Fourteen weeks, three days.
Even the combined amount of time since Trent Lockett and Vander Blue signed their NBA contracts doesn’t surmount to much. If you hadn’t heard already, the two former Marquette guards were both unfortunately released from their respective NBA teams on Friday. And I mean, one release was disappointing enough, but two former players being turned away from their lifelong dream in the same day was certainly a tough blow to Marquette fans – not to mention the players themselves as well. But as disappointed as we are to not see Blue or Lockett in an NBA uniform this year, there’s still much hope left for their professional careers – whichever continent they may be in.
Let’s be honest with ourselves – Trent’s signing had come off as a bit of a surprise in the first place, considering he only averaged 7.0 PPG in both his senior year at MU and over his six games in the NBA summer league. But after impressing coaches in numerous ways (more off the court than on) during the summer league, he indeed earned himself a brief contract with the Sacramento Kings – along with high praise from the organization’s coaches and players alike.
“Every systematic thing that you do, he knows it,” said Kings assistant coach Chris Jent after the summer league. “He knows your terminology. He applies what he learns in your system on the floor.”
“He’s a very heady player,” Jent later added. “We want them to fill a need on our basketball team and you always need smart guys, hard workers, so that’s what he is.”
It’s a shame that being a “heady player” and “hard worker” only brings you so far – because once the preseason rolled into play, Lockett was played for a total of just 5 minutes over the Kings’ seven games. There’s a reason why Jent refrained from speaking about Lockett’s specific basketball skills: they weren’t the reason why he was brought to help the team in the first place. His reason of presence was to teach and create plays for the younger, “less-heady” players in the Kings organization – and although he more than succeeded in doing so, this proves his upside for the “big show” to be insubstantial. Thus, Lockett is expected to either sign overseas or take a flyer on the Kings’ D-League team – but amidst any possible uncertainties, he can be sure the Marquette fan base will be rooting for him wherever he goes.
Blue’s release, on the other hand, was borderline shocking for those who had followed his play in the preseason and summer league. Averaging 11.25 PPG and shooting over 37% from three for both summer league teams, Blue put up a solid post-draft effort by showing off his athleticism and scoring ability while hushing doubters of his long-range jumper. Even so, the impressive stats didn’t compare to the immense upside he showed, putting up multiple 23+ point games and showing utmost poise as a scorer. During summer league play, Blue converted acrobatic layups around the rim and knocked down much-needed perimeter shots seemingly at will, as he did so below in possibly his best game of them all:
Blue had 24 points in that game, including an astounding 5-8 from the three-point line. Now, he did happen to miss every other three he took over his run with the Grizzlies, but the summer league isn’t about game-to-game stats rather than upside – and Blue certainly displayed potential throughout both summer league play and the preseason. In preseason play, Blue wasn’t as flashy numbers-wise, but he still managed 6.2 PTS, 2.4 REB, 1.0 STL over five games while shooting a scorching-hot 43% from three-point range. For an undrafted rookie, that’s certainly not bad at all. In fact, Blue actually was looking to have made the team after surviving the first round of cuts, but unfortunately he was released from the final roster due to the Sixers’ surplus of guards. Although he didn’t make the team, Blue certainly quieted many doubters, such as ourselves, on his ability to play at the NBA level. It only makes us wonder what this season could’ve been had he been manning the two-guard spot for the Golden Eagles, especially with guard play becoming such a growing necessity. However, pondering extensively on what “could’ve been” has little aim or objective – a better approach would be to instead appreciate and reminisce on the moments Vander was able to bring us. I, for one, will never forget the hesitation, drive and banked-in layup we saw so often at the end of last years’ games – which not only carried the program to numerous, exciting victories, but instilled memories in our minds that will last a lifetime. Whether he settles for a D-League spot, flies overseas or gets signed by another team, we’ll undoubtedly be rooting for Blue as if he were still donning the blue and gold. Amidst any doubt or uncertainty pertaining to their futures, both Blue and Lockett can sleep knowing that Marquette Nation supports them in any path of life they wish to choose. They had our backs for four years – it’s our time to return the favor and support theirs for a lifetime.
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