Where Will the Road Take MU This Year??

With Marquette heading to Vancouver for Labor Day weekend to play a few games, Tom Crean's Golden Eagles are allowed to have 10 practices prior to their departure, and at this point they have a handful completed. So the question is, with all 5 starters returning, how will the Golden Eagles look this year? MarquetteHoops.com's IWB (Jim Ganzer) breaks it down....

With Marquette heading to Vancouver for Labor Day weekend to play a few games, Tom Crean's Golden Eagles are allowed to have 10 practices prior to their departure, and at this point they have a handful completed.

Along with a few college coaches, high school coaches, recruits and a couple members of the media, I have had the opportunity to take in two of these practices. After two sessions, here is my view of the off season progress of the Golden Eagles.

2007-2008 Golden Eagles….

Seniors

Dan Fitzgerald
Fitz spent the entire summer at MU working out (outside of two weekends at home). His outside shooting has been deadly and he has also bulked up which will help defend the post. I can't decide who the most intense player in practice is, he or Jerel – maybe a tossup. Look for him to lead the team in 3 pt scoring this year – he doesn't miss.

Trend Blackledge
I think the light has gone on. The last time I saw him play Trend was out of position from time to time but he has really come around. .He is looking good. Good hustle – active around the hoop and while he isn't big enough to move bodies out of the way, he is banging as hard as he can. My first thought was that I don't ever remember seeing him as aggressive. Shoots nicely off the glass.

Ousmane Barro
Anyone who was concerned that Ooze spent a month at home this summer can relax. Ooze hasn't missed a step and shows a LOT of improvement. He has really put some work in on his jump shot (5-10 ft) and is more aggressive when it comes to blocking shots. He looks to have added some muscle weight. Playing pickup games against former players like Robert Jackson is helping him fight off the defenders too. Quite possibly improved more than anyone else (again). Seeing him before practice tells me that he can still play soccer if the team needs some help.

Juniors

Dominic James
No question a better player. Better decision making, smarter passing, and if possible, even quicker than ever if that was possible. Said he had trimmed down a bit, quicker burst off of the floor. Appeared as if he shoots with a different release point, better form on the shot. I saw him play right after he returned from the NBA trials, and I was concerned that it may have taken a toll on him, but today he was better than ever. Yes, I have confirmed, Dominic is on track to graduate at the end of this year – WOW!

Jerel McNeal
Quick hands (as if you didn't know) gets in on everything. Seems as if he has smarter movement on defense which doesn't seem possible for the reigning Big East Defensive Player of the Year, but he positions himself better which should take away even more scoring opportunities for the opposition. He seems to be much more accurate from three point land which should be a major improvement. Looks as if he added quite a bit of muscle.

Wesley Matthews
Wesley has added a LOT of muscle. He looks like a smaller version of Larry Johnson. Like Dominic he seems to have done a lot of work on his shooting form. Better release point and looks as if he is shooting as opposed to ‘throwing' which his form appeared to be in the past. More accurate from deep but more explosive down low. In the two times I saw them play this year he has had a few strong put-backs which makes for a more explosive player and also makes him appear as if he is taller.

Dwight Burke
Was not there, can't remember if he went home or was at class?

Sophomores

Lazar Hayward
A manchild. Lazar has added quite a bit of muscle, he is a beast with a great outside shot. Battles hard down low but was dead on from downtown. I would say it is a tossup for most improved between he and Ooze. He seems like he has a quicker first step and defensively he is learning to take advantage of his wingspan. There is a great flow to his game – just a smart, smart ballplayer.

Maurice Acker
Wow – I knew how quick he was but wow can this guy shoot. He just doesn't miss. Tough as nails too, won't back down from anyone, even big centers that play overseas. Passes with precision, runs the floor quicker than a blink of an eye. When I talk about adding muscle, you may not realize it because he is a smaller guy but wow – I spoke to one of the assistants from Ball State and he said when Maurice was the MAC Player of the Year he weighed 135 – now he goes 160. He has put on 25 lbs of muscle since he got to MU.

David Cubillan
Not there, busy helping his country's hopes to get to the Olympics.

Freshmen

Unfortunately, freshmen can not play with the team yet as they are not yet full time students. Dominic James told me that Scott Christopherson and Patrick Hazel are busting their butts in pick up games and should help out this year, but with them missing the first 10 practices, they will be behind the 8-ball. Hazel went home for a visit after his exams were over. Mbakwe is expected to be here before long.

Walk-ons

Tommy Brice
It wouldn't be right if I didn't say anything about Tommy Brice. No, he probably won't be a factor this year, but he works as hard as everyone else, if not harder, and he takes on his old managerial duties. If the managers come onto the floor to wipe up sweat – he grabs a towel and helps out. He does it all – he puts in the time, puts in the effort and does it all on his own dime. If you go to an MU function when the team is there, do everyone a favor and thank Tommy Brice for all that he does – he has earned it.

That's all for now, as I like to say so often...Put your tray tables up, your seatbacks forward, sit back and enjoy the flight!



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