Before the 2012 season begins, Paint Touches will look at how Buzz Williams and Marquette can finish their 2013 recruiting class. As it stands, Marquette has one open scholarship for the class. If Chris Otule does not return for a sixth season, Marquette would have two open spots. With Todd Mayo’s future uncertain, and the fact that at least one player has transferred in each of Williams’ five seasons as head coach, multiple scholarships may still be available even if Otule does return.
For the effort Buzz Williams has made to recruit “switchables,” his best commitments through four-plus years of recruiting arguably have been been shooting guards (Todd Mayo, Vander Blue and Darius Johnson-Odom). As his roster gets taller and more versatile, there will always be room for guards who can shoot, run the floor and play defense. Williams has signed five shooting guards at Marquette, including Dwight Buycks, and four have panned out. The fifth was T.J. Taylor, now at North Texas with Tony Benford.
And in 2013, Marquette could have their best player on the wing in Vander Blue. The 6-foot-4 shooting guard was named by the team last year as most improved, and he flourished after Davante Gardner was lost for seven Big East contests with a knee injury. The day Gardner was injured, Jan. 28 at Villanova, Blue sunk four free throws in the final minute to seal an 82-78 victory, and was a more improved, confident player from that point on.
Blue started all but one game as a sophomore, when he was suspended for the first half at West Virginia, and there’s no reason to believe he won’t start every game he is eligible the rest of his career. As Marquette’s premier defender, Blue’s offense has improved since he first stepped on campus, but he will always be judged by his ability to score from the outside. In two years, Blue has connected on just 12-of-56 3-pointers (21.4 percent) and, while there’s room for improvement, he may never be the outside shooter many expected him to be.
That’s where Todd Mayo fills in. The currently suspended shooting guard will be reinstated, sources have told Paint Touches, and would provide much-needed outside shooting to Marquette. Mayo hit 31-of-93 3-pointers his freshman season in 21 minutes per game, and stands to see a major boost in playing time with Darius Johnson-Odom’s 32.9 minutes out of the way. As a junior in 2013, Mayo and the will-be senior Blue both will play major roles.
The wildcard is Jamal Ferguson, who could be anything from a project buying time to a contributor as a reserve behind Mayo and Blue. The 6-foot-4 slasher’s freshman outlook compares to Juan Anderson’s, where major minutes will not be necessary barring injury, but fresh legs off the bench could make him an asset. Aki Collins, Ferguson’s lead recruiter, was intrigued by his game, and according to Collins, now at Memphis, he has a high ceiling. So while Marquette has looked hard at shooting guards in the 2013 class, Ferguson figures to be a significant piece of the puzzle going forward.
Despite his hard recruitment of 2013 shooting guards, Williams has not secured a commitment from one. The only other time Williams did not sign a shooting guard in a recruiting class was 2008, when guards Dominic James, Jerel McNeal and Wes Matthews were returning for their senior seasons.
Of the five positions Williams is looking at, shooting guard tops the list. Even if Mayo returns, Marquette needs to address the position. Williams can never be too deep at the position, as he rotates them with ease when he has them at his disposal. With the depth at forward the next two seasons (Anderson, Jamil Wilson, Steve Taylor, Gardner, Burton and McKay), it wouldn’t be surprising to see a shooting guard in the mix for 2013.