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Northwestern coach Chris Collins and his staff are putting in a pipeline into Oakland County, first bringing in Clarkston 7-foot Matt Nicholson in its 2020 class, and now adding Orchard Lake St. Mary’s standout guard Julian Roper II for its 2021 class.

Roper, a 6-foot-3 junior shooting guard, announced on social media Monday he will be playing his college basketball at Northwestern. 

Roper had a strong junior year after transferring from Detroit Country Day, averaging 18.3 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.6 steals to help St. Mary’s win the Catholic League title and be a threat to win the Division 1 state championship before the season was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He was a Detroit News All-North first-team selection, and a second-team all-state selection by The News in Division 1.

Numerous fans thought Roper could well follow his St. Mary’s teammate Lorne Bowman to Wisconsin, but it never happened. Bowman earned a spot on The News Dream team.

So, why Northwestern?

Well, Collins added Bloomfield Hills native Jon Borovich to his staff last year, and Borovich built a strong relationship with Roper. So did Collins, who attended multiple St. Mary’s games.

Borovich was a starting guard for Central Michigan in the early 2000s while playing with Chris Kaman.

“From an academic standpoint it’s one of the top schools in the country, and then the campus is great and from the basketball standpoint, the coaches have prioritized me since Day 1, they preached to me that I was their No. 1 guy, that they really need me, and Coach Collins came to multiple games, was always in touch and built that relationship,” Roper said.

“Coach JB (Jon Borovich) built a great relationship with me too, texted me almost every day and he can relate to a lot of things because he’s from the area, went to Seaholm. We just had a good connection. We then met face-to-face after games and talked, not just about basketball, but off-the-court stuff, too, and that was a big part of my decision.

“I feel I’m a good fit to their program and what they want to do. I feel I can come and play right away because they’ve played their young players in the past. They like to space off the floor, run a lot of pick and rolls and get shots up and that fits my game. I feel I can create shots, attack and rebound to start the break, so I can make other players around me better.”

Northwestern was 8-23 last season, including 3-17 in the Big Ten.

While AAU ball has been put on hold, Roper feels fortunate he can still get to the gym and get some work in with his father being the principal of Wolfe Middle School in Warren.

Roper is the second marquee junior to already commit, with Detroit Douglass guard Pierre Brooks II committing to Michigan State in late April.

david.goricki@detroitnews.com

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