When Buzz Williams was announced head coach of the Marquette Golden Eagles, both parties really had no idea what they were in for over the course of the next calendar year. On one hand you had Marquette, a prestigious Big East school with national exposure, hiring a coach from within to take over a team in just his second head coaching job ever. And no, Williams was not coming from North Carolina or Kansas, but rather the University of New Orleans, where his Privateers went 14-17 and were hardly anything special.
On the other hand you had Buzz Williams walking into a job that he knew would ignite criticism on why Marquette would pick him as head coach. He also knew that because of this, it would be a monumental task to outperform expectations that others would set for him. Not that Buzz Williams has ever been one to do so, but for everyone else, the future of the program was very much in doubt as well. Losses of Scott Cristopherson and Trevor Mbakwe due to transfers as well as Tyshawn Taylor and Nick Williams de-committing left questions about this year’s recruiting class and where depth on the bench would come from. Even further ahead than that, how Williams would replace the four seniors brought up even bigger question marks about the state of Marquette basketball.
In the days of former coach Tom Crean’s recruiting, there was an uneasy imbalance of players as seen by our seniors last year as well as three juniors coming that will be seniors this year. Combine this with Crean’s inability to pick up on marquee junior college players, and you were left with nothing to help the cause and nothing that would change the imbalance that Marquette’s scholarships had to show for. Trevor Mbakwe and Lawrence Blackledge were Crean’s JU-CO pickups, and were never world beaters and were not going to contribute in the way that Marquette needed them to.
Fast forward to today and now-second year head coach Buzz Williams has completely changed how Marquette goes about their recruits. Next year’s 2009-2010 recruiting class features six players to replace the four seniors, Mbakwe, and presumably Pat Hazel if he were to transfer. The difference between William’s recruiting and Crean’s recruiting is that this year’s class will feature a variety of ages and classes. It will feature four freshmen in Junior Cadougan, Jeronne Maymon, Erik Williams and Brett Rosebro, a sophomore in Darius Johnson-Odom, and junior Dwight Buycks.
Thinking about the state that Marquette was in when Crean left, a messy situation full of both empty and soon-to-be empty scholarships, looking at what Williams has done in just under a calendar year is remarkable and leaves a whole lot of optimism for next year.
Starting with the young guns, the aforementioned first years give Marquette four freshmen on their roster next year. Maymon is expected to start and Cadougan looks to be the long term solution at the point guard position. Just looking at these freshmen alone would make for an outstanding recruiting class but gives a good solid base for the future, even if Maymon were to leave early for the Association.
Looking ahead to the sophomores for next year, Chris Otule marks the only true freshman to be recruited by Williams after the whole debacle of Crean leaving occurred. He will join Liam McMorrow, coming off his redshirt season on the bench, as well as Johnson-Odom as the sophomores on the team. Again, Williams has recruited excellent balance for the sophomores and, next year when these players are juniors, Monterarle Clark is a junior college transfer that will join them. As the numbers show, Marquette will have three sophomores on the team next year and potentially two rotational players in McMorrow and Johnson-Odom.
Going back to last year, Williams recruited junior college small forward Joe Fulce from Texas and, when Cristopherson transferred, nabbed his teammate Jimmy Butler. Butler proved to be a great role player as the sixth man off the bench while Fulce showed great potential before getting hurt early in the year. The aforementioned Buycks will join the two as juniors on the team in what could be the most productive class next year.
As for the senior class, Lazar Hayward leads the group with David Cubillan and Maurice Acker to form the last class. So all in all, you have four freshmen, three, sophomores, three juniors, and three seniors on a team that, a year ago, was scraping together leftovers from the 2008 recruiting class and preparing to lose four players, including arguably their three best. Also, he found outstanding replacements for the players that did leave. While one can say that Marquette once again could not find a big man in the class, their back-to-back 25-10 seasons should show that they can win with guard play. Williams is already flashing his recruiting powers and is doing so very wisely at that.
Some will say that junior college kids do not make that much of an impact and are more hit-or-miss than high school seniors. While this may be the case, it was pretty much Buzz’s only option given the circumstances he was put in, and he has succeeded by picking up two of the most coveted junior college players out this year. He isn’t filling in spots with mediocre players that will rotate through for two or three years, but rather rotational players that have the capability to become studs in Williams’ run n’ gun offense.