"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

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Recruiting disappointments mount but fear not

With the national signing period approaching, Marquette's remaining tier one targets made their decisions this week, each choosing programs other than MU.

Earlier this week Rodney Hood cast his lot with Mississippi State after considering MU, Alabama, Florida State and Louisville. Today 6'8" Mike Shaw pledged to Illinois, while 6'5" shooting guard Nick Faust opted for his home state Maryland Terrapins.

Coach Buzz Williams earned the basketball equivalent of the Golden Sombrero, going 0-4 on top 50-ish recruits for the 2011 class. D'Angelo Harrison, Mike Shaw, Nick Faust and Rodney Hood all looked closely at MU and ultimately passed. Predictably, there's a bit of angst in the fan base over MU's inability to breakthrough with the country's more elite talent this time around. We think that angst is unwarranted.

A deep roster dramatically alters the dynamics of recruiting, which explains why Buzz was so committed to pursuing high-end talent like never before. Fact is, the existing roster is talented and it will take high-grade talent to break into the rotation. MU went big game fishing and came up empty, but we applaud the process. Nevertheless, MU should recognize itself -- at least for now -- as a landing spot for quality players who will see significant minutes immediately - if not in their freshman year, at least by their sophomore year.

Consider 2011-2012. While Jimmy Butler, Joseph Fulce and Dwight Buycks are all seniors who expect to log big minutes this season, the current roster already has their replacements lined up. Erik Williams, Jamail Jones, Reggie Smith, Vander Blue and Jamil Wilson all figure to earn big minutes next season regardless of which players sign with MU next month or in the spring.

For the Chicken Little crowd (or even those who are mildly frustrated by being so close and yet so far away), realize that Junior Cadougan and Jamil Wilson were consensus top 50 recruits while Erik Williams was top 75 for the class of 2009. Vander Blue was a top 50 recruit last year while Jamail Jones was in the top 75. Attracting nationally ranked talent to Milwaukee is less of a concern now than it's been in decades at Marquette.

Also, these rankings don't account for Marquette's best players, Darius Johnson-Odom and Butler, as well as the productive Fulce or much-anticipated Jae Crowder, each of whom arrived at MU out of junior college and did not factor into many recruit rankings.

Buzz Williams' track record indicates that talent will find its way to MU next fall, ranked or not. MU's lone verbal commit, 6'6" Californian Juan Anderson, is the top wing player out West for the 2011 class according to Scout.com. Anderson looks to be a good fit for MU, possibly replacing some of the minutes to be vacated by Fulce and Butler, as well as being complimentary to the Blue, Jones and Wilson signings.

Despite the talent on the roster, additional needs exist. Marquette is mired in a decade-long, fruitless pursuit of a skilled power forward, which remains a gap on the roster and an embarrassment for the program. However, it is debatable that Shaw is or will become a true power forward. The 2011 class is light on players who fit the description of a classic power forward and MU has adapted its style of play and roster composition to mitigate this need somewhat. The program also needs another skilled marksman.

Regardless of the decisions made by recruits this week the overall talent on the current roster is as great as it has been since the 2003 Final Four squad. In the past three years Marquette has strung together strong recruiting classes, which have reshaped the program. As Buzz told an audience of alumni earlier this month in New York City, the roster is beginning to look more like a Big East roster. Look for that roster transformation to continue in the next 12 months.

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