MILWAUKEE — After making the jump from role player to go-to scorer in his junior season, Vander Blue is headed to the NBA.
The Marquette University shooting guard made the decision to forgo his senior year official Tuesday in an announcement released by the school. Blue will hire an agent, which means there is no chance for him to change his mind and return to the Golden Eagles. Tuesday is the deadline for early entrants to withdraw their name from the draft and return to school.
“I’ve had three great years here and appreciate everything Marquette has done for me during that time to help me develop,” Blue said in a statement. “At this point I want to pursue my dream. I’ve prayed about it and discussed it with my family and think this is the right decision for me at this time.
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“I really want to thank all of the coaches and staff at Marquette for helping me become a better player and a man. I also loved and appreciate the support shown by Marquette fans across the country during my career, especially during home games at the Bradley Center.”
Ranked by Scout.com as the No. 34 recruit in the nation coming out of high school, Blue first committed to the University of Wisconsin in his hometown of Madison before switching his college choice to Marquette. He averaged just 5.1 points in 19.0 minutes per game as a freshman, and his shooting numbers — 39.4 percent from the field and 16.0 percent from beyond the arc – were unimpressive.
Blue moved into the starting lineup as a sophomore, starting 34 of 35 games, and his production increased. Playing 25.7 minutes per game, Blue averaged 8.4 points but still struggled with consistency on his shot and battled whispers he may never live up to the tremendous expectations placed on him when he arrived on campus.
Last season, with leading scorers Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder off to the professional ranks, Blue broke through. He became Marquette’s go-to player and leading scorer and was especially strong in the team’s NCAA tournament run to the Elite Eight.
The junior averaged 14.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 33.0 minutes per game, and improved his shooting to 45.4 percent from the field and 30.3 percent from 3-point range. His performance in the regular season earned him second-team All-Big East honors.
During the NCAA tournament, Blue averaged 18.3 points, including bailing Marquette out of its round of 64 game against Davidson with crazy 3-pointers and by making a game-winning layup at the buzzer. Two days later against Butler, Blue scored 19 of his 29 points in the second half to will the Golden Eagles to a third consecutive Sweet 16 berth.
With a top 10 recruiting class coming in and a good chunk of last season’s core returning, Blue’s loss is a big blow to Marquette. The Golden Eagles now must replace their leading scorer and return just Todd Mayo at the shooting guard position. Marquette will bring in highly regarded shooting guard recruit Jajuan Johnson, and now he might have to make an impact sooner rather than later.
With the departure of Junior Cadougan and Trent Lockett to graduation, the transfer of Juan Anderson and Blue’s jump to the NBA, Marquette returns just center Chris Otule from its starting lineup.
“As a program, we are all very thankful for everything Vander has done to help our team over the last three years, but more importantly I admire the growth he has made off the floor as a person,” Marquette head coach Buzz Williams said in a statement. “He has had success in each role that he has played every year he has been here, and has continued to improve. We will always be grateful for his contributions and wish him nothing but the best in his professional career.”
Blue’s draft prospects are cloudy at best. Most mock drafts didn’t consider him as an early entry candidate, and those that did place him somewhere in the second round. NBADraft.net had Blue going 14th overall in the 2014 draft, but he decided to jump a year early.
Without a great outside shooting game, Blue will have to rely on his quickness and slashing ability at the next level. At 6-foot-4, he’s a bit undersized to play shooting guard in the NBA and would have to develop his ballhandling skills to play point guard professionally.
But Blue deemed himself ready to take the next step in his career, something nobody would have saw coming a year ago at this time.