Marquette’s Journey Begins with Mount St. Mary’s

Coach Buzz Williams wouldn't announce junior guard Junior Cadougan as a starter on Wednesday, but Cadougan believes he'll start Friday. / Tribuen File Photo

On Oct. 14 coach Buzz Williams knew three of his five starters for tonight’s season opener against the Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers: senior guard Darius Johnson-Odom, senior forward Jae Crowder, and redshirt junior center Chris Otule.

On Wednesday he added another name to that list. Vander Blue.

“He’s playing under control, understanding what he can and cannot do, could be a really, really good defender.  Buzz told him (Tuesday), ‘you’re getting close but you’re not (yet a lockdown defender).’  He still has a little ways to go but he could be that type of guy,” assistant coach Aki Collins said of Blue. “If you were in here (Tuesday) for practice, he was shooting the ball well. So I think he’s just going to keep getting better every day. And he’s going to keep working hard.”

But what position will the sophomore guard play? Is he the point guard?

“It depends on who the fifth guy is. If the fifth guy isn’t a point guard then Van will be the point. If the fifth guy is a point guard then Van would be a perimeter player,” Williams said.

Junior guard Junior Cadougan believes he is the fifth man.

“I think coach has given me the starting spot. You never know what can happen. I could say that I’m the starting point guard right now,” Cadougan said.

Williams said that isn’t written in stone.

“Junior, when you start talking about unsophisticated guys, he’s at the top of that list,” Williams said.

Forward Erik Williams, forward Jimmy Butler, Blue, Otule and guard Reggie Smith were the five starters for the season opener last season.

But by the end of the year that lineup had evolved.

Smith averaged 9.9 minutes before he transferred to UNLV. Blue struggled catastrophically offensively (39.4 percent from the floor, 16 percent on 3-pointers) and averaged 19 minutes per game because of his defensive prowess.

Marquette’s Sweet 16 loss to North Carolina featured Butler, Otule, Erik Williams (who averaged 7.0 minutes per game and started just to save Crowder from foul trouble), guard Dwight Buycks and Johnson-Odom as the starting five.

What tonight’s starting five gets tonight is a Mount St. Mary’s team Collins said is driven by its guards.

The Mountaineers (11-21, 9-9 Northeast Conference in 2010-’11) are led by senior guard Lamar Trice’s 13.3 points per game. He led the team in assists (92), steals (31) and 3-pointers made (62).

Sophomore forward Kristijan Krajina was a player Collins mentioned as a player of interest since Krajina redshirted last season with an ankle injury.

This will be Marquette’s first opportunity to play a legitimate game as this preseason it had two closed-door scrimmages. One with Kansas State and another with George Mason – Marquette was supposed to scrimmage USC, but plans fell through – instead of playing a non-Division I opponent in an exhibition match prior to tonight’s opener.

“I believe the value of those scrimmages far outweigh the value of playing an exhibition game. It just means the first six or eight minutes on Friday night our guys haven’t had that experience,” Hopefully we’ll handle it the right way, but I anticipate some of those guys to be fairly anxious.

Regardless of whom its opponent is or what its strengths are, Collins mentioned that Marquette’s focus must be internal.

“If we come out and execute our game plan and play the way we’re capable of playing, then I think we can beat anybody,” Collins said. “It’s the days that we don’t do that when we’re going to struggle. If we come out and execute the game plan … I think we’ll be OK.”


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