Who is Marquette's Most Improved Player?

What should Marquette fans expect from the team in 2006? Who improved the most since the end of last season? What are the newcomers like and what will they add to the team? MarquetteHoops.com's John Dodds and Jim Ganzer, aka "IWB", break it all down player by player for this sneak peak preview...

John Dodds and Jim Ganzer, aka "IWB" of MarquetteHoops.com recently to a sneak peak at the 2006-2007 Marquette Golden Eagles as they practiced and played a few pickup games. Here is their combined analysis of the team's progress since last season....

Seniors

# 40 ~ Mike Kinsella
Mike looks bigger than he was last year adding muscle and overall weight....MU needs him to play 8 to 10 min per game…a series of leg injuries have set him back…blocked 3 shots in about 2 min vs ND home game last yr…still has a good jumper from 10 feet but needs to become more consistent with power post moves on the inside…will be a critical part of the Pitt & G'Town games to defend Gray and Hibbert.

# 51 ~ Jamil Lott
Jamil is much stronger than last yr…and will play more of the Jon Harris role...but he can get out on the break faster….he is showing the desire to become better….may become one of those players that really emerges as a senior.

Juniors

# 41 ~ Ousmane Barro
Ooze has gained weight this yr which will give him more balance inside, so he will be less awkward on power moves…has developed a nice 10 foot jumper facing the hoop and also working on his turnaround and baby hook shots.…the improvement he has shown makes him one of the most improved on the team, but McNeal may hold the top spot.

# 21 ~ Lawrence "Trend" Blackledge
Blackledge is skinny but he sure plays above the rim and makes up more distance on defense than anyone…best shot blocker on squad…I do not think he will be red shirted…MU might need him this yr…I think he should eat at Cobeen...being a Jr, he could easily handle the ‘Freshman 15 lb' at the ice cream bins…can really get to the hole and has already become the preferred alley-oop recipient on fast breaks…really needs to improve his conditioning.

# 5 ~ Dan Fitzgerald
Fitz is still the most versatile player…can play 1/2/3/4…look for him to play more 3 and 4….rebounding will be his key stat for playing time…I think he will be in less foul trouble this yr guarding bigs…MU's best outside shooter.? Fitz v Hayward…last year with Novak at the PF spot, opposing teams did not want him shooting free throws so it hurt the ability to draw fouls from the opposing post players. With Fitz and Lazar contributing at the 4 this year, expect more foul trouble for the opposing bigs.

Sophomores

# 12 ~ Dwight Burke
Dwight Burke…has lost much of his body fat…will be used when MU needs a bump and grinder down low to spell Barro…has improved his post footwork...still has some work to do to have a major impact, but has the drive to get there.

# 1 ~ Dominic James
"Nique" looks stronger….has best hesitation move in college hoops…elevation sets him apart…but the elevation might prevent him from improving his outside shot…tougher to be consistent as you wear down in physical Big East…but the drives to the hoop and finishes are special...the NBA is looking…do not know if he will be ready in 2007 but then again…what player is really ready for the NBA??….situations pop up because of his sudden ‘superstar status', but he is keeping it all in perspective and has been able to remain the humble kid from Richmond, IN.

# 23 ~ Wesley Matthews
Wesley has also shown tremendous improvement from a ayear ago....has worked on his outside game…much stronger from three point land than last yr…hit the weights which will allow Crean to play him more at SF…but he can run the point on breaks…will be a key player for MU…had 15 pts 13 rebs vs Lewis before the stress fracture…look for more double doubles this yr...in fact…McNeal and Matthews might be on pace for some triple doubles this yr…only happened twice…Tony Miller and D Wade…is emerging as the true team leader.

# 22 ~ Jerel McNeal
Jerel is the most improved player on team...his offensive game is better…is now effective crossing over to his left…more athletic than he was last year …now can dunk more easily… a smaller version of UCONN's Rip Hamilton…as a Soph he will need to be more careful with the ball…has improved his passing….needs to let the game flow, tends to bottle up frustrations that lead to mistakes.

Freshmen

# 10 ~ David Cubillan
Pronounced "Da-Veed Cooby-on" The Venezuelan is a very impressive freshman guard...can play PG or the 2G…tough defender…built like a defensive back, very solid…has a good drive to the hoop but has a better game from the outside…hit 56 threes in a drill in 5 min…record is 67 by Novak…Fitz had 65…will be an important defensive stopper off the bench…could be what Karon Bradley was during the NCAA run to New Orleans but he is a much better ball handler and defender…shows a great deal of speed running from end to end so will be a great asset in the transition game and has the ability to disrupt opposing fast breaks. Teamamtes call him "Cooby".

# 24 ~ Lazar Hayward
Pronounced "LaCzar". Hayward is the real deal…great hands…catch and shooter like Bernard Toone…will play a lot of PF…Crean will use him inside and out to draw bigs out of the lane…long arms will make him play bigger than 6-6..could be a blue chipper like the freshman three were last yr…was not shy of the weight room in high school so he arrived looking like a veteran, but has still managed to bulk up even more since he arrived in Milwaukee…..despite being a freshman, he already shows a great deal of floor leadership.

Overall assessment of team

Weaknesses:
Post offense down low but mitigated by ability of James, McNeal and Matthews to penetrate draw and dish to posts for lay-ups….MU will miss leadership of Novak and Chapman…both were not afraid to tell others what to do…this yr…the seniors will not be the major focus, so the soph's will have to lead which may be tough for them.

Strengths:
Deeper bench at PG spot…Hayward cannot shoot like Novak but might be able to be a better post up player than Steve was able to do before his senior year….the sophomore three can be special players, and they will not back down to anyone…Fitzgerald can now concentrate his play at the forward spot which will really increase his effectiveness.


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