"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

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Matthews on pace for top 5 all-time MU NBA players; McNeal best pro player not in NBA

While Brandon Roy was the star, the Trail Blazers unbelievable rally from a 23-point deficit to defeat the Mavs and even the series 2-2 today capped an incredible week in the pros for Marquette grads.

Thursday an award was presented “to the Trail Blazers player who best represents the true spirit of (Marquette great) Maurice Lucas through contributions on the court and in the community, as well as in support of teammates and the organization.” That night Dwyane Wade and Wesley Matthews lit it up with 32 and 25 points respectively. Two days earlier Jerel McNeal scored 35 points and had 8 assists to lead the Rio Grande Valley Vipers into the championships of the NBAs minor league.

While I don’t focus much on the pros until MUs season is over, it was a great week to remember these MU all-time greats as well as Steve Novak (Spurs) and Doc Rivers (Celtics coach) also still alive in the playoffs, and Jimmy Butler as works out to try to join Lazar Hayward as a surprise NBA 1st round pick (currently DraftExpress picks him to be the 7th pick in the 2nd round).

In this light, I did reflect on a good post on MUScoop by MerrittsMustache that included the following: “It would be nice to see guys like Diener, Novak, Lazar and the Big 3 be recognized for what they accomplished at MU … (but) they're obviously not on the same level as Wade, Ellis, Lee, Thompson, etc.”

First off, I agree with the statement. In fact, when I rated the greatest MU players of all time in “The Ultimate Hoops Guide: Marquette University,” several years ago, that is the exact order I had the four greatest of all-time, with the late, great Lucas just a couple of spots behind them. However, I do believe a balance has to be struck between the nostalgic who believe today’s players aren’t anywhere near the great 70s players, and the modernists who discount the greats from decades past because athletes get better and better every generation through better training techniques.

AP writers rating indicates McNeal was one of best 5 MU players ever

I do believe that Jerel McNeal did reach the level of play of our all-time greatest players his senior year. While I'm a stat nerd, I always thought the one subjective constant since 1948 has been the AP All-American team.


Only five times in history have the AP writers from across the country agreed that a Marquette player was one of the best 10 players in the country that year:

Dean Meminger, 1971
Jim Chones, 1972
Butch Lee, 1978
Dwyane Wade, 2003
Jerel McNeal, 2009

Despite all the accomplishments of Bo Ellis, Earl Tatum, George Thompson, and all the other greats, even during their best year they were never judged as one of the best 10 players in the country, so I do believe McNeal has to be viewed as on the level of these all time greats if judging just how good a player got while on the court at MU.

Certainly, the fact that Jerel never made a Sweet 16 or was drafted by the NBA may hold him back. Maybe, if Jerel had “choked” in big games to prevent MU from advancing that could be held against him. However, the fact is that MU was eliminated due to a lack of depth and height. The last two times MU was eliminated (by Stanford and Missouri), Jerel played two of the greatest games of any Marquette player ever – scoring 30 points both time.

McNeal's credentials as best NBA minor league player

Certainly I was as disappointed as anyone that Jerel didn’t get drafted, and then had troubles in Europe. But he is right on the verge of the NBA. Right now I believe there is a strong case that Jerel McNeal is the best pro player NOT in the NBA as he is dominating the top NBA minor league. Jerel:

1. Was one of the top 5 scorers in the NBA-D League in leading his team to a 28-12 record and first place, until he was,
2. Called up to the New Orleans Hornets for 10 days due to Chris Paul’s injury during which time the Vipers only went 5-5, and
3. After Paul’s return, came back to the Vipers to lead them in scoring in all five playoff games including clinching the semifinals win by leading the team with 35 points and 8 assists to send them into Sunday’s championship (apparently he is as good in the clutch in the D-League as he was verses Stanford and Missouri).

Wesley Matthews on pace to be top 5 MU NBA scorer

In addition to the under-appreciation I believe some have for Jerel’s status as one of only five MU players to be picked as one of the Top 10 players in the country his senior year by the AP, I also don’t believe all fans realize that Wesley Matthews is on place to become one of the top 5 players in MU history if judged by how good they proved to be in the NBA. In just two seasons, Matthews has amassed 2,069 regular season points, the 12th best of any MU player in history. If Matthews can keep up his pace of 1,300 points this year for just 5 more seasons, he would become one of the top 5 NBA scorers in Marquette history:

Most NBA points - MU alums
1 Dwyane Wade 13908
2 Maurice Lucas 12312
3 Don Kojis 9931
4 Glen (Doc) Rivers 9418
5 George Thompson 8128
6 Jim Chones 7663
7 Jerome Whitehead 4531
8 Dean Meminger 2538
9 Larry McNeil 2525
10 Earl Tatum 2515
11 Tony Smith 2514
12 Wesley Matthews 2069
13 Chris Crawford 1663
14 Lloyd Walton 1432
15 Jim McIlvaine 1083

The book isn’t closed on either of them, or Butler or Hayward. As of today, I have them ranked as the 11th best and 17th best of all-time with Hayward at 20th, but I do give credit for NBA performances. We may look back on Matthews and McNeal as two of the very greatest of all-time if they keep playing at their current level.

Updated rankings after 2011 seasons

Rank First name Last Years Played
1 Dwyane Wade 2002, 03
2 Maurice (Bo) Ellis 1974, 75, 76, 77
3 Alfred (Butch) Lee 1975, 76, 77, 78
4 George Thompson 1967, 68, 69
5 Dean Meminger 1969, 70, 71
6 Jim Chones 1971, 72
7 Maurice Lucas 1973, 74
8 Don Kojis 1959, 60, 61
9 Earl Tatum 1973, 74, 75, 76
10 Terry Rand 1954, 55, 56
11 Jerel McNeal 2006, 07, 08, 09
12 Dave Quabius 1937, 38, 39
13 Jerome Whitehead 1976, 77, 78
14 Tony Smith 1987, 88, 89, 90
15 Larry McNeil 1972, 73
16 Travis Diener 2002, 03, 04, 05
17 Wesley Matthews 2006, 07, 08, 09
18 Jim McIlvaine 1991, 92, 93, 94
19 Lloyd Walton 1974, 75, 76
20 Lazar Hayward 2007, 08, 09, 10
21 Glen (Doc) Rivers 1981, 82, 83
22 Bernard Toone 1976, 77, 78, 79
23 Dominic James 2006, 07, 08, 09
24 Ed Mullen 1933, 34, 35
25 Gary Brell 1970, 71

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My top five:

George Thompson
Jim Chones
Maurice Lucas
Butch Lee
Dwayne Wade

Honorable mention: Dean Meminger, Bo Ellis, Jerome Whitehead, Bob Lackey, Allie McGuire, Don Kojis, Allie McGuire