As we begin the month of August, we can start to feel the college basketball season approaching – the recruiting classes and transfers have been set, and most players are already getting settled in on campus. This assurance gives us the opportunity to evaluate what talent has left MU through graduation and the NBA Draft (or not so), and how the incoming talent will fill (or not fill) those holes. A good way to start this evaluation would be with the man we just earlier referenced – Vander Blue.
SG Vander Blue (NBA Draft): With Blue making an ill-advised decision to enter the NBA Draft, Marquette lost their leading scorer and star – put together known as the man who has the ball in the closing seconds of a tight game. Although considered the toughest type of player to replace, Buzz Williams has shown the ability to replace stars year after year (Last year was Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom, and now, Vander Blue). In a more statistical standpoint, MU loses a great mid-range shooter, mediocre 3-point shooter and good rebounding guard. But put simply, they lost their best scorer.
PG Junior Cadougan (Graduation): Although different from the previous scoring point guards to attend MU, Cadougan was a great fit under Buzz Williams’ system. Cadougan was a pass-first point guard who could score if needed, which was something he greatly improved his senior year with little other offensive help on the floor. Averaging 28 minutes per game, Marquette loses a penetrating point guard who was acrobatic on the drive, but almost miserable from beyond the arc (23%, 14-62 on the year).
G/F Trent Lockett (Graduation): Lockett, an Arizona State transfer, was the most popular pick to lead the team in scoring last season, having averaged over 13 points in his two years at ASU. However, that average was almost cut in half (7.0 PPG at MU) upon coming up to Milwaukee. Though there was disappointment in his lack of scoring, Lockett found ways to contribute in other categories, such as rebounding (team-best 5.1 RPG) and defense, earning himself a solid 26 minutes per game. While not standing out in any category other than rebounding, Lockett never hurt the team in any aspect of his game, a valuable type of player to have in college basketball. With Lockett graduating, MU loses a quality rebounding switchable with fairly pedestrian shooting numbers.
This year’s recruiting class is widely considered Buzz Williams’ most talented under his tenure at Marquette. The class is ranked #11 in the nation by ESPN Insider, the highest ranking for any MU recruiting class since rankings were kept – and as of now, these players look more than ready to live up to the expectations. Let’s start with one of the highest-ranked recruits in MU history – JaJuan Johnson.
SG JaJuan Johnson (4 star, #27 overall by ESPN): Johnson, the highest ranked recruit in Buzz Williams’ career, is a pure scorer who can take it hard to the rim or seemingly knock down threes at will. An awkward jump-shot scares some scouts, but as long as his motion is consistent there shouldn’t be any change in his shooting production. Even if not for another year or two, Johnson is expected to more than fill the scoring role vacated by Vander Blue, making him an especially key part of this recruiting class.
PG Duane Wilson (4 star, #53 overall by ESPN): In Duane Wilson, Marquette will not only get the scoring PG it lacked last year, but also a player with elite basketball IQ who knows how to creatively get teammates involved. Wilson, a candidate to start from day one, can attack defenses in every way – on the drive, from three, or even mid-range pull-up. Unselfish, he knows when to dish it out or take it to the hoop himself, a tremendous trait to have in a scoring point guard. With all due respect to Junior Cadougan, Wilson should be a huge upgrade at the point – and with only Derrick Wilson in his way, expect him to take the starting job for good at any moment during the upcoming season.
G/F Deonte Burton (4 star, #39 overall by ESPN): Burton is a powerful, explosive slasher whose biggest asset is the dunk. Very left-handed (see highlight video), he is a mediocre shooter but can get on a hot-streak and hit consecutive jumpers from 10-15 feet. Because of this limited range, he is not expected to be a threat from beyond the arc. Burton is certainly a unique, mysterious player – highlighted in this article by PaintTouches.com – and is unlike any player I’ve ever seen. Some point to Trent Lockett as a comparison (mediocre shooting, good rebounding switchable) but I believe Burton’s overpowering strength will make him a much bigger threat offensively. He isn’t expected to start this year, so expect to see more of Burton in 2014 or 2015 to take over the switchable role.
PG John Dawson (3 star, unranked by ESPN): Dawson is a difficult recruit to peg, due to lack of video or scouting reports done on him. Nothing stood out in the little film we’ve seen of Dawson, but his ESPN scouting report labels him as a “combination guard” who is “great with the ball” and can “shoot it when open with range to the 3-point line.” It notes that coming out of New Mexico, Dawson wasn’t playing against very good HS talent and needs to “raise his game for the Big East.” Dawson averaged the least amount of points of the MU players participating in the Milwaukee Pro-Am (6.6 PPG), joining Derrick Wilson (7.3 PPG) and JaJuan Johnson (10.8 PPG) as the only three MU players to average less than 18.0 PPG. Although Pro-Am stats shouldn’t be taken seriously, Dawson showed little overall offensive ability, and will most likely get limited playing time this year in a Jamal Ferguson-type role.
PF Jameel McKay (#3 JUCO recruit by jucorecruiting.com, incoming junior): Rated the #3 JUCO recruit in the nation by jucorecruiting.com, McKay comes to Marquette looking to follow the footsteps of Jae Crowder, Darius Johnson-Odom, Dwight Buycks, and Jimmy Butler as Buzz Williams JUCO recruits to make it to the NBA. A two-time JUCO All-American at Indian Hills Community College, McKay averaged 17.8 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game his sophomore year. The points total is expected to be cut down due to better defenses, but rebounds is usually a category that translates to all levels of basketball. As noted above, Buzz Williams has a history of making the most of JUCO transfers, so expect McKay to make solid contributions from day one.
This years’ recruiting class is very high on talent, and is expected to rival the 2010 recruiting class which included Vander Blue, Jae Crowder and Davante Gardner. But more importantly, the incoming talent more than fills the holes the leaving talent vacates. To add to the excitement, even more is expected for the 2014 and 2015 classes with Buzz trying to land his first 5 star recruit – and hopefully many more to come. Diamond Stone, anyone?
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