"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Monday, March 31, 2008

Remaking the Marquette roster

Building on our entry from last week about the enviable trajectory of Marquette hoops, today we'll look at recruiting -- and why the 2008 recruiting class offers an indication that Tom Crean is changing his approach to roster building.

The present roster, long on guards and short on skills at every other position, quickly established MU as an upper echelon Big East program. The formula is working but has its limitations, namely, the lack of productivity at non-backcourt positions. The unbalanced roster, while successful in putting a more than competitive team on the floor in the Big East, is not enough to break through to an elite level nationally.

The incoming class of 2008 might just change things for the better. Rather than overloading at one position or signing players with similar skills in the same class, the incoming talent 2008 -- combo guard Tyshawn Taylor, combo forward Joseph Fulce, center Chris Otule, and two-guard/swingman Nick Williams -- collectively can cover every position on the floor, and per scouting reports offer a range of complementary skills.

This group is a solid start on the journey to change the character of the roster which will allow MU to better compete for a Big East title, to get back to the Final Four, and to mitigate the annual cycle of off-season roster attrition (which, this year, could involve James and/or McNeal playing the game for a living next season).

As an aside, each of these players comes from winning programs - an underrated aspect of Crean's recruiting. Nick Williams will arrive on campus as the Alabama 6A player of the year, a two-time Final Four participant and a state champion. 6'10" Chris Otule will arrive as a guy who tripled his scoring average year to year, led his team to 24 wins and a first-ever playoff birth under the tutelage of legendary coach Ronnie Courtney. Tyshawn Taylor emerged as a go-to-guy on the nation's best high school team, the 32-0 St. Anthony's Friars. Finally, Joseph Fulce put up ridiculous numbers down at Tyler JC, leading his team to a national ranking all season long.

Building on the baseline of the balanced 2008 class, the 2009 group becomes the most critical class for Tom Crean since signing the Three Amigos. To date, Crean has not delivered strong recruiting classes in succession. One very good class is typically followed by a group that includes one productive starter and a few role players or worse (ie: Hayward, Acker, Cubillan and Blackledge following the Three Amigos), leaving the program vulnerable in the face of unexpected attrition or injury. To climb to the top of the Big East and beyond, MU needs to refill the stable with so-called studs more regularly.

A quick look at the MUScoop scholarship table reveals that the upper classmen on the 2009-2010 roster will be predominantly role players. Simply put, the 2009 freshman class is the difference between taking the program to another level, or continuing to cycle up and down as a productive class graduates, leaving behind a modestly talented roster.

At this point, Crean is off to a good start with the 2009 group. By securing a verbal from 6'7" forward Erik Williams (Cy Springs, TX), Marquette has its small forward of the future - always a position of need in the Crean era. Inking a productive big man such as 6'10" Kyle Rowley (Lake Forest Academy, IL) to go along with the highly coveted do-everything 6'7" Jamil Wilson from Racine, and a true point guard like Johnny Lacy (Milwaukee, Bay View) would complete a roster transformation that would create a higher ceiling for the program.

In addition, even though the 2008-2009 roster is already over-subscribed by one scholarship, Crean is still recruiting talent for this fall, fueling speculation that the current roster will undergo a rather substantial amount of additional attrition. Fox Sports is reporting that MU is in the top three (along with Ohio State and UVa) for former Indiana commit, point guard Terrell Holloway. Also, MU is pursuing 6'11" center Luka Mirkovic from La Lumiere School in La Porte, Ind. Mirkovic also is considering DePaul and Louisville.

We'll watch this space closely -- more roster churn appears to be on the way.


Anonymous said...

I find it incredibly hard to believe that James AND McNeal are thinking about going pro. There is no way either of them go in the first round, and my gut tells me they might not get picked at all.

This is one of the deepest drafts in years. The latest projection on nbadraft.net has D.J. Augustin going 21st. 21ST!!! The kid is the best pure point guard in the country, and he's barely in the first round! Where would James and McNeal fit in?? Both would be wise to stick around.

Zach said...

the thing that intrigues me about the 09 recruits is how they line up with our current team. Looking ahead two years our team will be very young as stated with probably our only senior starter being Lazar at the four. This bodes great for a recruitment stance because if we can have a sweet sixteen or elite eight run next year, recruits will look at MU as a great program with plenty of PT time to go around. After reading alot about why Iman Shumpert chose GT over UNC and Marquette, it seems it came down to playing time. With the three amigos all graduating next year their is a spot to fill at small forward if the starting line up is tysawn taylor nick williams lazar and chris Otule respectively 1 2 4 5. This gap at the 3 is perfect for Jamil Wilson and may be the difference in recruiting the big star Tom Crean has lacked since Dwyane Wade. Plus with a good year for MU next year and open years to come, does anyone remember the year the amigos commited, right after the Final Four run.

It all looks up from where i am standing

jce said...

So what is the take on the oversubscription for 2008-09? I really doubt either DJ or JMcN are in the NBA next year. Is the hope that someone transfers? If so, is that Hazel? Cubillan? Christoferson?