"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

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A look back, Marquette's history with Top 100 recruits...Part Three, the 2000s

We're back today with Part Three in our series, this time with a look at what most would call the "Tom Crean Era". Yes, Buzz Williams has been the coach for the final two recruiting classes of the decade, but as I will explain later on, those particular players will not factor in to this analysis.

Coach Crean was here longer than any coach since Al McGuire, and he achieved more success than any since Al, bringing Marquette to the school's first Final Four since winning it all back in 1977. There's been a lot of debate about his recruiting through the years, and whether or not he was able to recruit at the level many people thought he should. You'll have to see if the myths about his recruiting actually hold up as you read the article....and for those who missed the previous installments you can find them here and here.

As always, a few notes before we get to the actual rankings:

  • We'll get the legend out of the way early on this one, since it will factor in to a couple of the notes to follow. The services listed are the ones that come into the discussion in this decade, you can go to Part One to see all the services used in this series. Additionally, some of you may know of some other services that ranked Marquette players during this decade like Rise Magazine and CSTV. Unfortunately the accuracy for these services when it comes to the simple things(name, position, class and college choice) is so off that I just couldn't include them in the final analysis. Because of that, the list below may be missing a player or two, but I doubt it. As always, click the picture for a better view.

  • It may just be the way I look at it, but I think it is a bit unfair to evaluate players that haven't completed at least two years of their college career . This is especially true with players that may have been injured, or players that came in as back ups early in their career. The only time that isn't really the case is if a particular player is so spectacularly good(or spectacularly bad) that nothing they could do in their final two years would change the analysis(i.e. early entry to the NBA). For that reason, you will not see any analysis of players in the recruiting classes of 2007 and 2008. They are however, listed below.
  • That also means you will not see any analysis of the Class of 2009 recruits until at least 2013, but I figure I should mention them so you all can see how the class compares to others in the past. Keep in mind that the RSCI ranking listed for these players has not been updated since last fall and likely will not be updated until the final rankings are out from all services sometime in June or July. The other rankings listed for them are current.
  • You're going to see some players in this edition that you would not normally think of as Top 100 players because they came to Marquette from a Junior College. In this era with the multitude of services, there are some services that do a combined evaluation of high school and JUCO players together. Since I am factoring that ranking in for the high school players, I decided to include the JUCO players in the discussion even though you would not normally think of them as being part of a Top 100 ranking. On the other hand, I did not include any ranking that was made up solely of JUCO players, since there is no real way to translate that into a high school Top 100 equivalent.
  • Remember, transfer players count with the class they came to Marquette with, not necessarily their high school class, and they are evaluated on their entire college career not just their career at Marquette. JUCO players on the other hand are only evaluated on their Marquette careers because it's tough to gauge the level of competition they face in junior college.
  • As I mentioned in Part Two, I'm only counting players that actually enrolled or attempted to enroll in classes. Whether they actually went to class, or ever played a game for Marquette doesn't really matter. That means you may see a name that you don't normally think of as a Marquette recruit.
  • Because of the way some of the services do their rankings in this era, players that were actually evaluated as Top 100 talent may not have made the Top 100 due to the fact that they went to a Prep School. I'm speaking specifically of Damian Saunders. Scout.com had him as a 4-Star player and the #22 Power Forward in the country coming out of Notre Dame Prep but did not include him in their Top 100, since they only rank high school players. Given the rankings of the players around him on the Power Forward list, it's safe to say that Saunders would have fallen somewhere in the 80-100 range in the Top 100 had they included Prep players. But they didn't, so he doesn't make the list.
  • Lastly, and I'm sure that I'm beginning to sound like a broken record, what I'm analyzing is whether or not a player lived up to the hype of a particular ranking or the label of a "Top 100" player in general. If I think a player failed to live up to that ranking, it doesn't mean that he was a bad guy or a terrible player, just that he didn't match what you would expect from a player supposedly of that caliber. In fact, it's really more of a statement on the validity of these type of rankings, and how much weight we should be giving them.
With that out of the way, here are Marquette's Top 100 players in the 2000s, or more specifically from 2000-2006. Click for a better view.

At a glance you can tell that this is quite a few more "Top 100" recruits than in the past. In seven recruiting classes, there are a total of 20 recruits that were ranked, compared to 14 in the 1990s and 12 in the 1980s. The number is a bit inflated due to the inclusion of the JUCO rankings, but even if you take them out there are still more players in seven recruiting classes than there were in either of the previous two decades. Further, if you include the players that will not be evaluated, that number jumps even higher. We'll have to see how these players did in comparison to those that came before.

The Hits(Chronological Order)
  • Odartey Blankson - It may not have worked out the way people wanted it to at Marquette, but there's no denying ODB's talent. He started 55 of 58 games during his two years at Marquette averaging 7.3 PPG and 5.8 RPG before transferring to UNLV. In two years at UNLV, Odartey averaged 17.5 PPG and 9.8 RPG. He was named All Mountain West Conference as a senior. Sure it happened against possibly weaker competition, but given what he had shown at Marquette there's a fairly good chance he would have put up similar numbers had he stayed.
  • Scott Merritt - One of the most unnecessarily criticized players in recent memory. Maybe he didn't develop into a dominant back to the basket center like some thought he should, but he was an incredibly solid and remarkably consistent player. Merritt fought through a painful shoulder injury and surgery to become the only player in Marquette history to score over 1000 points, grab over 600 rebounds, dish out over 100 assists and block over 100 shots.
  • Dwyane Wade - I think I'm going to let this one stand on name value alone. You all know what he did, nothing I can say will capture it properly.
  • Travis Diener - Another name that just stands out in the annals of Marquette history. Likely would have been the school's all time leading scorer if he had not suffered multiple injuries his senior year. Despite that, when he left school he was 3rd all time in scoring, 2nd in assists, 1st in 3-Point Field Goals Made, and 1st in 3-Point Field Goals attempted. He also finished in the top 10 in career 3-Point Percentage, Free Throws Made and Free Throw Percentage.
  • Steve Novak - Perhaps the greatest shooter in Marquette history, definitely the greatest shooter in modern history. Averaged double figures in points his final three years including leading the team in scoring as a senior. Among the top 15 in scoring, Novak is 1st in every major 3-Point shooting category(FG Made, FG Attempted, FG %) and 1st in Free Throw Percentage. He was Marquette's 2nd Conference USA Freshman of the Year and the first player in Marquette history to be named to the All Big East First Team.
  • Robert Jackson - He played only one year at Marquette after transferring from Mississippi State, but what a year it was. Jackson averaged 15.4 PPG and 7.5 RPG, the latter of which lead the team. In his final two years at Mississippi State, Jackson averaged 11.8 PPG and 7.2 RPG, while being named 3rd Team All SEC as a sophomore.
  • Dominic James, Wesley Matthews, Jerel McNeal - They came in together, they starred together, it just didn't feel right to separate them in the analysis since so much of what they did was about how they played as a unit. The loss to Missouri still stings a bit, and it's a bit hard to believe their Marquette careers are finally over, so I'm going to forgo the analysis on them since we all remember what they did.
  • Lazar Hayward - He's already scored over 1200 points and were he to simply duplicate his 2008-09 results next year he'd rank 2nd on the All Time list. More than a scorer, Hayward has led the team in rebounding as the last two years. For his efforts, Hayward was named All Big East 2nd Team as a sophomore, and robbed of that award as a junior. Not only that, but he did all while playing out of his natural position. All the accolades that Hayward received in high school came while he played either the shooting guard or small forward position, and he's spent his entire Marquette career as either a power forward or center.
The Misses(Chronological Order)
  • Terry Sanders - Not a bad player, but when you are ranked as highly as he was, more is expected. Sanders was a bench player for three years and a starter as a senior. Offensively there were always flashes that he could do more, but whether he couldn't do it consistently or Tom Crean's offense didn't utilize him more, we never got more than flashes. He was a capable rebounder and defender down low. Career averages of 3.5 PPG, 2.8 RPG and 0.3 Blocks in four years.
  • Ron Howard - Played in 10 games scoring 16 points before transferring to Valparaiso. Named All Conference Second Team in the Mid-Con in 2005 and 2006. Averaged over 13 PPG and 4 APG his final two years. Those aren't necessarily bad numbers, and he's not a bad player as shown by his nearly making the Milwaukee Bucks roster last summer. But I don't know that production like that in a mid-major conference qualifies as living up to the hype of his ranking when you consider what he did at Marquette. Right now he's a borderline player and I'm willing to be talked out of keeping him here.
  • Marshall Williams - Like Alton Mason before him, I'm sure a lot of you are saying who in the world is Marshall Williams? His time with Marquette was incredibly brief, but it did happen and it was enough to put him on this list. For those that don't know, Williams was the best high school player in Wisconsin coming from powerhouse Milwaukee Vincent. He chose NC State out of high school where he posted 5.5 PPG and 2.5 RPG as a freshman. Injury and homesickness led him to transfer to Marquette following his freshman year. He enrolled in and even briefly attended summer school, probably attending more classes than Alton Mason, but that's where his Marquette career ends. The official story was that he didn't want to sit out a year and not play so he chose to attend Vincennes Junior College where he would eligible right away. After a year at Vincennes, he was supposed to return to Marquette, but his scholarship was given away with almost no mention. Instead of coming to Marquette, he briefly attended UW-Green Bay but left before playing a game. He finished his career at NAIA Georgetown College in Kentucky where he was an All Conference player.
  • Karon Bradley - Played in 48 games at Marquette where he had a high of 10 career points. After his sophomore season he transferred to Wichita State and averaged 8 PPG and 1.6 APG. He'd come to Marquette with a reputation as an undersized shooting guard who could score points in bunches but never really showed that in college. If it had only happened at Marquette, we could probably write it off due to the fact that he played out of position and was a back up, but given that it continued at WSU, perhaps the hype was too much.
  • Dameon Mason - This is really the case of two very different careers in four years, and the latter half was so abysmal that I think he has to be classified as a miss. Mason was a part time starter as a freshman and full time starter as a sophomore at Marquette. His sophomore year he averaged 11.9 PPG and 5.6 RPG and appeared to be on the upswing. That sort of production throughout 4 years would have guaranteed being a hit, but it didn't turn out that way. For reasons that remain unclear, he transferred to LSU after his sophomore year. He was a part time starter as a junior when he averaged 5.4 PPG and 3 RPG. As a senior, he missed time due to injury (migraines, enlarged heart) and played in only 7 games before being declared academically ineligible.
  • Brandon Bell - Perhaps Bell's fall started before he ever got to campus. When he committed, in addition to the ranking from Gibbons, Bell was also in the Top 100 at TheInsiders(now Scout.com) and Rivals.com. But by the time his senior season was over he'd dropped considerably. He played in 21 games at MU posting averages of 1.7 PPG and 0.4 APG before taking a medical leave of absence and then transferring prior to his sophomore season. He ended up at Detroit-Mercy where he averaged 6.3 PPG and 2.9 APG as a reserve before his season ended due to injury. That turned out to be the end of his career, as Bell decided not to play his senior season in order to concentrate on getting his degree.
  • Marcus Jackson - I'd love to have him as a hit for all the effort he showed and the always fun Point Center experiment, but I just don't think he did enough to be considered one of the Top 40 players in that class. His first year was injury plagued, and he was never able to get on track. As a senior he averaged 3.3 PPG and 8.2 RPG.
  • Ousmane Barro - Look I love Ousmane Barro for the heart and determination he showed on the court, and he's probably one of the all time great people connected with the University. But career averages of 5.2 PPG and 4.5 RPG, and regression from his junior to senior year just don't cut it for someone who is supposed to be one of the 40 best players in his class. Admittedly, it wasn't his fault, the ranking was just way too high for a kid that just moved to this country and hadn't played high school basketball due to eligibility issues. But we're not here to debate the fairness of the rankings, we're looking at accuracy.
  • Mike Kinsella - There may never have been a more snake bitten player in Marquette history. As a freshman at Rice University, he had a stress fracture in his foot and was a medical redshirt. He transferred to Minneapolis Tech Junior College so that he could play while rehabbing his injury and was a first team JUCO All American. It would turn out to be the only healthy season he had in college. In all three years at Marquette, Kinsella missed time do stress fractures in his feet. There were flashes of talent, like the Pittsburgh game his senior year, but injuries and playing style never allowed him to put it together.
  • Jamil Lott - Another JUCO All American, Lott was supposed to provide inside toughness to young team his first two years. Instead, he was a part time starter(using the term loosely) that averaged under 3 PPG and 2 RPG for his career. Much of his reputation when he came to Marquette was built on the fact that he played in the fairly weak Mon-Dak conference while in Junior College.
So there you have it. While there were definitely more ranked players this time around, the results weren't necessarily any better. Only 10 of 20 "Top 100" recruits managed to live up to the hype that preceded them, for a success rate of 50%. That brings the cumulative rate down just a bit to 68.5%. If I change my mind and include Ron Howard as a hit, that brings the rates up to 55% for this period and 71.4% for the three decades....but I'm not promising I'll do that yet.

Keep in mind though, that we're really only looking at 7 years worth of data right now. If Trevor Mbakwe turns into a stud at Minnesota, if Jimmy Butler develops like we think he will, if the incoming freshman live up to their potential, this could all change greatly.

Stay tuned for Part Four coming in a few days, where we break down the numbers a bit more, and include a player or two that might have been missed the first go round.


warriordan said...

Given the final year that Marcus Jackson had and the impact it had on the team... a conference USA team and a final four makes me personally feel he should be a hit. The guy was almost as integral as Wade in leading to such a big run for MU. I think he should be a definite hit. I hear what you are saying in top 40, but he is the best big man at MU in the last decade, more important than Merrit who I agree was unfairly scrutinized.

bma725 said...

You're confusing Marcus Jackson with Robert Jackson. Robert was on the team with Wade and he was a hit. Marcus was there the next two years when the team went to two straight NIT tournaments and didn't win 20 games either year.

Championships Matter said...

Robert Jackson was a stud. Without him -- no Final Four. If anything, he is one of the most underrated Marquette players in a long, long time.

I know he was only with Marquette for a year, but the impact he had in that year was so astronomical that it could hardly be measured. Jackson and Wade showed what Traitor Tommy Crean might have accomplished had he been able to recruit a viable center in the Three Amigo era.

Oh, what might have been for, as we all know, Championships Matter. That's why our team trains in the Al McGuire Center and plays on the Al McGuire Court!

JohnPudner said...

agreed on Robert. Oh, to have him more than 1 year, but what a year. The only year in the decade we had a stud underneath and what happened? Final Four. Oh, and i think that center for Kentucky that said before the game he didn't remember Robert from the SEC ended up remembering him.