Forget the loss to Connecticut. Forget Jerel’s amazing second half. Jim Calhoun? Congratulations. But in the end, none of it really matters. Dominic James left last night’s loss to Connecticut in the first five minutes after telling Buzz Williams he needed to come out. The result was a broken foot, and as unbelievable as it may be to comprehend, Dominic James has put on a Marquette jersey for the last time. Not only was Dominic working on his best all-around performance at Marquette, but he was doing it ranked 10th in the nation with his co-seniors in Jerel McNeal, Wesley Matthews, and Dwight Burke. He did it with that unforgettable smile and the occasional swagger-and-smirk combination that everybody in the Bradley center knew and loved.
Say what you will about him, that his numbers decreased each year that he was at Marquette. Guess what? The point guard that started every game since he showed up on campus improved the team every year, and that says more about what a great point guard and even better leader is than anything in the box score. No one played with more fire and passion than James. Defensively, James was easily having his best year. Shutting down Cincinnati’s point guard Deonta Vaughn and West Virginia’s point guard Darryl Bryant to zero points each in two games, leading the team in steals and always impressing us with blocks that made us wonder how he could get as high as he did. Whether it was hiking up his shorts at half court to play shutdown defense, laughing and clapping after questionable foul calls, or getting the team fired up with a breakaway, two-handed slam, James did everything that was asked of him and so much more. Yes, Wesley and Jerel are currently having outstanding years due to the offense that Buzz Williams has implemented. But don’t think for one second that offensive transitions just happen at the snap of a Buzz Williams finger. James is the reason that this offense succeeded, with his laser passes or fast break drive-and-dishes. Sure, he fired the occasional three that hit nothing but air, but we’ll trade those for the NC State game any day. We’ll trade the occasional threaded pass into traffic for a perfect alley-oop pass 10 out of 10 times. We’ll take a missed dunk, a missed anything because Dominic, more than any player on that team, wowed us and made us remember just exactly what number 1 meant to us and why we watched him every game.
He might have taken a back seat this year to Wesley and Jerel in the boxscore, but make no mistake: this was Dominic’s team from Day 1 and he was never out of the spotlight, rather sharing it for the betterment of the team. A fifth metatarsal can put him on crutches, keep him out of the starting lineup, and ruin his run in trying to help Marquette go deep in March, but it does not ruin 127 games of the way Marquette basketball should be played: as a true Warrior.