For most Northwestern students, it’s difficult to imagine rising sophomore Dave Sobolewski in anything other than a Wildcat jersey. Focused, intent and passionate, he is completely consumed by his love for the game.

“Life without basketball is pretty weird to me,” he says.

Making it onto a Division I team as a freshman has been one of Sobolewski’s greatest accomplishments, and as his second season comes to a close, he’s already gearing up for next year. The star point guard has been playing organized basketball for over 12 years now and he doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

Growing up in Naperville, just an hour away from Northwestern, Sobolewski attended every one of his older brother’s basketball games, cheering him on from the sidelines. His father coached the team, giving Sobolewski special privileges to snag a few shots during timeouts. At home, his mom was stationed in the kitchen and his dad outside on the grill. Sobolewski enjoyed home-cooked and made-with-love dinners almost every night, such as his personal favorite, breaded chicken stuffed with cream cheese.

Photo by Kirby Barth

Being so close to home is one of the best perks of Northwestern for Sobolewski. Yet even when his parents aren’t here visiting, he still feels like he has family around: his teammates. The group is a close-knit bunch who play ball together both on and off the court. Besides the 10-plus hours required per week for workouts and training, they also have dinner together in Evanston, study in the library and go out to parties. But when the gang gathers on a Saturday night, Sobolewski doesn’t partake in the late night binging on potato chips and pizza — at least, not anymore.

Sure, he works out almost every day of the week, spending hours not just perfecting his game, but also working to increase his endurance, strength and stamina. He lifts weights with the team three to five times a week in addition to biweekly cardio and mobility workouts. But in the past, his eating habits certainly did not correspond to his healthy, active lifestyle.

“I always thought I’m working out so much, I can eat whatever and I’ll be fine,”  Sobolewski says.

Like many athletes, Sobolewski’s diet consisted mostly of bread and pasta. Among his favorite snacks were Reese’s Pieces, Sour Patch Watermelon and pretzels. After speaking with a nutritionist and the team’s strength and conditioning coach, he realized the food he was eating wasn’t providing the right fuel for his body. So, he put the Nerd’s Rope down and backed away.

“I decided I was going to clean up what I’ve been eating,” he says.

And it’s not just the candy. Gatorade has become an obsolete part of Sobolewski’s new diet. For his challenging workouts, he sticks with water to rehydrate, passing on the empty calories and excess sugar. However, Gatorade protein shakes still remain a tried and true component of his routine. They help him refuel after a strenuous session in the weight room and increase muscle mass. He’s also cut back on carbs and begun to incorporate vegetables into his diet. For example, he now substitutes his usual side of pasta with a heaping spoonful of peas or a few stalks of asparagus, despite fervently refusing to eat anything green his whole life.

“Green beans are just on the borderline,” he jokes.

His average breakfast is usually an omelet from Sargent dining hall packed with onions, spinach, peppers and meat. For lunch and dinnertime, he sticks with lean protein, such as grilled chicken, loading the sides of his plate with different vegetables. For dessert, his go-to favorite is strawberry yogurt.

Photo by Kirby Barth

Nowadays, when Sobolewski needs a little sustenance in between meals, he’ll eat fruit like apples, grapes or strawberries. For a pre-workout boost, he’ll reach for a handful of nuts.

He’s lost seven pounds over the past month, now weighing in around 183 pounds. But the benefits of his new lifestyle have manifested themselves in more ways than one.

“I’ve seen my body improve and my weight go down,” Sobolewski says. “I feel better on the court already.” He says he is more lucid and agile, and has a newfound reserve of energy, no longer tiring out as easily during practices.

Even with all these changes, Sobolewski says his life has stayed pretty much the same. He still goes out to dinner with his teammates to Chipotle and Flat Top, allowing himself the luxury of brown rice (as long as it’s within two hours of his last workout). After discovering how beneficial his choices are to his performance, it’s a lot easier to say no to all the sweets and carbs he used to crave. Now, sitting here in Lisa’s as friends pass in and out with greasy sandwiches, he looks around with a slight grin, knowing he’s contributing more to his team than ever, strawberry yogurt and all.