Why Vander Blue made the right decision

(USA Today Images)

Vander Blue made the right call. (USA Today Images)

For a differing perspective, be sure to read Andrei’s portion of this two-part column on Vander Blue’s decision to enter the NBA draft.

Good for you, Vander.

Early Tuesday morning he and the Marquette basketball team announced his decision to forgo his senior year and enter the 2013 NBA draft. It was met with some negativity and hatred from fans who believe Blue isn’t ready and, perhaps more accurate, selfishly want him to stay one more year. But there are also those who believe he made the right call, who wish him nothing but the best and know he has a real chance to succeed (there are those who think he should come back AND wish him well, but it seems pretty cut-and-dry, one way or the other).

Consider me one of those people in his corner. That’s because Blue has the two traits necessary to compete for the next two-plus months for a chance to have David Stern or Adam Silver read off his name in June: the self-confidence and skills to succeed at the next level.

For all his critics who bad-mouthed him, fairly or unfairly, the last three seasons, no one was harder on Blue than Blue. He told Paint Touches before his sophomore year that his rookie season in Milwaukee was the “worst basketball” of his life. And no one would have known he was a key role player on a Sweet 16 team in 2011 from the way he spoke at this past year’s media day. Nothing he had done was satisfactory in his eyes. That is, until he dominated the competition his junior year.

Blue has a confident, borderline cocky swagger. That’s good; he’ll need it competing against the likes of Victor Oladipo, Trey Burke, Ben McLemore and other guards who want what he wants just as bad. He had better walk into a gymnasium–whether it’s the combine in Chicago or a workout in some NBA practice facility–believing he is the best player on that given day, and the way he conducted himself on the court at Marquette says he will.

Even Jae Crowder, one of the most humble athletes I’ve been around, told me during his pre-draft workouts: “There aren’t many guys who can do the things I do. I’m trying to sharpen up each tool I have to be a guy the world has never seen before.” Humble, yet he knew just how good he was. So does Blue.

But swagger and cockiness alone won’t be enough to get to the NBA. He knew he needed the skills to match it, and after an incredible season, one in which he led Marquette to the Elite Eight for the first time in 10 seasons, he’s finally there. The skill set he revealed over the last five months has proven NBA-worthy.

I had the pleasure of watching Blue court-side for three seasons, and more times than I can count I turned to Andrei and said, “That’s an Association move right there” after watching Blue make a move. Whether it was a skying floater, a step-back jumper or a nasty slam dunk right in front of the visitor’s bench, plenty of moments made me think, “This kid can make it in the League.”

So much of the NBA game is played on the perimeter, but more and more pick-and-roll action and being able to get to the basket as a guard matters. Blue shot 63 percent at the rim this season, 46 percent on jumpers and 30 percent from beyond the arc. Those numbers aren’t enough to have him mentioned in the same breath as Lottery-bound players, but they aren’t anything to just gloss over. He’s a scorer–no, an attacker–who excelled on the fast-break, went to the rim with power and has the length to defend either guard position at the next level. And, no, he won’t play point guard.

Blue’s skill set is trending way, way up and he’s young for his age group. Chances are someone will want to pay to see him progress wearing his team’s uniform.

Blue has his doubters, that’s no secret. Even the Marquette coaching staff, according to Michael Hunt, seemed surprised at his decision. But Blue isn’t going into this half-assed, and that’s what makes me most confident that he made the right choice: the fact that he’s confident.

Blue knew–and told media outlets the same–that the last two years weren’t good enough. But he knows that last year’s performance was. Could he improve with one more year at Marquette? Of course. So could McLemore at Kansas or Burke at Michigan. Maybe there are external factors swaying his decision–school, money, etc.–but if there’s one thing we know about Blue, it’s that he’s not going to be deterred. He wants to succeed, and he believes he can.

For those who believe he did this out of left field and without much thought, you’re wrong. He requested feedback to see where he stood, and, I’m sure, did lots of praying and thinking about whether or not to make the jump–just like he did when deciding on Marquette. This was, after all, his dream in life. He’s making it for him. It’s what he wants. It’s what he knows is right.

But maybe the best reason I heard on why Blue made the right decision was speaking with incoming junior college transfer Jameel McKay. He told me that people will have their respective opinions on whether Blue was right or wrong, but one thing is true: his play last year put himself in position to even have this decision to make. He’s confident in himself, clearly received some kind of positive feedback and believes he can make it.

That was enough for him, so it should be enough for all of us, too.

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3 Comments on “Why Vander Blue made the right decision”

  1. caffeinejones
    April 18, 2013 at 1:41 pm #

    Mark, you write some great stuff, but I take offense at the suggestion that those of us who believe that Vander is making the wrong decision are just selfish and willing to turn on him. That is a pretty heavy accusation toward a very loyal fan base.
    There is no doubt that I would love to see Vander back again next year, and toward the end of this season, he became the go-to player many of us expected for years. Speaking for myself, I always figure freshmen are over-hyped, and do not expect them to make much of a contribution their freshman year. Vander is beginning to look like a player who can go from good to great next year. Sure, I would love to see him back.
    However, I also see the reviews of him by most experts, who seem to think he is going in the late second round, if at all. Most players drafted in that position do not stick with their NBA clubs. We have seen some of the best players from the best teams wind up drafted in that position and last no more than a couple seasons in the league, at best. Closer to home, we have seen Marquette players who appeared better and more highly regarded than Vander struggle to make it in the NBA, or fail to get drafted at all. Wesley Matthews did just great, but he is an exception, not only among Marquette players, but players in general. His teammate Jerel McNeal was left undrafted a few years back, despite the fact that ESPN had him as the best player left available when the draft ended. He is just now, four years later, getting a shot at the NBA, but I do not know if he has actually played in a game yet.
    OTOH, if Blue has as good a season next year as he seems capable of, he could easily be a first-round pick next year. That is guaranteed money for three years. In addition, he’d graduate. The comments I have seen have been nearly unanimous. Most fans do not seem to think this is a wise decision. But almost without exception, they wish Vander all the best.

  2. Chris Columbo
    May 12, 2013 at 9:23 pm #

    Vander Blue had no interest in going to school anymore. So by default he had to declare. Otherwise he would have risked losing his senior year to academic ineligibility factors. It is a good thing that he did it now, so the team has time to restructure. Common Sense says he would be better off staying. But common sense never prevails over emotion in a situation like this. My sense is Vander will drift overseas for a long time. Of course he may prefer that than going to class. Obviously winning an NCAA title was of no allure to him or he would have stayed.


  1. Why Vander Blue made the wrong decision | Paint Touches - April 16, 2013

    […] ← Why Vander Blue made the right decision […]

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