Blue looks to rebound after poor freshman season

Marquette Tribune File Photo

You don’t need to remind Vander Blue that his freshman year was anything but spectacular.

From the media backlash regarding his recruitment to unrealistic expectations that he, Marquette’s highest rated recruit since Doc Rivers, would start from day one and have a major impact, the cards were stacked against Blue and he was forced to go all-in.

The results were lackluster.

“I played the worst ball of my life,” Blue said.

It was apparent early on that Blue was struggling to acclimate to Buzz Williams’ offense and to find any rhythm. The Big East season only made things worse.

He finished his freshman season averaging just 5.4 points per game. He made four three pointers the entire season and was held to one or zero field goals in 17 of the team’s last 19 games. In that span, he shot 24 percent from the field (13-of-54) in what overshadowed an impressive defensive effort for much of the year.

“Last year, my mind wasn’t all the way there as a player,” Blue said. “I would go into games worrying about things I shouldn’t be worrying about. I’d take a shot and look at Buzz and not really know if I was coming out.

“I wasn’t myself, and I wasn’t doing what I did to get me here,” he added.

Head coach Buzz Williams said Blue underestimated what acclimating to the college game entailed, leading to his struggles.

“He was typical of most freshmen when they get to college,” Williams said. “They think that it’s just going to be the next step from their senior year of high school, and they don’t realize the depth of how hard it really is.”

Time and repetitions will help Blue on the offensive end, but even a few weeks into the season it’s clear that Blue is more relaxed in person and more comfortable on the court and in the offense, letting the game come to him instead of forcing the issue.

“I finally found out the way to really score at a consistent level,” Blue said. “Before it was more just, ‘I’m on the floor for a certain amount of minutes and I want to get some shots up.’ It really didn’t matter if I made the shot or not, so I was being selfish last year. But now I know the system, I know where I can get my shots and I know when it’s time to shoot. It’s all much smoother.”

For what it’s worth, Blue knocked down a few outside shots in the scrimmage portion of Marquette Madness and showed aggressiveness going to the basket. It’s a minuscule sample size, but it’s also a start for a player who looked lost with the ball in his hands a year ago.

He also looked like an improved player at the Milwaukee Pro-Am this past summer, where he hit 16 three pointers in seven games and admittedly became more patient on the offensive end.

“I put a lot of work in over the summer to improve every single aspect of my game and make sure there are no flaws,” Blue said. “And now I know the system, and I know what coach Buzz wants every day.”

Those two settings, the Milwaukee Pro-Am and Marquette Madness, mean next to nothing when compared to what he’ll face in the Big East, but Williams noted that Blue’s maturity is already shining through early in the preseason.

“His maturity level definitely increased, but I don’t necessarily think it was because he was wrong when he got here,” Williams said. “He was typical when he got here. And his maturation process has been accelerated because of all he’s been through.”

For Blue, his forgettable freshman season is already a thing of the past, and the only thing on his mind is replacing it with a sophomore season that accurately reflects his skills and leadership.

“I know I have a lot to prove and I’m going to open a lot of eyes,” Blue said. “We’re going to be really good.”

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