Marquette’s highly touted freshman Junior Cadougan suffered a torn Achilles’ tendon today, ending his year. More to come soon, but this loss crushes the Golden Eagles and leaves them with just nine healthy players on scholarship. Maurice Acker and Darius Johnson-Odom will handle the point guard duties while Cadougan recovers.
Check back later for a full article…
When Buzz Williams was announced head coach of the Marquette Golden Eagles, both parties really had no idea what they were in for over the course of the next calendar year. On one hand you had Marquette, a prestigious Big East school with national exposure, hiring a coach from within to take over a team in just his second head coaching job ever. And no, Williams was not coming from North Carolina or Kansas, but rather the University of New Orleans where his Privateers went 14-17 and were hardly anything special.
On the other hand you had Buzz Williams walking into a job that he knew would ignite criticism on why Marquette would pick him as head coach. He also knew that because of this, it would be a monumental task to outperform expectations that others would set for him. Not that Buzz Williams has ever been one to do so, but for everyone else, the future of the program was very much in doubt as well. Losses of Scott Cristopherson and Trevor Mbakwe due to transfers as well as Tyshawn Taylor and Nick Williams de-committing left questions about this year’s recruiting class and where depth on the bench would come from. Even further ahead than that, how Williams would replace the four seniors brought up even bigger question marks about the state of Marquette basketball.
In the days of former coach Tom Crean’s recruiting, there was an uneasy imbalance of players as seen by our seniors last year as well as three juniors coming that will be seniors this year. Combine this with Crean’s inability to pick up on marquee junior college players, and you were left with nothing to help the cause and nothing that would change the imbalance that Marquette’s scholarships had to show for. Mike Kinsella, Jamil Lott, and Lawrence Blackledge were Crean’s JU-CO pickups, and were never world beaters and were not going to contribute in the way that Marquette needed them to.
Fast forward to today and now-second year head coach Buzz Williams has completely changed how Marquette goes about their recruits. Next year’s 2009-2010 recruiting class features six players to replace the four seniors, Mbakwe, and presumably Pat Hazel if he were to transfer. The difference between William’s recruiting and Crean’s recruiting is that this year’s class will feature a variety of ages and classes. It will feature four freshmen in Junior Cadougan, Jeronne Maymon, Erik Williams and Brett Rosebro, a sophomore in Darius Johnson-Odom, and junior Dwight Buycks.
Thinking about the state that Marquette was in when Crean left, a messy situation full of both empty and soon-to-be empty scholarships, looking at what Williams has done in just under a calendar year is remarkable and leaves a whole lot of optimism for next year.
Starting with the young guns, the aforementioned first years give Marquette four freshmen on their roster next year. Maymon is expected to start and Cadougan looks to be the long term solution at the point guard position. Just looking at these freshmen alone would make for an outstanding recruiting class but gives a good solid base for the future, even if Maymon were to leave early for the Association.
Looking ahead to the sophomores for next year, Chris Otule marks the only true freshman to be recruited by Williams after the whole debacle of Crean leaving occurred. He will join Liam McMorrow, coming off his redshirt season on the bench, as well as Johnson-Odom as the sophomores on the team. Again, Williams has recruited excellent balance for the sophomores and, next year when these players are juniors, Monterarle Clark is a junior college transfer that will join them. As the numbers show, Marquette will have three sophomores on the team next year and potentially two rotational players in McMorrow and Johnson-Odom.
Going back to last year, Williams recruited junior college small forward Joe Fulce from Texas and, when Cristopherson transferred, nabbed his teammate Jimmy Butler. Butler proved to be a great role player as the sixth man off the bench while Fulce showed great potential before getting hurt early in the year. The aforementioned Buycks will join the two as juniors on the team in what could be the most productive class next year.
As for the senior class, Lazar Hayward leads the group with David Cubillan and Maurice Acker to form the last class. So all in all, you have four freshmen, three, sophomores, three juniors, and three seniors on a team that, a year ago, was scraping together leftovers from the 2008 recruiting class and preparing to lose four players, including arguably their three best. Also, he found outstanding replacements for the players that did leave. While one can say that Marquette once again could not find a big man in the class, their back-to-back 25-10 seasons should show that they can win with guard play. Williams is already flashing his recruiting powers and is doing so very wisely at that.
Some will say that junior college kids do not make that much of an impact and are more hit-or-miss than high school seniors. While this may be the case, it was pretty much Buzz’s only option given the circumstances he was put in, and he has succeeded by picking up two of the most coveted junior college players out this year. He isn’t filling in spots with mediocre players that will rotate through for two or three years, but rather rotational players that have the capability to become studs in Williams’ run n’ gun offense.
The clock read 0:00, and as much as Buzz Williams yelled, kicked, screamed, and fought it, Maurice Acker wasn’t going to get four free throws. In a two minute span that seemed more like 20 minutes, Marquette went from being up four to down four as they fell to the Missouri Tigers 83-79 in Boise.
The game brought an end to much more than a second round game in the NCAA Tournament, but rather an era at Marquette University and the Golden Eagles program that will not be forgotten for some time.
I’ve only had the privilege of being a Marquette Golden Eagles fan for about a calendar year, but the joy and fantastic memories they have brought to me as a sports fan is insurmountable.
The Golden Eagles’ season started in a conference room in Bloomington, Ind. on April 3 where Tom Crean had just accepted the job as Indiana’s next head basketball coach. Say what you will—that the move was warranted or that he left his seniors out to dry—no matter how you look at it, his leaving hit the Marquette community where it hurt.
Fast forward one week to Apr. 8 and Buzz Williams had taken over the reigns and agreed to become Marquette’s sixteenth head coach in the school’s history.
Fast forward another week and recruit Nick Williams opts out of his commitment to Marquette, and a week after that Tyshawn Taylor had committed to Kansas after originally planning to go to Marquette. In between all this, Scott Cristopherson transferred to Iowa State, leaving the Golden Eagles another man down. All before May!
Buzz Williams and his staff had the opportunity to let this season slip away and start fresh in a year, but with a perfect attitude for winning, Buzz buckled down and assured the team that this year was their year and to make the most of it, literally day-by-day.
Highlighted by three seniors in Wesley Matthews, Jerel McNeal, and Dominic James, the season kicked off with a 95-64 clobbering of Houston Baptist. Marquette struggled to find its identity in losses to Dayton and Tennessee, and entering Big East play, the team was unsure if their undersized roster could get the job done. What they showed over the next two months was that heart is truly measured in intangibles, not inches.
All it took was a pre-game pep talk from Buzz Williams to get his seniors fired up. He let them know they had never started 2-0 in Big East play, and wins over Villanova and Cincinnati followed.
Seven games later, I wonder if Buzz let them know they had never started 9-0 either.
The doubters were there all year, especially after wins versus Georgetown and Notre Dame that don’t look as big anymore. The losses to South Florida and Villanova brought critics in packs, saying that the Golden Eagles just weren’t in that elite “Big Four” in the Big East. As the end of the year rolled around and “the gauntlet” approached, Marquette fans were feeling good that they could take at least the bookends of the five game stretch, Georgetown and Syracuse, and maybe steal one in between.
Well, one broken fifth metatarsal later, the Golden Eagles were looking at a team without its star point guard and without any direction. The gauntlet came and went and, as expected, they struggled mightily without their team leader.
Anyone who doubted the importance of James on the court was suddenly silent, and everyone wondered what was next on the roller coaster.
In the Big East Tournament, a dominating win over St. John’s showed the Big East what this team was capable of, especially on defense, and despite the heart-breaking loss to Villanova, there was a sense of togetherness back on the court that had not been seen since the injury to James.
The roller coaster of a season continued as Marquette drew a No. 6 seed in the tournament versus a little known, 30-win team from Utah State. Lazar Hayward provided us with a little preview of next year as he went off for 26 points and 8 rebounds, while the team’s poise and patience really showed in the last four minutes of the game. Down six, Marquette furiously rallied back with McNeal and Matthews and took the game from the free throw line, connecting on their last 10 from the stripe. A second round match up against Missouri ensued, and while the outcome wasn’t what Marquette fans had hoped for, the ending brought good enough closure for most of us.
The unfortunate loss closed the book on a Marquette team that faced more ups-and-downs than any other team in the nation, and a team that handled it better than any other team in the nation would have.
McNeal went out the way we all wanted him to, matching a career high in points and carrying the team on his shoulders the whole game. Matthews put in 24 points, highlighted by two emphatic dunks that all too well described his nature on the court: ferocity and never-ending competitiveness. James, in an unbelievable return, sparked the team and gave every Marquette fan watching the game chills all over as he subbed in.
I don’t care how many touches he had in the game CBS. I care about the way he carried himself, healed his injury four times faster than expected, and the way he ended his career: bald-headed, wearing No. 1 on the court with his senior brothers. Burke quietly pulled down 10 boards in his last game as a Golden Eagle, seemingly fitting for a guy that has never received the praise he deserved. Just remember who this guy had to go up against over the last four years as the “big man” on the team. We might remember Burke for the times we yelled at him for not holding on to the gosh darn ball, but as a whole he always did what was asked of him.
As I said, I didn’t get to watch these seniors for more than a year, but the mark they left in my heart will be there forever. We will remember these seniors as graduates who kept Marquette’s spot on the map and who didn’t back down in the face of any adversity that came their way. The man who recruited them and had stood by their side for three years was suddenly gone and some guy who had coached New Orleans to a 13-14 record at one point, was taking over. You can bet the NBA looked pretty sweet at that moment for the Big 3.
But the seniors made a pact, whether they knew it or not, to come back and make the 2008 Marquette season one to remember, and boy did they ever.
It doesn’t matter that they only made it past one round in the NCAA Tournament or that they “under-achieved” in some people’s eyes. No one will remember that. What they will remember is Matthews’ unforgettable smile and breakout senior season, James’ ultimate leadership and shutdown defense, McNeal’s record-breaking performances and clutch shooting, and Burke ’s dirty work.
Their legacy will live on as one of the best senior classes to come out of Marquette, but don’t think that their work on the court is done. McNeal, Matthews, and James all have a chance to wind up playing at the next level, and you can bet you’ll get much of the same talent, tenacity, and will to win out of these guys, no matter where they end up.
As for the rest of the Golden Eagles, they have a very tough act to follow. Hayward will lead the troops into battle next year in his senior season and should do a fine job. He played beyond anyone’s expectations this year, and for anyone upset about the line violation at the end of the Missouri game, remember the reason that we moved on and played in that game. Hayward’s 26 points and 8 rebounds paced us against Utah State, and he also kept us in the game in the first half against Missouri. Like he has been all year, he was also given the difficult task of guarding the combination of Leo Lyons and Demarre Carroll, both with size advantages on him. Just as it had been for Burke, Hayward didn’t get the credit he deserved on a guard-oriented Marquette team, but continued to produce regardless of the lack of accolades.
Jimmy Butler will continue to get better, just as he did the second half of the year and will be able to contribute at three spots if he works on his jump shot. Maurice Acker also gained valuable experience when he replaced James in the starting lineup and will use that next year to mentor recruit Junior Cadougan. Jeronne Maymon is the leader of Marquette’s 2009 recruiting class and is a special talent out of high school that Marquette has not seen in a while. Fresh off a state championship, Mr. Basketball from Wisconsin will come in right away for the Warriors.
Don’t get me wrong. Losing the school’s all-time leading scorer along with three other seniors is going to hurt Marquette next year, but if this year’s up-and-down season has taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected. For now, the four seniors pass the torch to next year’s team and beyond. They have set the bar high, on and off the court, and have forever changed the Marquette basketball program.
On that note, I close the book on this year’s Marquette team and will begin my focus to the NFL Draft and the start of the 2009 Milwaukee Brewers’ season. But before I do, I just want to say thank you one more time to the Marquette seniors. You made 4th and State rock like crazy 18 times this year, and we won’t soon forget what you have done for this program, school, and city.
Good luck in the future, you will always be Warriors.
As Marquette begins the stretch run on one of the most memorable seasons in their school’s history and prepares to say goodbye to seniors Wesley Matthews, Jerel McNeal, Dominic James, and Dwight Burke, it’s hard not to look ahead at the stellar recruiting class that will walk onto campus next year to replace them.
The class is led by 6 foot, 6 inch combo-forward lefty Jeronne Maymon. Maymon is the front runner for Mr. Basketball for the state of Wisconsin and will more than likely come in right away and see major minutes. Maymon has played mostly inside this year, but his coach sites this to the fact that he is the tallest player on the team. Overall on offense, he is a great slasher and finishes with power at the rim and is great in transition, something he noted as a reason why he chose the Golden Eagles. Defensively, he is an excellent rebounder and plays very strong in the post and will contribute right away. He has struggled with grades over the year but I have faith that Buzz is not going to take any bag eggs on the team. Guys like Wesley Matthews and Lazar Hayward have set that standard at Marquette.
Next in line is Junior Cadougan, a point guard from from Canada, who played his ball in Texas. He stands 6’2’’ and weighs in the range of 220 pounds. When I watch Cadougan’s film, I think of Levance Fields. Not only do they have the same body type, but Cadougan plays very physical and seems to always find the open man. He has a nice step back jumper as well as the decent court vision. He sometimes looks to score first and can play out of control, but has a lot of potential. He had an outstanding summer which led to his recruitment from Buzz Williams and he will have the chance to come in and compete for the point guard position next year.
Rounding out the 4-star recruits for this class is Erik Williams, a 6’7” guard-forward from Cypress, Texas. Williams is a product of Tom Crean recruiting who opted to stay with the Golden Eagles after Crean’s departure due to his relationship with current coach Buzz Williams. The one thing Williams does very well is use his speed. With his size, no one expects him to be as fast as he is and he is great in transition offense because of it. He broke his foot last year which took some of the national spotlight off of him, but his combination of size and speed is exactly what Marquette looks for out of its wings. He is more of a product than the other two but could be a key role player for Marquette next year, who will have to go deeper in their roster.
Two other contributors that will help the transition process for Marquette include recruits SG Dwight Buycks, a junior college transfer junior from Iowa, and Brett Rosebro, a PF from Pennsylvania. Buycks’ experience may push him into the starting lineup if he is able to beat out the likes of Williams, Maymon, and potentially Jimmy Butler/David Cubillan. Buycks has an excellent outside shot and Rosebro is a project that Buzz Williams says could be the steal of this recruiting class. The Golden Eagles may also have an ace up their sleeve in power forward Dashonte Riley out of Detroit. Riley originially signed with Georgetown but then backed out of his commitment, citing that he made his decision too early. After his back out, Marquette went hard after the 6’11” forward and must have made an impact. He attended the Marquette-UConn game which had to be a great recruiting tool, and as of March 4th has narrowed his choices down to Marquette and Syracuse. The one thing that helps Marquette is that Syracuse is loaded with young talent in their front court, while the only real big men currently on Marquette’s roster are Chris Otule and Liam McMorrow. It would be a huge improvement on an already stellar class if Riley decides to come to Marquette, but either way this class is shaping up to what could be the foundation of Marquette basketball for a while.
With Tom Crean leaving and three of Marquette’s top four players leaving this year, it was vital for Buzz Williams to come in and make his mark on a program that could have gone either way. He has done an excellent job with the season so far, implementing the run n’ gun offense and letting his players’ athleticism do the rest. But more kudos is due to him based on what he did recruiting this year. I can’t help but picture Golden Eagle fans around Wisconsin, 4 years from now, talking about how much we are going to miss Maymon, Cadougan, and Williams. If the three of them are able to start next year and build the chemistry that our current seniors did, the results could be even bigger than where Marquette stands now. Toss Dashonte Riley into the equation and the possibilities become even bigger. Maymon (46), Cadougan (60) and Williams (99) are, on average, ranked higher than James (61), Matthews (85), and McNeal (99) were. In no way am I saying that at the snap of a finger we are going to see the same results. Our seniors are where they are because of dedication of staying four years, hard work, chemistry, and brotherhood. What I am saying is that the pieces are there and it has me very excited about the state of Marquette Basketball.