight the sytem”…..spare me Mr. Vomit’s views puh-leeze

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