NCAA BK

Marquette rebuilding with anonymous group

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Jeff Goodman

Jeff Goodman is a senior college basketball writer for FOXSports.com. Check out his Yardbarker blog. MORE>>
 
   
 

MILWAUKEE

It's a strange, almost eerie feeling to walk into the Marquette gym sans the sight of Jerel McNeal, Dominic James and Wesley Matthews. The three guards were a fixture at the school since the day they arrived on campus back in 2005.

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They were Marquette basketball. But just as the Golden Eagles have turned the page on the Tom Crean era, the program is also moving on from its version of the Big Three. Now it's Lazar Hayward and a bunch of anonymous faces. Well, I know a few of them — such as talented combo guard Darius Johnson-Odom, who starred at Patterson School and more recently at Hutchinson Community College, and freshman point guard Junior Cadougan. But as far as the nation is concerned, this is a team of anonymity. Even Hayward is far from a household name despite finishing in the Big East's top 10 in both scoring (16.3) and rebounding (8.6) a year ago. There's no way you've heard of freshman Jeronne Maymon unless you're a recruiting junkie or a native of Wisconsin, where the 6-foot-6 forward won Mr. Basketball. Dwight Buycks was a big-time junior college guard at Indian Hills who scored more than 1,200 points in two seasons, but no one gets any pub in the JUCO ranks these days. Who the heck is Dwight Buycks? Even Cadougan, who enters with more hype than anyone else in the seven-man incoming class (he was ranked No. 50 in the nation by Scout.com), is a virtual unknown — largely due to the fact that he grew up in Canada. Hayward, who is the perfect guy to lead this team of under-the-radar guys since he's been overlooked his entire life, knows that the Golden Eagles will be picked towards the bottom of the Big East this season. "I'm not worried about it at all," Hayward said. "We never get any respect — not even last year when we won all those games. We're used to it." But the 6-foot-6 Hayward, who will likely be forced to play power forward again this season due to the lack of size in the program, established himself as a leader and one of the top players at the World University Games this past summer while averaging 9.3 points and 5.6 rebounds. There are a few holdovers from last year's group that might have gone a step or two further than the second round of the NCAA tournament had Dominic James not gone down with a broken foot early in the Big East slate. But let's face it. No one is scared of Jimmy Butler, or Joseph Fulce, or Chris O'Tule for that matter. How can you be fearful of guys that you don't even know? "To an extent, we take it personally," said the 6-foot-6 Butler, the junior wing from Texas whose role will increase as much as anyone on the team this season. "It gives us the drive to fight harder. But we're going to be fine." This Marquette team realizes it probably won't have the pure talent to match up with UConn or Syracuse or some of the other powers in the Big East, but the new guys have already begun to take on the hard-nosed, tough attitude of their head coach, Buzz Williams. "We're going to have to play harder and work harder than everyone else," said Johnson-Odom.
"The way we practice, we may as well have shoulder pads and helmets," Hayward added. In a perfect world, the trio of Buycks, Cadougan and Johnson-Odom will eventually take the place of McNeal, James and Matthews as the three-headed monster on the perimeter. The 6-foot-3 Buycks, who grew up 10 minutes from the school, has already drawn the praise of his teammates. "He's everything," Hayward said. "He's the guy," Butler added. Toss in Hayward, who has seen his vertical go from 26 when he arrived to 34½ inches, and a big man in Otule who has far more talent than last year's big man, Dwight Burke, and you can see the potential. But Williams isn't getting ahead of himself. "I wasn't consumed by where we were at last season with three senior guards and I won't be consumed if we'll be picked 12th to 14th in the league this year," he said. "We knew the change in personnel was going to happen." And four years ago, there were plenty of questions as well.
Tagged: Marquette, Butler, Syracuse, Texas

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