What Chance Do Marquette’s “Big Three” Have at Making the Pros?
After the 2009 NBA Draft had been completed, 60 players from across the world had NBA teams to call homes after hearing their name called. None of those 60 were Marquette Golden Eagles.
Jerel McNeal, Wesley Matthews, and Dominic James all had their names planted in the Marquette basketball history book as McNeal led all players in scoring and games played, James finished second all time in assists, and Matthews had made more free throws than anyone else.
However, measurements were not on the “Big Three’s” list of attributes, and subsequently none of them were drafted. McNeal was dubbed as more of a point guard because of his size (6’2″) and inability to consistently knock down outside shots, Matthews had played more of a small forward position in college and needed to shoot better to become a shooting guard, and point guard Dominic James’ foot injury slowed him down considerably in pre-draft workouts.
As much of a shock as it was to see the Big Three be shut out on draft day, all three have been presented the opportunity to make an NBA roster this fall.
Matthews played for the Kings in the Summer League but was picked up by the Jazz and was invited to their veteran’s camp. Prior to the draft, Matthews saw his stock rise a fair amount with good workouts and a solid showing at the Portsmouth Invitational.
The 6’4″ guard has the best chance of the Big Three to make a squad this fall. The Jazz have major question marks at the shooting guard and small forward position, and Matthews might be able to sneak on the roster.
Kyle Korver, Andrei Kirilenko, Ronnie Brewer, and C.J. Miles are the only listed twos and threes as the Jazz have three point guards (Deron Williams, Ronnie Price, rookie Eric Maynor) and three centers (Mehmet Okur, Kosta Koufos and Kyrylo Fesenko) on their current roster.
One roster move that could substantially help Matthews’ chance is whether or not veteran Matt Harpring decides to come back and play a 12th season for the Jazz as constant ankle and knee problems have slowed him down. Indications right now are that Harpring will not play which opens up another forward spot for Matthews.
Matthews claims the Jazz have liked him from the start, and if a spot is open they might just take a chance with him and put him on the roster.
As much room as there is for Matthews on the Jazz roster, Jerel McNeal finds himself bunched together with a group of young guards in Los Angeles with the Clippers. He has been asked to attend camp as well and finds himself in a position to make the team, but will have his work cut out for him.
The Clippers have stocked up on point guards in the last couple of years, adding veteran Baron Davis and Sebastian Telfair to join Mardy Collins. At shooting guard, the Clippers have one of the game’s better young shooters in Eric Gordon to go along with recently traded-for Rasual Butler, and Ricky Davis who is listed at small forward, but plays a fair amount of shooting guard.
If McNeal is able to establish himself as a shooter that can also handle the point, he may garner a look. Odds are that McNeal will make his way overseas for the next couple of years before trying to make his case in the Association.
Reports say that Dominic James’ foot injury is nearing 100 percent and that should help him as he makes his case to join the Milwaukee Bucks this season. James looked to be in good position entering the Summer League with the Bucks, but he sprained his knee the day before the team was to leave for Las Vegas.
Now, he will go up against Brandon Jennings, veteran Luke Ridnour, and recently acquired Roko Ukic to try to make the roster. Fellow point guard Salim Stoudamire was cut from the team after an average showing in the Summer League, so James has already one upped his chances.
The Bucks lack depth in the front court and are looking to add size at all costs, so they will probably not keep four point guards on the roster, but if outplays Ukic in preseason he may get a look.