May 13, 2009
Whispers around the Wisconsin basketball scene are that star-recruit Vander Blue is seriously considering de-commiting to UW-Madison and the promises he made to Bo Ryan more than a year ago. And if the rumors I’m hearing come to fruition, the 6-3 junior guard from Madison Memorial could be headed to the other D-1 school in the state. According to my source who’s been in contact with John Casper, a former Marquette alumni and beat writer, if Blue does officially decide to de-commit, he’ll in all likelihood join the Golden Eagles. Blue had verbally committed to play for the Badgers way back in April of last year, however, he apparently has been rethinking his non-binding decision as of late.
UW officials say they know nothing about Blue’s second-guessing, and to their credit Blue has yet to come out public on the situation, however, it could be a PR-ploy. Let me just say that if the rumors are true, Vander will have made the right decision. Not only does Marquette fit his style of play better, but he would also join former-teammate Jeronne Maymon at Marquette for the 2010-2011 season. I have a feeling that if Blue decided to stick with his original commitment and play under Ryan in the swing offense, he’s numbers would severely dip as opposed to playing in the aggressive-style Buzz Williams employs. I was fortunate to see this guy play this past year down in Madison during the Division 1 State Tournament and couldn’t see any obvious flaws in his game. Not only did Vander prove himself on the offensive end, knocking down jumpers from beyond the arc and throwing down some spectacular dunks, but he was a monster defensively, anticipating passes which lead to those easy transitions points. He was without question the most dominant player over the course of the weekend, despite the fact Maymon (committed to Marquette) and Racine Horlick senior-forward Jamil Wilson (committed to Oregon) were expected to be. Now obviously, this is a developing story, so I’ll keep you posted with any new stuff I hear.
UPDATE (May 20): Blue has officially decommitted, according to JSOnline. Here’s the link: http://www.jsonline.com/blogs/sports/badgers.html. Blue hasn’t ruled out Wisconsin yet, but I think it’s safe to assume he will be looking heavily elsewhere. Systems like Buzz Williams’ at Marquette, Rick Pitino’s at Louisville and Bruce Pearl’s at Tennessee are speculative destinations.
May 27, 2008
Even though the Buzz Williams-era in Milwaukee is just beginning, it didn’t take long for the newest Marquette head coach to reel in his first big recruit, junior forward Jeronne Maymon, who ranks as the nation’s 58th best player in the 2009 class according to Scout.com. The Madison Memorial big-man announced his intentions today, choosing MU over USC, Tennessee and Providence, among others. Maymon will become the second player Marquette has plucked from Steve Collins’ Spartans in the past three years, the other being Wisconsin’s “Mr. Basketball” in 2005, Wesley Matthews, and is the second cornerstone recruit of Williams’ 2009 class, joining Erik Williams, a 6’7 forward at Cypress Hill High in Texas. I haven’t seen much of Maymon, but of the very little I did see, about 2 1/2 quarters worth, I was thoroughly impressed. Trekking down to Madison for the annual WBCA Christmas Tournament held in the UW-Fieldhouse, which my Xavier Hawks were fortunate to play in, I was able to catch Maymon light up non-conference foe Wisconsin Rapids for 27 points in their game, a game where he may have scored 40 had he not sat on the bench the 4th quarter. I just can’t believe this guy’s my age. As long as he can get his grades up Marquette got a really good player, and from what I hear, the school’s got excellent tutors.
April 2, 2008
If Indiana head coach Tom Crean still thinks he’s got the best job in the world, he’s sadly mistaken. Sure the state of Indiana has had a colorful past to look back on, with “Hoosiers” and Bob Knight all producing memorable moments–had, of course, being the key word. For all those who side with Crean’s decision that’s your choice, but he’ll regret his decision come next March, when chances are his new team will be struggling to earn an NCAA bid. Key departures for next season include seniors Mike and D.J. White, named Big Ten player of the year, Eric Gordon, who will likely bolt to the NBA Draft as his stock may have reached it’s pinnacle, not to mention the final two starters for 2007, sophomore Armon Bassett and junior Jamarcus Ellis, who were dismissed from the team early this week due to disciplinary reasons. What does this mean? Indiana’s storied past will suffer a definite bump in the road. Mr. Crean will basically have to build from the ground up like he did at Marquette, which no doubt will lead to growing pains for himself and fans early in his tenure. Crean stated in his press conference Wednesday he wouldn’t have left Marquette under any other circumstances beside this one, which I find hardly believable. Tom, anyone can say that, but if Oklahoma State (who now has a head coaching vacancy) or any big program for that matter offered to double, even triple what IU offered you, I have no doubts you’d take the deal. Moving away from IU, Marquette now begins their own quest for a qualified head man, and after first hearing the news of Crean’s departure a number of names popped into my head. Sean Miller (Xavier), Tony Bennett (Washington State), Rob Jeter (UW-Milwaukee) and Anthony Grant (VCU), among others like former MU coach Rick Majerus. Regardless, whomever is hired will enter a great situation, assuming “The Big Three,” Dominic James, Wesley Matthews, and Jerel McNeal, all choose to stay for their senior years.
March 1, 2008
The Golden Eagles put themselves in great position to beat the 10th ranked team in the land Saturday, but costly errors down the stretch, along with a myriad of missed free throws, cost them an important game in the tight Big East race. After leading by four at the break Marquette went on a run, leading by as many as 12 in the second half, but Georgetown wouldn’t give in, making one of their own. Led by seniors Roy Hibbert and Jonathan Wallace’s 20 point efforts, the Hoyas will clinch the title with a win next Saturday against Louisville. After Marquette had sustained a three point cushion late, Wallace raced down court, and as he released his three point shot, Dominic James inscrutably fouled him with 2.8 seconds left, en route to game-tying free throws forcing the eventual overtime. With the devastating loss, Marquette drops to three back of first place Georgetown with only two games remaining, and also snapped its five-game winning streak. They certainly did not deserve to win the way they played in the second half. Shooting 22-36 from the charity stripe ultimately sealed their fate, topped by James’ indecision in the closing seconds, which maakes the loss even tougher to swallow. The team’s seed in the NCAA Tournament isn’t locked yet, but this win could have definitely improved their standing. I think a 5-seed is most realistic at this point, and if they perform well in the Big East tourney, they might sneak in as a #4, but no higher.
Milestone Victory: In another squeaker today, Mike Krzyzewski’s Dukies, who trailed literally the entire contest versus a scrappy NC State team, pulled it out in the closing minutes to give Coach K his 800th win. The legend is on the verge of passing former-Oklahoma State great Eddie Sutton, who got his 801th win coaching San Francisco a couple weeks back, for fifth place All-Time. In order to pass coach Bobby Knight at the top of the list (902), Krzyzewski would probably have to stick around a minimum of five more seasons, and that’s granted Knight doesn’t return to the coaching ranks.
January 4, 2008
When I first found out that Robert Frozena, an Appleton native, had made the Marquette Golden Eagles as a walk-on, I was stunned. No one ever expected him to even try out for the team, much less make it. I had seen him play for two years at nearby Saint Mary’s Central (about a mile away from my house), where he single-handedly took over the game and beat my school’s team- the Appleton Xavier Hawks- two years straight. I currently attend Xavier, as a junior statistician, and although we had a tremendous team my freshman year, Frozena and his Zephrs always seemed to play spolier. He was both an exceptional basketball and baseball player, but at only 6’1, playing D-1 college ball almost seemed impossible. I truly admire a guy like that, who works his tail off to do what he loves, and for him that is basketball. Granted he got his fair share of breaks to get to this point (injuries), but hey, if you get an opportunity to play, you have to take it. Myself having several run-ins with coach Tom Crean, I can see just how good of a coach he really is. Hopefully, coach Crean can mold Frozena into a starter, because it’d sure be fun watching him play on TV. He’s an unknown guy, but he has already received seven minutes thusfar this season, scoring 3 points- all free throws. How ironic, the same way he killed us (Xavier) countless times. I wish Robert the best of luck, and continued successful as he matures as a college basketball player.
June 23, 2007
Dominic James, a standpoint guard as a freshman, averaging just under 15 points a game, went relatively “unnoticed” last year with the Golden Eagles, despite the fact that his stats improved in almost every worthwhile category. I think that is a huge testament to head coach Tom Crean and his recruiting staff, as they have been able to bring in high quality players ever since the departure of Dwayne Wade and the moving to the bigger Big East conference. James, who was highly considering entering the draft, decided to pull his name out of the draft hat and return to Marquette for at least one more season. Marquette’s “Big Three” as some people may refer to it, of course consists of the three standout guards James, Jerel McNeal, and Wesley Matthews. With the changing of the guards after Wade, Steve Novak, and Travis Diener left, the new three have been key to the team’s success, scoring a whopping 40 points a game between them. But it was also a freshman who stepped up big last year toward the end of the regular season, Lazar Hayward, that really allowed MU’s offense to click. James has definitely made the right decision in coming back, because he really didn’t “wow” anyone with his play on the court or statistics. With James returning, MU should be considered a favorite in 2007-2008 to challenge for the Conference championship, and with the departure of Georgetown’s Jeff Green, MU stands alot better chance to compete for the title. Dominic, I applaud you for your decision, it was the right one. You can be a lottery pick in two years, assuming you stay in school. All I can say is look out ESPN Insiders, because MU could be on the war path in 2007-2008.
October 26, 2006
I recently caught up with Marquette Men’s head coach Tom Crean and was able to ask him a few questions regarding the upcoming season…
Coach Tom Crean Q & A
Q: What are your expectations this year, considering you guys are still relatively young?
A: Well, I think we’re very young. I think at this point we have to learn a lot about playing through fatigue and making each other better. I think right now the main goal is to get better every day, and if you do that enough, and you do that long enough than you’ll have a chance to have a good team.
Q: From a coaching standpoint and maybe a players standpoint, what are some of the similarities and maybe some differences that you’ve seen coaching in the Big East compared to Conference USA?
A: Well, that’s a great question, it’s a very physical league, but it’s an extremely athletic league. A lot of things happen in a short period of time and when people go to the rim they don’t lay it up they usually dunk the ball, so to me, you got to have a mentality, an attack mentality, and were trying to develop that but we still got a long ways to go in that area, to be as good as some of the better teams in our league. This league (Big East) is going to bring out the best in you or the worst in you every night no matter what.
Q: Do you see a difference in the recruiting process being in a bigger conference, in that it’s harder or easier to get recruits?
A: Well, your name value is a little easier and with what Dwayne Wade has done, in Miami, that helps, but the talent pool is smaller because there’s less and less players as you go up to the level of the Big East that can play in it. And certainly the ACC, the Big Ten, the SEC, and the Pac 10 they have the same situation, so we have to be very careful with who were trying to sign and get people who have a real high degree of character and intelligence and who really want to get better.
Q: Who are you looking this year to really step up as a leader?
A: Well, I don’t know, I think we have to have a group of guys that step up in leadership, because I’m not sure we have one player on our team right now that I would say is the leader of our team. The leader of your team is usually the person who is the hardest worker, plays with the most energy, and does the best job of bringing out something better in everybody else, everyday and that takes time. You have to gain some experience to be able to do that.
Q: And is it going to be really hard to replace Steve (Novak)?
A: No question about it, Steve was a great leader as well as an excellent player and we’ll miss a lot of things about him.
Q: Last question, do you think it’s harder to replace smarts or skill on the court?
A: I think it’s much harder to replace smarts, that’s a great question which no one’s ever asked me before, I think it’s much, much harder to replace smarts because your intelligence and your instincts can carry you a long way not only for what you do, but for what your teammates do, and I think that’s the one thing we have to continue to get better at.
June 19, 2006
Game 5 of the 2006 NBA Finals was a classic. The Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat traded baskets for what seemed like the entire game. The game was full of stars but there were two players that stood out in particular. It was former Marquette star Dwayne Wade who was spectacular for the Heat, scoring 43 points, including the game winning free throw with a mere 1.9 seconds left. For the Mavs former Badger Devin Harris shined both on offense and defense. Harris had only 6 points but it was his defense on Dwayne Wade that kept the Mavs close. Wade had to force alot of shots up, and while a lot went in, the Heat only won by a point. Who would have thought that a few years after they had been drafted (Wade 2003, 5th overall, Harris 2004, 5th overall) they would be facing each other in a pivotal Game 5 in the NBA Finals. While the stage was set for the big stars like Shaquille O’ Neal and Dirk Nowitzki, I thought it was the Wisconsinites, Dwayne Wade and Devin Harris, that stole the show and showed us a promising future for the NBA.