Buzz Williams and received some great news at the end of Wednesday night’s early signing period, as Illinois point guard Reggie Smith signed his Letter of Intent to play for the Golden Eagles. The signing came unexpectedly to most despite Marquette’s involvement with Smith in the recruiting process.
The 6’1″ point guard seems to fit the mold exactly for what Williams is looking in a point guard. Smith’s speed sets him apart and his ability to play in transition will get him on the court sooner than later. In terms of offensive sets, Smith lives off driving to the basket to get his shots. He is still raw and has to work better at getting his teammates the ball off the dribble, but the talent is there for him to do that.
If you were on the fence on whether or not to go to Marquette Madness in 2010, Smith’s signing alone should push you over the edge. Why? Smith is one of the best dunkers in the 2010 class and has a knack to flush it home when he gets to the rim. He takes his fair share of layups, but any chance he gets to throw one down, he does.
Defensively, Smith has good size for a point guard “6’1″, 175 lbs.) and uses it very well against defenders. A high-end motor keeps him on his man and he has room to grow with the speed that he has. That energy will get him on the court and if he continues to work hard, he could be a steal.
Overall, Smith’s game is very raw and he needs to hone in his athleticism. Sometimes Smith’s athleticism gets him in trouble by playing out of control and trying to force things. As he slows down his game and becomes more of a true point guard, his natural position, his value will become even greater. If it’s not too bold to say, Smith looks a lot like Dominic James with his athleticism and ability to drive. Like James, Smith can struggle with his outside shot at times but the talent and potential is there for him to improve on that part of his game.
Smith will play his senior year for Thornton High School in Harvey, IL. His AAU team, Mac Irvin Fire, was considered one of the best in Illinois last year with Smith and University of Illinois recruits Crandall Head and Jerome Richmond.
Looking to the 2010 back court, Smith is a great compliment to redshirted freshman Junior Cadougan. More of a pass first point guard, Cadougan will rotate with Smith at the point guard spot and create a great mismatch with the two different styles of play. The signing of Smith most likely moves 2010 recruit Vander Blue to shooting guard, although his versatility will also allow him to handle the ball.
Ranked 105th according to Rivals.com and the 35th best point guard according to Scout.com, Smith isn’t a top-tier recruit that pushes Marquette’s recruiting class into the top five for 2010. However, another top 100 recruit that has the potential to blossom as he molds into a point guard is exactly what Williams was looking for to fill one of the two roster spots for next year. As usual, Williams and the Marquette staff semi-flew under the radar with the recruiting of Smith as many expected he was leaning towards USC.
After losing out on power forward Tarik Black, who ended up at Memphis, it was good to see Buzz and the staff pull out a third recruit before the early signing period was over.
With one scholarship remaining, expect Williams the Marquette staff to go hard after a big man to solidify their 2010 class. Rumors of a junior college forward have circulated to balance out the class and avoid having four freshman on the roster.
Buzz Williams has shown again that he is a great recruiter that can bring in top-100 talent and has done it again for 2010. Last season it was easier for Buzz to bring in the talent that he did because he had so much playing time to offer, but now the recruits are coming in packs and giving great depth to a Marquette team that should compete for a Big East title in the next couple of years.
Wednesday marked the first day of the one-week period for recruits from the 2010 class to sign national letters of intent to their respective schools. Marquette wasted no time in locking up their two prizes for the early signing period, receiving letters from small forward Jamail Jones and point guard Vander Blue.
Jones averaged 17 points, 10 rebounds, and 8 assists per game playing for Green Forest Christian Academy in Decatur, Georgia. He will play his senior year for Montaverde Academy in Florida, touted as one of the best high school teams in the nation, and Jones is a big reason why. Coach Buzz Williams has already seen improvement from Jones from the first time he saw him play.
“He plays for arguably the best high school coach in the country. He’s definitely, in my opinion, the best high school coach as it relates to the development of kids as players,” he said. “[Jones] has gotten better during his time at Montaverde already. We’ve been down there a few times and he has gotten a lot better.”
Jones, or “Mellow” as he prefers to be called, fit the “Buzz Williams mold” to a tee. At 6’6”, his physical 180-pound body will make him difficult to defend as he has improved his outside jump shot and is able to handle the ball. Because of this, Jones will be able to play shooting guard or both forward positions. Those traits are exactly what Williams looks for.
“We want to sign as many guys as we can that are hard to guard. We want to sign as many guys as we can that can pass, dribble, and shoot. We want to sign as many guys as we can that can guard multiple positions,” he said.
As big of a signing as Jones was for the Golden Eagles, receiving a commitment from a consensus top-100 player for next season, much of the hype surrounding Marquette’s recruiting class circulated around Madison, WI native Vander Blue.
After backing out of a verbal commitment from Wisconsin in May, Blue re-opened his recruitment and ultimately chose Marquette over Wisconsin, Florida, and UCLA. Ranked as high as 22 on Rivals.com, Blue is Marquette’s third highest ranked commitment in the last thirty years and will be able to step in right away, something that Buzz Williams is grateful for.
“That’s the thing that’s probably not talked about enough is how hard it is to sign players that can have an immediate impact at this level,” Williams said. “Where their bodies are ready, where their minds are ready, where their skills are ready to have an impact right away and I think Vander can do that.”
Blue’s decision to come to Marquette after de-committing from Wisconsin should add more fuel to the already lit in-state rivalry, but Buzz Williams said his recruitment of Blue was never anything negative towards the University of Wisconsin.
“I want people that want to be a part of who we are, and I don’t want it to be because we knocked down every other program and we were the only one left standing. I want them to come here because, in their heart, they feel like this is where they are supposed to be.”
One thing Buzz Williams looks for in every recruiting class is having a true point guard, something he believes Blue will be able to do. At the same time, that all-important versatility is something that attracted him to recruit Blue.
“I’ll put him wherever is best for our team for him to do what he does best. I think he’s a guy that can play all three positions. I think he’ll be a hard guy to get off the floor and I think he’s a guy that can guard all three positions, which makes his value really, really high.”
“Mellow” and Blue have vaulted Marquette’s recruiting class into the top 15 by most, including 13th by Rivals.com’s latest rankings. However, Buzz Williams and the Marquette staff are not done recruiting and hope to sign another player or two before the Wednesday deadline, saying Marquette will “sign as many players as we can sign that are great players and fit what it is we want to be about on and off the court.”
The main prize for Marquette would be Tarik Black, a 6’8” power forward from Memphis. Memphis, Tennessee, and Florida are competing with Marquette for his services and he is expected to sign during the early period. Rumors floating around the internet have pegged Marquette as the favorite but Memphis is the hometown team and Black took his official visit to Florida this weekend.
With a point guard and small forward already in his pocket, Williams understands that size should be next on the checklist for the 2010 class, but he will not pass up the opportunity to add another guard.
“We need size for sure. I think I would always say that and I think that if you only have three dribble guys on your team, it should be because you couldn’t sign a fourth dribble guy. And so if we can add another guard that can dribble, we’ll do that too,” he said.
Other names worth keeping an eye on include point guards Reggie Smith (IL) and Stargell Love (NC), power forward Jayvaughn Pinkston (NY) during the early signing period, and small forward Justin Coleman (VA) in the spring.
While there are still questions concerning the status of Monterale Clark, Marquette will has two remaining scholarships but Williams has shown a tendency to over-recruit, so as many as three signings could occur before the 2010 signing period is over.
As if the rivalry between the Marquette Golden Eagles and Wisconsin Badgers wasn’t big enough, it added a new chapter Sunday afternoon when Madison Memorial point guard Vander Blue gave a verbal commitment to play for Marquette next fall. The 6’3″ Blue was choosing between Marquette and Wisconsin with Florida, Arizona, UCLA, and Connecticut listed as well.
Visiting Marquette on his official visit this past weekend, Blue attended Marquette Madness at the Al McGuire Center and sat next to now-fellow teammate and 2010 commit Jamail Jones, a 6’6″ guard/forward from Georgia. He was able to spend time with the current team, including former high school teammate and best friend Jeronne Maymon.
Blue admitted there were many reasons why he chose Marquette over Wisconsin, including the up-tempo style of play that suits his skill set, his relationship with coach Buzz Williams, and the overall culture of Marquette.
His decision did not come without criticism as many of the Wisconsin faithful feel betrayed and as if there is more to the story than what has been printed. Blue gave an oral commitment to Wisconsin after his sophomore year of high school but wanted to look over his options again after a breakout junior year.
When the majority of 15-year-olds are deciding on whether or not to laminate their driving permits, Blue was deciding where to play division one basketball. It’s easy to see that he was young and excited, yet premature on his college decision. He never took Wisconsin out of his potential teams and it seemed as though his decision was 50-50 most of the way.
Despite those upset at Blue for opening up his recruitment and then deciding to go to a rival in-state school, Blue says he could not be happier with his decision and is excited to be playing for the Golden Eagles in the Big East.
Just as happier, if not happier, is Coach Buzz Williams who, in Blue, secured his second recruit for the 2010 season. Both recruits, Blue and Jones, rank in the top 70 on most recruiting websites and will play a major role when they join the team next season.
In an interview with JS Online Marquette blogger Todd Rosiak, Blue said that Williams was crying and screaming when he heard the news of Blue joining the Marquette squad. It seemed like a fitting end for the emotional Williams, who spoke to Blue about life and becoming a man over the weekend. He knows that being a Marquette Golden Eagle is about much more than wins, losses, and tournament bids.
After Tom Crean ditched his seniors for Indiana prior to the start of last season, Williams was left to pick up the pieces that included two de-commits and not a lot of time to make up for it. His first recruiting class consisted of junior college sophomores Joe Fulce and Jimmy Butler and freshman Chris Otule. Williams’ Texas ties surely helped him out as all three players played in the Lone Star State. Butler came in right away and was an excellent role player for the Golden Eagles while Fulce and Otule fought injuries for the majority of the season.
While Williams was given a free pass on his 2008 recruiting class given the circumstances, his 2009 class was going to define him as the class who came in after the Big Three of Jerel McNeal, Wesley Matthews, and Dominic James graduated.
Williams did not miss a beat, recruiting three four-star players in Junior Cadougan, Jeronne Maymon, and Erik Williams to go along with three-star recruits Dwight Buycks, Darius Johnson-Odom and Youssoupha Mbao. Not only did the class balance out the roster with four freshman, a sophomore, and a junior, but it also ranked in the top fifteen on most websites.
The class is yet to play a game, but the talent and chemistry seems to be there for the Golden Eagles to succeed in the future. Inexperience will play a factor and the newcomers are sure to have low points in the season and may hit a wall during the tough Big East season, but the learning process will be key for the future.
Add last year’s class to the commitments of Blue and Jones for next season and you have a roster made up completely of Buzz Williams recruits, a five-star, blue chip prospect, seniors Jimmy Butler, Joe Fulce, and Dwight Buycks, four four-star recruits and a boatload of potential.
The best part is that Buzz Williams is not done recruiting for 2010 with two more potential scholarships to hand out for next season. Look for Williams to solidify the frontcourt for next season as the backcourt is all but set up with Cadougan, Blue, Johnson-Odom, Buycks, Jones, Butler, and Fulce.
Names for the 2010 class to keep an eye on include power forwards Tarik Black, Gary Mitchell, Jayvaughn Pinkson, and Freddy Aspirilla. If the Golden Eagles are to compete for a Big East title in the next two or three years, a big man who can consistently get looks at the basket in the low post will be key. Otule and Mbao are both centers who seem to have their game focused defensively right now so an offensive presence will be key.
Whichever way you slice it, the Vander Blue commitment officially put Marquette back in the conference title talks for next season. After all, he is the best recruit Marquette has landed since Kerry Trotter in 1981 and Doc Rivers in 1979. It’s big enough that the Golden Eagles have swiped up the state of Wisconsin’s best recruit the last two seasons,but if Williams can hit on another recruit or two for next season, Marquette can become a consistent top ten recruiting destination.
Blue’s decision to Marquette was that big. Now if only Tennessee-bound shooting guard Trae Golden had committed as well. Talk about a Marquette backcourt…
Just two days after receiving news that freshman Youssoupha Mbao was declared eligible by the NCAA Clearinghouse, Buzz Williams and the Marquette Golden Eagles received more good news when Jamail Jones informed the team of his oral commitment to play at Marquette next season.
Jones, a 6′6″ small forward from Georgia, was being recruited by Virginia, Georgia Tech, Cincinnati, Clemson, and Xavier among others. He is the third recruit for Marquette’s 2010 class, joining Aaron Bowen and Montarle Clark on the list.
As is usually the case with Buzz Williams recruits, Jones’ versatility is something that makes him such a special player. With great athleticism, he can defend both guard positions as well as his natural small forward spot. With room to add muscle and a frame similar to Wesley Matthews, Jones has the potential to guard even the power forward position.
Offensively, Jones’ best attribute is his long range shooting. While he will need to work to create his shot as his game progresses, his spot-up shooting is excellent and he can hit from anywhere on the court.
Jamail Jones is the most recent commitment to Buzz Williams’ 2010 class.
His dribble-drive penetration is above average and he does a nice job finding teammates when a second defender commits. He has great leaping ability and hang time that allows him to be successful going to the hoop.
He has good speed and runs the fast break well, making him an ideal fit in Buzz Williams’ offense. He seems like a hard worker and someone that is willing to go out and compete every day and every game, making the comparisons to Matthews even more spot on.
He will play at Montaverde Academy in Montaverde, Fla. this season to play against better competition to prepare him for the grueling Big East.
Ranked anywhere from 61st to 67th overall on 2010 rankings, Jones is a four star recruit and an excellent commitment for Marquette.