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2013 recruits respond to Marquette movement

Lost in the madness that is conference realignment — complete with millions of dollars at stake, late-night meetings in New York City with athletic directors and rumors floating around the clock — are the players themselves.

Two members of Marquette’s 2013 recruiting class, point guard Duane Wilson and power forward Jameel McKay, spoke with Paint Touches to give their thoughts on conference realignment and the news that Marquette was leaving the Big East to form a basketball-only conference.

Both players admitted that, while their recruitments took place during a difficult stretch for the non-football members of the Big East, not once was it brought up in their discussions with the Marquette staff or coaches of other programs potentially looking to gain an edge over the Golden Eagles.

“During recruiting I looked at conferences a little bit,” Wilson said. “But when it came to deciding on a school, for me I didn’t look at it too much. Really, with the school I wanted to go to, you can get exposure as long as your team is winning.”

Wilson chose Marquette over Missouri, which had recently moved to the SEC, and Memphis, still in Conference-USA.

Jameel McKay isn't worried about the change in college basketball. (Photo credit: HutchNews.com)

Jameel McKay isn’t worried about the change in college basketball. (Photo credit: HutchNews.com)

Wilson admitted that, with his time spent around Division I athletes, most players do look into conference affiliation, and that would have been the case for McKay had he not found the perfect fit in Milwaukee.

“With my recruitment, every school other than Marquette I looked at the conference,” he said. “But going to Marquette, it was the perfect fit.”

McKay and Wilson said they would have liked to play against Syracuse and in Madison Square Garden for the Big East Tournament, with Wilson noting a handful of his AAU teammates and friends are heading for Big East schools. But both seem excited by the returning Big East members, as well as the potential mid-major schools entering a league run on basketball.

“With the way the college game has been going, smaller schools are beating bigger ones, even in the first round of the [NCAA] Tournament,” McKay said. “I wouldn’t say [the new league] is not considered a power conference. I mean, just off teams you know will be there, a lot of teams are doing great things.”

Added Wilson: “I think also what helps other schools recruiting-wise, you’ve got all the basketball schools that are going to expect that everything is focused on basketball. It’ll be more intense, and just strictly basketball.”

Both McKay and Wilson — and, for that matter, the other three 2013 signees — noted that Marquette being a basketball school, where hoops is a 12-month sport, was a factor in their decision.

If there was one downfall either of the two expressed, it was the drop-off in competition that undoubtedly will come when Syracuse, Louisville and others disappear from the schedule.

“It might not be as prestigious as the regular Big East was, playing three or four top 10 teams in conference. But I think it should be fine, it will give us a better opportunity to win. But also, when we get to the NCAA Tournament we might not have that big-game experience.”

That’s where the potential for non-conference play factored in, something both accurately said will give Marquette a difficult schedule to master each year.

“With non-conference, playing against top teams every year, you get a crowd like that at the Bradley Center, that’s important to recruits,” Wilson said, “especially if we’re bringing in a Kentucky or North Carolina and playing well.”

Wilson was in attendance Saturday with 2015 recruit Diamond Stone, the No. 1 prospect in his class who has an offer from Marquette, when the Golden Eagles defeated Wisconsin, 60-50.

Marquette seems to be at the forefront of discussions leading the seven basketball members of the Big East out of the conference, and while the competition may decrease, the two recruits seem motivated to keeping the Golden Eagles relevant.

“We’re always gonna have a challenge because this conference will have its target on our back,” Wilson said.

“Everybody wants to play against Louisville and Syracuse, play in Madison Square Garden, but I’m glad I’m still gonna be at Marquette. I’m just happy to be playing period,” McKay added.

Wilson, McKay updates

Duane Wilson’s Dominican team has enjoyed a solid start to the 2012-13 season, and the point guard said his mid-range game has improved the most since he began his senior campaign.

On tap is a mini-rivalry of sorts, as Saturday night Wilson will square off against fellow 2013 signee Deonte Burton (Vincent H.S.).

Wilson said many have made a big deal over the matchup, but he said both players are focused on helping their teams to victories in a game featuring two state title contenders.

Of note, Buzz Williams told Wison he’d like for the 6-foot-3 guard to average 8 rebounds per game, and that’s an area Wilson is looking to improve.

McKay hasn’t had to worry about his rebounding, and he’s actually been so impressive on the glass for Indian Hills that he’s seen time at center for the first time in his junior college career.

He’s averaging a double-double, and said he has made a commitment to work off the dribble to create for himself this year. As much as 80 percent of his scoring is coming off isolations, whereas last year McKay said he relied on point guards to create for him.

McKay has three games left with Indian Hills before Christmas vacation, and he’ll get to see his future team square off next Saturday against LSU. It will be the first time he’s been to the Bradley Center since last year.

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