Many Marquette fans were left perplexed and confused when the above tweet was released Thursday morning, and still are even three days later. Hundreds of questions frantically darted through heads, none more important than the simplest one of them all: Why?
McKay, being a junior college transfer, hadn’t even played a single game in an MU uniform yet, making this all the more strange. Averaging 17.5 PPG and 10 RPG at Indian Hills Junior College this past season, the prolific rebounder seemed primed for his fair share of minutes this season. Even if Davante Gardner, Chris Otule, or Jamil Wilson blocked him from getting as much time as he wanted, he’d still know all three would be out of his way once the season was over. This led many to believe it was a grades issue. Classes at Marquette started months ago – so Jameel being a junior college transfer, it was very possible he hadn’t proved himself academically to continue his enrollment at MU. But this theory was later dubbed a myth by Paint Touches, who seem to be the only ones with inside knowledge on this situation:
So if not grades, then what? Did he just not like the program? Break a team rule? Wasn’t satisfied with upcoming role? Most likely, the last one. McKay clearly displayed a love for Marquette in many interviews, often raving about the luxury of having an “elite school” in his hometown of Milwaukee. And if he broke a team rule, he’d have only been suspended, leaving us with the “playing situation” theory. It’s definitely plausible that during bootcamp/practices, he realized he was going to have a much smaller role than expected this year, being behind Wilson, Otule and Gardner, and thought the best option was to transfer to a program where he’d be showcased in a more featured role. But guessing on his reasoning will be useless until some actual information comes out, and I think we’ll be waiting quite a while before then, if ever. So a better way to approach this is to ask ourselves:
How does this affect Marquette for both this year and next year?
For this year, not as much as you’d think. Marquette’s frontcourt is loaded for 2013 and is expected to be among the best in the country, something that Buzz Williams hasn’t had the luxury of in really any of his years at MU. In fact, in this ESPN Insiders article, college hoops coverer Seth Greenburg ranked Marquette as having the 8th best frontcourt in the college basketball without even mentioning McKay (or seemingly knowing he’d earlier transferred to MU). So there’s no question having McKay would boost an already daunting group of bigs, but we’re more than prepared to hold our own without him this season. The real problem lies in next year. With the 6’9″ Gardner, 6’11” Otule and 6’8″ Wilson graduating after this season, Buzz Williams was already preparing for a smaller-than-usual team. The two tallest players lined up for 2014 were Steve Taylor and Jameel, both at a more forward-like than center-like 6’8″ – and with one of them now gone, recruiting a big for next year’s class becomes an extremely crucial priority. Jameel’s transfer opened up a second available scholarship for ’14, but it was quickly filled up a few hours later when Marial Shayok committed. With now only one scholarship remaining, there’s no question it’ll be used on a big. MU’s two biggest targets were Tory Miller and Satchel Pierce, but the bad luck continued Saturday as Tory Miller committed to Colorado. This makes the 7’0″, 260 pound Pierce now MU’s top target, putting him in line for large sums of minutes from day one should he commit. But there’s also the possibility that he doesn’t, leaving Marquette to continue searching for a big in a weak remaining crop of HS players. Since they’re obviously not going to leave a scholarship open under such crucial circumstances, expect a commitment in coming up for the ’14 class.
Some warn that McKay could end up changing his mind and come back, like Juan Anderson infamously did a few months ago. But the difference between his and Anderson’s situation is that McKay’s actually picking up interest from other programs. And simply saying “other programs” may even be understating it – he’s gotten calls from Louisville, Florida, Miami, Arizona and Arizona State, to name a few. Wherever he chooses, we wish McKay the best. But as for now, it’s time for us fans to help the team find a new center for next year. How do we do this, you ask? Just get on your knees and pray Diamond Stone can skip a grade.
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