What up, Hoffman Estates?

16 06 2008

Guess where I’ll be next Thanksgiving?

Hint: NOT in California visiting my parents.

65 bones gets you in the building. Eight games in 2 days. Marquette, Auburn, Dayton and the powerhouse Chicago State are among the 8 squads.

This will be a good chance for me to rock the MU snowcap that Macaulay Culkin and I share.





Unsung Player Day: Steve Novak

4 04 2008

When Tracy McGrady says that you’re “the best shooter [he's] ever seen,” shouldn’t you be getting at least a little bit of press? Although he owns one of the sweetest strokes in the league, you won’t hear Steve Novak being bombarded with interview requests.

As soon as Don over at With Malice… told me that he was declaring April 5th as an Unsung Player Day, the 6’10″ forward out of Marquette came to mind. I mean Bruce Pearl gropes Erin Andrews and he continues to get press. Where’s the love for a nice guy like Stevie Novak?

Novak had an incredible start to his collegiate career. He helped Dwyane Wade and Travis Diener bring Marquette to its first Final Four since Al McGuire. Along the way, Novak earned Conference USA All-Freshman Team and became the Conference’s Sixth Man of the Year. After that fast start, Novak essentially underwhelmed during his sophomore and junior seasons.

But come his senior year, he literally played his way into the NBA. Novak kick-started Marquette’s first season in the Big East, guiding the program to the best performance out of all the former C-USA teams. He averaged 17.5 points, 5.9 rebounds while shooting 46.7% from 3-point range and 47.7% overall. It was good enough to be an unanimous All-Big East First-Team selection. He shared unanimous selection honors with Randy Foye, Allan Ray and Rudy Gay. Not bad company, if you ask me.

The Houston Rockets drafted the long-range marksman with the 32nd pick overall. Things weren’t stellar for the man during his rookie season. He averaged 1.5 points and 0.7 rebounds in 35 games with a single start. The Rockets sent him down to the D-League a couple times where he played for the Rio Grand Valley Vipers.

Novak’s second professional season has treated him a bit better. He’s seen increased playing time, especially since Yao Ming went down with an injury. He’s reached double-figures twice this season. The highlight, so far, was when he hit a buzzer-beating, game-winner against Sacramento.

Like an old man easing into a warm bath, Novak is getting a better awareness of how to play the game. His value, at this point, comes mainly because he stretches out the floor. The Rockets’ offense is predicated on lots of half-court sets with their big men setting up the offense at the elbow or high post. Novak and his deadly three-point shot catches just enough attention when he fades into the corner.

In a game where one play separates winning and losing, every advantage counts. So the next time you watch Tracy McGrady and the Rockets, keep an eye out for #20. You may be pleasantly surprised by the young Steve Novak.





Not Taylor Made

2 04 2008

Letters of intent are tricky. In Tyshawn Taylor’s case, that may be an understatement. With our beloved Tom Crean going to Indiana, Taylor is asking Marquette to nullify his letter of intent to play basketball for them.

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It’s no surprise that high school kids go to a school to play for the coach. The basketball player goes where he will fit into the style and where he’s built up a rapport with the coaching staff. With the exception of UCLA, Kentucky and a select few other schools, kids don’t play for programs. The question then becomes how are poached collegiate coaches held accountable? What exactly do we expect from ballers and why? I’ve asked this question before in a different context.

The Taylor camp is not outwardly malignant towards Crean. Even though Crean dumped Marquette in a move faster than Shaq dumps franchises, Taylor seems to think that there is a possibility that he will follow Crean to God’s Country.

And now Taylor’s high school coach, Bob Hurley, says that the coach Marquette installs will have to be someone he knows really well. Okay… like that makes sense. I doubt Mrs. Hurley or anyone from Hurley’s ol’ gang will travel to the midwest and accept a vacant coaching position in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Hurley doesn’t want anything to do with the school which is ironic because he’s projecting his frustration with Crean onto the school. Anyone else find it odd that a recruit would shun a school that got burned before the college coach that broke his commitment to his players?

College coaches leave for greener pastures every season. They are hardly ever held accountable for the kids they have left. Coaches can’t say “come with me” because it’s against NCAA regulations. The young athletes are left to their own devices. They are at the mercy of a new coach. They have no emotional armor save for comforting words from their equally confused and shell-shocked teammates.

The question then becomes whether or not Marquette releases their players from letters of intent. If it does not, you will find disgruntled players bringing down team chemistry and then dashing for the door like they got a blind date with Fran Drescher. It can also hurt the program’s reputation with influential high school coaches and prospective players.

All is lost anyway so if the school tears up the letters of intent, it may be the smart play. Unless Marquette gets a big-name coach immediately, it’s time to rebuild. Their cause is lost for the next 3 or 4 years, especially in the brutal Big East. So I say let the recruits go. It will save the basketball program’s reputation and that’s about the only good that will come from it. A lot rides on reputation; it directly leads to effectiveness and credibility, on and off the court. Need proof? Ask the Knicks’ James Dolan.





Jerel McNeal is the Difference

12 03 2008

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Marquette University’s slogan is “Be the Difference.” Jerel McNeal was the difference tonight during #24 Marquette’s 67-54 win over Seton Hall. Throughout the Golden Eagles’ season, Jerel has been the difference.

Jerel poured in 21 point on 7-of-15 shooting from the field, grabbed 9 boards while making huge offense plays down the stretch. He scored on a big-time spin move into the lane to ignite Marquette’s decisive run and push his team to 2-2 all-time in Big East tournament play.

Jerel spearheaded the stifling of Big East second-leading scorer Brian Laing. The Marquette guard’s fearless slashing into the lane set the tone for the rest of the team. They followed Jerel’s gritty play and gained a 21 rebound advantage over Seton Hall.

Although Dominic James stole the show late in the game by forcing three big turnovers, Jerel makes the Marquette engine go. Many say that if Jerel played during Marquette’s first-round exit in last year’s NCAA tournament, the outcome would have been drastically different. And I tend to agree. Plus, I hate Drew Neitzel.

If Jerel can bring his consistent fire and fearless game up through these coming Big East and Big Dance tournament games, the Golden Eagles will soar. Fire it up, Marquette.








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