When Tom Crean took over a slouching Marquette program in 1999, he pledged to bring energy and enthusiasm to restore the once proud tradition of Marquette basketball. He recruited blue collar players that could fill their rolls and fit into a successful system. Marquette never produced any top 25 recruiting classes, but they did recruit successful, hard working, and often "under-dog-like" players, the greatest example of which was certainly Travis Diener.
Diener did have a very successful four years at Goodrich High School in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. He averaged 21.2 points while dishing out over seven assists per game his senior season. Diener was named a Parade Magazine's Fourth team All American and easily earned Wisconsin all-state first team status. He was highly recruited by successful programs such as Wisconsin, Utah, and St. Louis. But coming to Marquette at six foot 160 pounds, there was plenty of uncertainty over the contribution that Diener would make.
"The main reason I chose Marquette was because it was close to my home and my family could come to the games. Coach Crean didn't persuade me to come here, he convinced me that we were going to be good, which we were. When I came to visit the team embraced me like I was a part of them and I couldn't ask for more than that," said Diener of his reasons for choosing Marquette. During the 2001-2002 season, Diener's stellar play off the bench earned him a spot on the Conference USA All-Freshmen team. He added 7.9 points per game to a team that made the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1997.
During the 2002-2003 season, Diener started as Marquette's point guard, a position he would never again relinquish. Diener was the catalyst for an explosive offense that featured guard Dwyane Wade and big man Robert Jackson. Diener steadily took on more of a role on the offensive end, chipping in eleven points per game. According to Diener, the biggest shot of his career came from his sophomore year.
"There were so many wins and important shots that year but I think the one that stands out was at Louisville. We were down big that game and I hit a three as the shot clock expired to really turn the tide of that game. From that shot and from that game forward, we knew we had a special team."
Special indeed were Diener's final two seasons at Marquette as he elevated from a contributor to a true leader. Diener provided highlight after highlight as he began to gain national attention for his gritty style. The numbers were there too, as Diener tallied two consecutive seasons scoring over 18 points per game. If not for a heartbreaking late season broken hand in 2005, Diener would have broken the all time scoring records at Marquette University and in Conference USA. Looking back, Coach Tom Crean couldn't have asked for anything more.
"Travis has left here a very special and successful person. If there was one thing that stood out about Travis beyond his toughness, his skills, or even the winning while he was at Marquette, it was his respect. He cared. We realized early in his career that Travis was going to be a special player and he was."
While the tenure of Travis Diener is over at Marquette, his basketball career should continue. There is a good chance he will represent Marquette in the NBA next season, joining former Marquette players Chris Crawford, Amal McCaskill, and Dwyane Wade.
"The GM's are telling me good things," said Diener. "Hopefully when draft day comes around it will be a very exciting day for me and my family." Diener will continue to be an ambassador to Marquette even after he leaves. Marquette commit Scott Christopherson, who will join Marquette for the 2007-2008 season stated that he chose MU partly because he wanted to join a legacy of great Marquette guards that included Diener and Wade. "It's a great honor for me that Scott (Christopherson) would say that about me. Hopefully the career I had here can influence more high school players to come here. I wish him the best of luck and look forward to see what Coach Crean can do with him."
Travis Diener made everyone around him better. His efforts to extend to those around him will continue this summer while running a shooting camp with his cousin Drake from Depaul and fellow graduate Todd Townsend. "The shooting camp gives us an opportunity to spread a wealth of basketball knowledge to kids who want to improve their game."
An under-dog-like player. A blue collar recruit who could fit the system. An undersized guard from Fond du Lac, that's Travis Diener. Marquette fans have watched Diener improve his own game over the last four years. He leaves Marquette as one of the most decorated players in program history. His four years are over, but Travis Diener's contribution to Marquette lives on.
A Special Senior: The Pride of Marquette
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