"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, July 26, 2021

The All-Time Marquette 15 Man Roster

The Big East blog a little while ago put together a Marquette Fab Five lineup.

One name immediately missing is Bo Ellis. The only man in Marquette history to be on two Final Four teams, win a National Championship and design the best uniforms in human history.

                                 Image from the Marquette 2020 Record Book

I think the author did his best considering the main point of his assignment was to come up with five most recognizable names from the program. 

While we are it, if you are talking about name recognition, how does Jimmy Butler or Doc Rivers miss out? Although to be fair, Markus Howard is way higher in the record books than Butler and Rivers and Dean Meminger won the NIT when it mattered.

Anyways, these type of lists are always good to run the in the summer as it strikes up nostalgia and debate. 

Especially, since right now a #MUBB fan has only a few things to discuss: What should be done with the final scholarship, what the starting rotation might look like, Jae Crowder's NBA Finals performance making him persona non grata in Milwaukee and the Golden Eagles Alumni Team playing in the Basketball Tournament.

It got me thinking though who would be on an all-time Marquette men’s basketball roster? If there was 13 scholarships to hand out to any player who has worn a Marquette jersey, who would get it? 

So I put together my list and I added two roster spots for “walk-on’s” (aka honorable mention). 

Full disclosure for some of the Al McGuire era fans, I was not alive during that time.  I had to go off the record books and on tales of greatness recounted from my hardcore, 77 year-old MU alumni father.

                                Image from the Marquette 2020 Record Book 

If a certain player was missed on this list in the McGuire days it was probably because that player was not discussed much when my old man would talk about the glory days. For example, I did not get a lot of Earl Tatum stories growing up as a kid but I was always told how great Ellis or Butch Lee was.

                                    Image from the Marquette 2020 Record Book

One more sidenote, I started really getting into Marquette hoops in 1989. I also covered the program from 2001-2014 for either the student media, Newsradio 620WTMJ in Milwaukee or the Associated Press. So if this list does slant to towards the more current crop of players, please know it is because I watched a lot of these players more.

The Scholarship Players

Bo Ellis: I already pointed out the postseason success as a main reason Bo should be on any all-time list. He is second all-time in rebounds and one of two players ever in program history with over 1000 boards. He finished with 1663 points (11th all-time) and made the third most field goals in program history. He is tied with Tatum with for the most career wins at Marquette with 101. He was an influential player on Marquette’s future Chicago recruiting pipeline, that Doc Rivers wore 31 to honor Ellis. He could protect the rim. All the ingredients needed for the first player to give an all-time spot.

 Photo courtesy of the Raynor Library Special Collections and Marquettewire.org

Butch Lee: The most decorated player probably to ever put on a Marquette uniform. A two-time All-American with one of those being a consensus First Team All-American in 1977-78, he is the only Marquette player to win the Naismith and Rupp award. He earned a National Championship ring when he ran the point the for the 1977 Championship team and scored a team-high 19 points in the title game. In addition, he led the ‘77 team in scoring with over 19 a game. Therefore, it is a no-brainer offering Lee an all-time roster scholarship.

                                          Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics

Dean Meminger: Al McGuire said Meminger was “quicker than an 11:15 mass at a seaside resort.” The program's first consensus First Team All-American, he was the leader of the 1970 NIT Championship team when winning the NIT meant something (Probably could have won the NCAA had Al not gotten upset with seeding and decided to play in the NIT). His senior year he averaged 21.2 point per game on a team with only one loss and finished with a career 1637 points (14th all-time). Imagine what those numbers would have be if he A) been allowed to play as a freshman B) had the three-point line (Go about 53 seconds into this video to see his range and then enjoy the rest of the MU history highlights). That is why he goes on my all-time roster.

                                     Image from the Marquette 2020 Record Book

Doc Rivers: When combing through the record book, Doc may not have had the chops as some of the players listed above and below. He was an AP All-American honorable mention, 33rd all-time in scoring with 1234 points and just one NCAA Tournament win in three seasons. He was still a special player when he stepped onto the MECCA court. He could get to the rim for highlight dunks and also hit big shots (Go about 20 seconds in). I want special players on my roster and also a highlight reel, dynamic player. That is why Doc grabs a spot.

                                               Photo from @MUOverload

Dwyane Wade: Enough has been written and spoken about his legend so I’ll keep it short. A hundred years from now they will still be talking about his Elite Eight performance against Kentucky. He was that special and that is why he will always be on a Marquette all-time anything.

                                              Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics

Jae Crowder: I know I am picking the former Big East Player of the Year and Second Team All-American over say Sam Worthen. In his two years, Crowder could do it all and that is why he makes my 13. Need rebounds? He was grabbing them. Need points? He could get them around the rim and from beyond the arc (Loved watching him hit that trailing three). He did some winning come March as he led MU to back-to-back Sweet 16’s. An all-time roster needs winners and a versatile players. Something that sums up Crowder.

                                              Photo courtesy of Marquettewire.org

Jerel McNeal: No one ever played better defense at guard than McNeal. If he wanted to steal the ball, he could go over to his man and just take the ball. (He is the program’s all-time leader in steals). Also, I never witnessed a player get better and better offensively in four years than McNeal. He came in as freshman being a slasher and by his senior he developed an all around offensive game that he left (At the time) as the program’s all-time leading scorer. Also, he was the most consistent of the Dominic James (Great freshman year), Wesley Matthews (Great senior year) and McNeal (Really good freshman and sophomore year, great his junior and senior year) trio so that is why I put on this roster. I still wonder who wins in one-on-one between those three (I asked McNeal back in the day during a postgame presser and he said they wouldn’t want none).

                        Photo from Marquette Athletics (obtained through Painttouches.com)

Jim Mcllvaine: I wanted a rim protector on my roster and no one swatted shots better than one of the best players to wear 34 (the other two being Tony Smith and Travis Diener). He holds the program’s all-time record with 399 blocks along with the single game record with 13 rejections. He also won the Iba award in 1994 as the nations best defender. The big man could also get it done on the offensive end being fifth all-time in field goal percentage and scored 1278 career points. Oh, and he was part of a group that helped bring Marquette out of its late 80's, early 90's doldrums by being a key player on the '94 Sweet 16 Team, its first appearance in the Sweet 16 since the 1977 Championship.

                                       Image from the Marquette 2020 Record Book

Jimmy Butler: I remember back in Jimmy's first year on the team a Marquette Tribune reporter kept asking Buzz Williams about Butler's performance after every game. Butler could score six points and we would get a question from this student reporter. I kept thinking to myself why does he keep asking about the sixth man with a limited role? Well, this student reporter knew how good Butler would be once James, Matthews and McNeal graduated. He combined with Lazar Hayward the next season to keep Marquette as a tournament team when it seemed like Marquette was destined for a rebuilding year. The next season along with Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom, he got Marquette back to the Sweet 16 that kicked off a three-year in a row stretch. Jimmy Buckets was truly a jack of all trades. He was an elite defender with his defense being a big reason Marquette got to the 2011 Sweet 16. Outside of Aaron Hutchins and Vander Blue, no one else could come up big in the clutch. He gives the roster defensive flexibility and clutch buckets.

                                              Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics

Maurice Lucas: Before he was known as Bill Walton's enforcer on the late 1970's Portland Trailblazers, Lucas was one of the top players on the 1974 NCAA Championship runner-up team. He scored 21 points and pulled down 13 boards in that game. His career at Marquette was also really, really, really good in his two seasons by scoring just under 1000 points and pulling down 643 boards. Had he been at Marquette two more seasons, who knows how big those numbers would have been. Some of you might say how could I put him on the all-time roster over Jim Chones? Well, I guess I didn't want to risk the wrath of some of the older alumni still bitter about Chones leaving school during the regular season (With McGuire's blessing) that may have cost a National Championship. Plus, I wanted some toughness on this roster and there was none tougher than Lucas.

                                     Image from the Marquette 2020 Record Book

Markus Howard: No one scored more points in a Marquette uniform than Howard. He is the only player in program history to score 50 points in a game and he did it three times. In addition, he owns sixth other offensive program records and is one of the top 25 NCAA all-time scoring greats. We all know what he accomplished since he only recently left Marquette. In case you were in a coma or living under a rock from 2016-2020, just take a look at some of his impressive scoring feats. He could fill up the box score quickly and that is why he makes the list.

                                           Image from the Marquette 2020 Record Book

Travis Diener: People sometimes forget there might not have been Wade's terrific Sweet 16 game against Pitt or the Elite Eight game for the ages against Kentucky if it was not for Diener. It was not just because Diener was running point most of the time. It was also because in the Round of 64, while Wade was struggling to find his shot against a pesky Holy Cross, Diener went off for 29 to avoid a potential first round upset. He then followed that game up with 26 against Mizzou in that overtime second round win. Diener played so well in his two March Madness appearances that Tom Crean would say it was a shame they could never get him back in his final two seasons in blue and gold. He was the franchise after Wade took his game to the NBA. A prime example being his 29 during his senior year carrying MU to a 63-54 win over. He scored over 1000 points alone while averaging 19.3 points per game in his final two years as he took his game to a whole new level. He could knock down threes with ease and push the tempo. It was a shame his career ended on a broken hand that cut short his senior year. Hey, he is still giving the Marquette faithful great memories in the The Basketball Tournament. Memories is just one of the many reasons Diener lands on this roster.

                                               Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics

Steve Novak: The best pure shooter in program history. Any all-time great roster is going to need shooting and a floor spacer. When he was hitting from downtown, he could literally win a game on his own like the over 30 he hung on Number Four Louisville during his sophomore year. It was the night when he went for over 40 against UConn in Marquette’s first ever Big East game where he was as Jim Calhoun put it “Simply brilliant.” I remember thinking Marquette was going to get blown out and I had to work at 620WTMJ for most of the game that I would not be missing out if I did not get to th game. As I was driving home, I just kept hearing the radio call of Novak burying three after three that somehow my car was parked in a Bradley Center parking lot and luckily I had my press pass with me that I was able to catch the last 10 minutes. Additionally, Novak may have hit the greatest game winner in program history when he hit that three to beat Notre Dame. 

                                               Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics

The Walk-On's (aka Honorable Mention)

Lazar Hayward: The man who played in the most games in program history, scored the third most points, has the fifth most rebounds and 96 wins while wearing blue and gold only makes walk-on status. I know, crazy right? I guess what knocked him down the board when looking at the 13 above is the lack of NCAA Tournament wins and I guess just one All-American honorable mention. I know, I know splitting hairs. Hey, he still makes the team. This team not only gets a great inside, out offensive player but one of the most crafty rebounders ever. He was listed at 6’6” but was more like 6’4" yet he was constantly asked to guard guys twice his size and come down with a rebound. Nine times out of ten he did as Buzz Williams would always say, he only saw one other player rebound like Hayward and that was Dennis Rodman. 

                                                     Photo from Seattletimes.com

Tony Miller: Okay this is the one that may really blow up some folks. I can see some going come on, this guy! Yes, I am very well aware that are a lot of other great players that could make this list especially from the late 80's and the 90's (Like Tony Smith, Trevor Powell, Ron Curry, Roney Eford, Robb Logterman, Anthony Pieper, Chris Crawford, Damon Key and Amal McCaskill). Yes, I am aware that I passed on say Don Kojis, the first major star player in program history or George Thompson who was McGuire's first major great player or Tatum who has his jersey retired and 101 wins as a player. I picked Miller because I actually witnessed his greatness and how underrated he was. While this all-time roster has got some guys who can handle the ball, there was no one better in a Marquette uniform at dishing out assists than Miller. That is why he takes the final spot. He is the program’s all-time leader by a country mile in assists with 956 which is top 10 all-time in NCAA history. His career 7.8 dimes a game ranks is top-20 in the NCAA record books. His 17 assists against Memphis in 1995 is still the school's individual single game record. The five seasons prior to Miller's arrival in 1991, Marquette was 65-78 with no Big Dance appearances and a few NIT showings. When Miller graduated in '95, Marquette made the Tournament twice with its program's first Sweet 16 in 18 years and nearly won the NIT (Mike Deane's first year). Oh, and Marquette went 81-42 in his four years on campus. He was a leader, an unselfish player and most importantly a winner. That is why he grabs my final roster spot.

                                          Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics

Feel free to Tweet or reply in the comments section with your own list. Also, you will notice I did not put together a starting rotation as that is something that can always be discussed at a later date (Or on Twitter or MUScoop.com when folks either say I agree, I can’t believe he left off so and so, etc.).

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