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Marquette toughness begins with Boot Camp

Marquette can't shed the "tough" label: Boot Camp won't let them. (USA Today)

Marquette can’t shed the “tough” label: Boot Camp won’t let them. (USA Today)

WASHINGTON —  Often times it’s said that NCAA Tournament games are won and lost during the July open AAU period, the idea being that you need to recruit well to win the big games.

While you will never get anybody to totally dismiss that notion–every team needs talent–it clearly takes more than just 5-star recruits. Marquette has a talented roster, that much is obvious. You don’t find yourself playing into the second weekend of the tournament on a yearly basis without good players.

But what’s even more apparent is that Buzz Williams gets his team to believe in each other–and more importantly the program–once he gets them on campus.  More specifically, he prepares them for the adversity that each March will surely bring during a preseason boot camp that his players wear like a badge of honor.

Who was the second person in the Marquette program that Vander Blue mentioned during the Golden Eagles’ victorious post-game press conference on Thursday night?  None other than Todd Smith, the team’s strength and conditioning coach.

“I wish I could describe it,” added Trent Lockett about Boot Camp before breaking out a big smile. “It’s something that’s almost indescribable. It’s obviously where our team is made. There’s days where you don’t think you can keep running and get out of it. But somehow we find a way and I think that’s affecting our success with the close games down the stretch.”

So when the Golden Eagles found themselves in second half holes against Davidson and Butler last weekend in Lexington, it was nothing they hadn’t felt before. Williams makes sure his players won’t crack under the pressure by throwing the worst at them early on in the season.

Jamil Wilson, who led Marquette with 16 points off the bench and hit the Golden Eagles’ only three 3-point field goals on the night, was also touting the company line with regards to toughness.

“We just define toughness by being there every possession and every four minutes,” Wilson said. “We break things down into a smaller session, and Boot Camp is not really something you can explain in words, but you can say a whole lot of shoes squeaking, a whole lot of yelling, some guys falling.

Wilson got out before being interrupted by his teammate who took it to another level, not suitable for those with an easy stomach.

“And barfing,” Blue added.

Naturally Blue’s blunt remark drew laughs from the media in attendance, but the entire experience is anything but a laughing matter. You could see a look of pride in the face of Williams as his players bragged about their harsh preseason treatment now that it’s paying post-season dividends.

The Marquette head man didn’t really want to talk about the details, but was very  matter of fact in admitting its importance.

“That’s where our team is formed,” Williams said about the boot camp. “That’s what I said for five years, and that’s kinda it.”

Still, I wanted to get more out of at least one of the players. As the Marquette locker room began to close up after the Miami win, Lockett gave me a look that seemed to indicate that I was better off not knowing the details.

Finally, he played nice and gave the outside world a bit of a peak into the method behind the madness.

“Just imagine waking up very early and running until you can’t,” Lockett explained. “And then you have to run again later in the day.”

Follow @BobbyBancroft for live Marquette updates in DC

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