"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, May 11, 2009

A look back, Marquette's history with top 100 recruits...Part One, The 1980s

Last month, apropos of nothing and with no real intent behind it, I made a series of posts over on MUScoop, discussing the success or lack of success of "Top 100" recruits at a few different schools across the country. As the thread wore on, it morphed into a discussion of Marquette's success with "Top 100" recruits since Tom Crean was hired back in 1999.

After much prodding, I agreed to take it one step further, and do a retrospective of "Top 100" recruits at Marquette not just in recent years as we had done in the thread, but as far back as the available information would allow. It took much longer than expected to find all the information I wanted, but I've finally been able to compile it all.

There's a lot of information here, so rather than deluge everyone all at once, I've decided to split this into a series of posts. In this first installment, we'll be looking at the Top 100 recruits of the 1980s, and each future installment will also be done by decade, with a final wrap up to follow.

What I'm looking at in this series at it's most basic level is whether or not a player lived up to the hype of being a "Top 100" recruit. When you hear the term "Top 100 Recruit" there's a certain amount of expectations that come with that label. Much of it is statistics driven. You expect a certain amount of production right away when you see that a player is highly ranked. When an unheralded recruit averages 7 PPG as a freshman you feel like you got a sleeper. When McDonald's All American does it, you think he's a bust.

Having said that, other things factor into the evaluation. Sadly, many of Marquette's top 100 recruits haven't been able to qualify academically or stay eligible once they got in school. While that has nothing to do with their actual basketball ability, it prevents them from living up the expectations that were set coming out of high school, and it negatively impacts their evaluation. Additionally, things like attitude and leadership are factored in as well. They will not be the sole reason a player is evaluated a certain way, but a borderline player may be pushed into one category or another based upon things like team leadership and attitude.

Before we get to the actual rankings, a couple of important notes:

  • As you would expect, finding information on rankings from the pre-internet era is extremely tough. For this reason, the rankings shown in these posts go back only as far as 1980 which means we're leaving out a lot of former MU greats.
  • I've been able to find quite a bit of information on rankings from the 1980s and 1990s, but obviously there are limitations on what I can get. I'm sure there will be some people that were missed or some rankings that were missed for a particular player. If anyone can provide more information(with actual proof, not just how you remember it) I'd be happy to update the lists.
  • What you will see here is really bits and pieces of rankings done by different services throughout the years. Many of the recruiting services that we look at as the main sources of information today weren't around a decade ago, and vice versa. Trying to compare the rankings done by one service in 1984 to the rankings done by another in 2004 is nearly impossible.
  • All of the numbers are the final rankings for a player after their senior year, or the final ranking put out by the service during their senior year. That means players like Scott Christopherson, Krunti Hester, Tony Miller etc all of whom were "Top 100" Players at one time in their high school career are not included on this list.
  • One thing you will notice is that for some players the ranking will say something like 12th Team rather than giving a specific number. In the old days, several of the services did their rankings like the AP does their All American teams, with first team, second team etc. If you want to find out what ranking that corresponds to, simply multiply the team by 5. For example the 20th team means a player was ranked between 96-100 in that particular class.
  • We're looking at whether or not a player lived up to their hype, not just whether or not they lived up to the hype at Marquette. That means that transfer players(in or out) are evaluated on their whole career, not just their Marquette career. Because of that, you will find some players falling in areas that you may not agree with because of how they performed at another institution. Additionally, professional success does play a small part in the evaluation. NOTE: For players that were ranked as top 100 players coming out of high school that attended other schools before transferring to MU, the player is listed with the class that they effectively joined at MU, not their original class. The year they were ranked and the school they initially attended is listed next to the ranking.
  • Lastly, I've created a legend so that you may more easily understand my abbreviations that are going to follow. There's a lot of different services involved here, and typing them all out each time gets to be a bit tedious. You'll want to consult this when you look at the actual rankings(click the image for a more readable version).

Without any further ado, here's the rankings for the 1980s, followed by the analysis...again click the picture for a better view.

Looking at that list, you might be surprised to see that many top 100 players given the results that MU had in the 1980s. The team made the NCAA tournament only three times, and the decade ended with the disastrous Bob Dukiet era. But when you look how that supposed high school talent worked out, maybe the results become a little more understandable.

The Hits(in chronological order)
  • Doc Rivers - I'm not sure that any player in the 1980s lived up to their billing more than Doc. A first team Street and Smith's All American, and the first McDonald's All American in Marquette history, Doc was a stud the second he stepped on campus. He held the freshman scoring record for nearly 25 years, and he still holds the record for freshman field goal percentage. He was a Chuck Taylor All American in 1982, and an AP All American in 1983. After three seasons at MU he declared for the NBA draft and played more than a decade in the NBA.
  • Dwayne Johnson - The original DJ, his is a tail of both success and regret. On the court, he was great. He averaged 12.3 PPG as a sophomore, and was the team's leading scorer and rebounder as a junior. Unfortunately, he was not as good in the classroom. Prior to his senior season DJ was declared academically ineligible and suspended for his senior year. He transferred to UW-Whitewater, where he was a 2nd team All American, and the WIAC player of the year in his only season.
  • Mandy Johnson - He didn't do much scoring until his senior year, but with the talent around him, it wasn't necessary. Mandy was an efficient offensive player, who led the team in field goal percentage as a sophomore, but more importantly he was the floor general allowing the guys around him to get their points while he ran the offense. Really though, he made his mark as one of the best defensive guards in MU history. He finished his career second in MU history in steals, and held that position until this season when he was surpassed by Jerel McNeal. He still holds the MU record for steals as a senior, and is in the top 10 for the sophomore and junior records.
  • Kerry Trotter - MU's second McDonald's All American, Trotter may not have totally lived up to that billing, but he still turned out to be a very good player, worthy of a top 100 ranking. He scored in double figures his final three years at MU, including a high of 13.6PPG as a senior, and was the team's leading scorer and rebounder as a junior. He played professionally in Europe and was twice the MVP of the Belgian league.
  • Mark Anglavar - One of the great shooters in MU history. When his career ended in 1991, he was the leader in 3-Point Field Goals Made, 3-Point Field Goal Percentage, and he was the leader in every single season 3-Point statistic. He's since been surpassed by other players, but make no mistake there were few that could shoot the ball like him in MU history. Not only that, but he's still in the top 10 for Freshman assists despite not actually being a point guard.
The Misses(again chronological order)
  • Lloyd Moore - There may not have been a bigger miss in MU history. Coming out of high school, nearly everyone thought Moore would be great. In addition to the Street and Smith ranking, he was an Adidas and Parade All American as a senior and many predicted that Moore would be the next great MU big man. Instead, he was the biggest bust in MU history, both literally and figuratively. He tore a ligament in his knee prior to his freshman campaign which resulted in an extended absence. When he returned he was so out of shape that he managed to only play in 15 games, where he averaged less than 2 PPG and 2 RPG. He transferred prior to his sophomore year, and was a decent player at Rutgers for two years before he was dismissed from the team for failure to keep his weight under control.
  • Tony Reeder - Never lived up to the billing of a top 65 player while at MU. His only significant accomplishment is being among the All Time Top 10 in blocked shots as freshman, with a whopping 15 blocks. Unfortunately it didn't get better after that. He averaged under 8 PPG as a junior, and was averaging under 7 PPG as a senior when he was declared academically ineligible, ending his disappointing career.
  • Tom Copa - Probably the toughest call of this decade, I'm sure some will argue this point with me, but hear me out. Yes Copa scored almost 1000 points and grabbed over 500 rebounds, but when you are ranked among the top 65 players in a high school class, more is expected. He never averaged more than 8.5 PPG, and his scoring declined every year from his sophomore to senior year. Further, his rebounding went down from 5.5 RPG to 4.6 RPG as well. At best, he was serviceable in college, posting career averages of 8.2 PPG and 4.7 RPG, but serviceable isn't what you're looking for when you get a top 65 player. To his credit, Copa blossomed after college, parlaying his success in Europe into a back up role with the San Antonio Spurs during the 1991-92 season. I'm open to arguments on changing him to a "hit", but it's going to take a lot of convincing.
  • Walter Downing - MU just missed out on Downing the first time around, losing a close recruiting battle to Ray Meyer and DePaul. A McDonald's All American in high school, Downing never approached that sort of success at DePaul or at MU. He averaged 7.5 PPG and 3.5 RPG as a part time player at MU.
  • Gerald Posey - A Prop 48 casualty as a freshman, Posey was supposed to contribute right away once he became eligible as a sophomore. Instead, he had disagreements with Bob Dukiet which led to a famed incident where he stormed off the court during warm ups prior to the St. Thomas game in December 1988. By January, he was gone, transferring to Division III Trenton State College in New Jersey.
  • Corey Floyd - Perhaps the final nail in Bob Dukiet's coffin, Floyd was expected to team with Posey as the back court of the future starting in 1988. Like Posey, he was from New Jersey and had been a great high school player. Unfortunately, the similarities did not end there. He too had academic issues, but instead of being a Prop 48 player, he was not admitted to Marquette and had to spend two years at Hutchinson Community College in Kansas to meet NCAA eligibility requirements. He then spent two years as a back up at Providence, where his only on the court contribution of note was participation in a brawl against Rhode Island that led to a suspension.
So there you have it. As you can see, the top 100 rankings weren't exactly a great predictor of success when it came to Marquette recruits in the 1980s. Out of 12 recruits, only 5 really panned out, for a success rating of 41.6%. You'll have to stay tuned for the future posts to see if this rating improves as the years go by. I'm saving my conclusions until the final part of this series, we'll have to wait and see if my theory holds up in the future years.

Obviously, this is just my way of doing it, there is no real quantitative analysis for this kind of subject. It's tough to define living up to the hype, but as Potter Stewart said, "I know it when I see it". Feel free to disagree...


JohnPudner said...

Greg piece. I see we never had 3 top 100 recruits in one year during the 1980s.

Just looking at the ESPN Top 100, we have three Top 100 recruits this year and if we landed Painter, we would be one of only five teams with four recruits (Ga Tech, Oklahoma, Villanova and five going to UNC).

If we don’t land Painter, then we are still one of only 16 teams with at least three Top 100 recruits; the four above plus, Arizona, Baylor, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Miami, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M, UCLA and West Virginia. Not bad.

I'll be curious to see in your next two columns how many other years have we had three top 100 recruits between 1990 and now. (Obviously not being able to go through the McGuire years cuts some out).

Championships Matter said...

Great idea but writing about Top 100 recruits at Marquette while not including the 1960s and 1970s is, well, like writing about the Dodgers and omitting the team's history from 1946 to 1957.

Top 100 recruits of the 1970s should be easy and ranked this way:

1) Hits -- Bo Ellis, Maurice Lucas, Butch Lee, Jim Chones, Jerome Whitehead, Bob Lackey, Allie McGuire (I think), Lloyd Walton, Oliver Lee.

2) Misses -- Bernard Toone, Larry McNeill, Marcus Washington.

Almost all these fellows are studs and with the possible exception of Dwayne Wade, we haven't seen a group of players like this since. I think you at least have to try and a good place to start would have been the Streets and Smith yearbooks for each of the 1970s.

As a final thought, the reason the 1980s were so terrible was coaches. We began the decade with Hank Raymonds and ended it with Bob Dukiet. In a lesson Quentin Quade and the guys at O'Hara Hall forgot for a looong time, you get what you pay for. We paid for Hank and Bob and look what we got!

bma725 said...

I tried to find the rankings from the 1970s and couldn't. Nobody has the old Athlon or Street and Smith rankings anywhere. Even libraries that list the magazines in their catalog, don't actually have them when you show up to check them out.

FWIW-Lackey, Whitehead, Walton, and Allie were not top 100.

Championships Matter said...

OK, I'll accept your verdict on Allie, Lackey and Lloyd. On further reflection, Bob and Lloyd were Juco transfers (as well as Jerome Whitehead) but I find it hard to believe that Allie was not a Top 100. Most of the "fan" maagzines dealing with college basketball are "pr" focused and with Allie being a son of a major D-1 coach, I'd find it hard pressed to believe he was not a "Top 100"

If Allie was a Top 100, given what happened in his years at Marquette, he might be a flop. I'm open to suggestions on the matter.

Nonetheless, Lucas was a grandslam, as was Lee, Chones and Walton. Lackey was a home run.

I'm all ears on this one!

Remember, championships matter

bma725 said...

You're forgetting the most important fact about rankings in the 1970s...for the most part they didn't do a top 100. Most did a top 25 or top 50. Even Street and Smith didn't expand full time to a top 100 until the 1990s.

Allie didn't make the list for Street and Smith or Parade. He got an honorable mention All American nomination from Sunkist, but that is such a minor award that it doesn't even come close to qualifying as top 100 status.

Championships Matter said...

One final comment from me. In reviewing your data about the 1980s, it was apparent just how bad that period in Marquette basketball really was.

It confounds me as to why the university allowed the situation to get as bad as it did. First we hired a coach that was way too old and passed over for the job in 1964; then we hired a coach that was too inexperienced, thinking we could replicate AL; and, finally, we hired a good coach that was too young and not able to rebuild a bad situation.

Sounds to me in retrospect that two things happened. First, the university went cheap and didn't spend the money to hire top-notched talent. That's why a lot of fellow posters on these boards probably were upset when Steve Cottingham hired Buzz. In short, we remember.

Secondly, my guess is there was a battle within the university over trival issues as to what having a highly paid basketball coach and a high visibility basketball team really meant. Arrogant professors thought an institution of higher learning should not be known for its basketball team, is my guess. If you look at the time, I'll betcha the student body by 1988 or 1989 was a whole lot less diverse than it was in the 1970s -- because Marquette fell off the radar screen.

The said thing was the malaise that typified the basketball program in the 1980s could have been avoided. It was really clear there was a huge problem as early as March 1978. The evidence appeared on a court in Indianapolis when a heavily favored Marquette team, ranked second in the country, lost to unhearlded Miami of Ohio.

Upsets occasionally happen, but not like that. It was the 1978 equivalent of a 16 seed beating a 1 seed. It was coaching and Hank Raymonds' inability to maintain the composure of his team that led to that loss. It also sent a horrible message about Marquette to the world (aka, Al was gone), just when the Big East emerged.

At the time, we could have had anybody, except, maybe, Dean Smith, Bobby Knight and John Wooden. We were coming off a national championship and the cupboard was still plenty full with what was coming in. We cheaped out (see above), ended up with Hank and the 1980s started!