Crean Assesses the Golden Eagles

John J. Smith, (P.E., Eng '74 Chairman of the SEC Group, Inc.) and his family hosted a Tip Off dinner at Soldier Field last Friday night and Marquette Head Coach Tom Crean spoke to the crowd about the team player by player. Here is John Dodds' recap of Crean's comments....

Tom Crean Assesses the 2007-2008 Marquette Golden Eagle Roster by Class

Freshmen Class

Scott Christopherson (PG/2G): Scott was our earliest commitment ever – he gave us a verbal before the spring of his sophomore year. Co-Mr. Basketball in the State of Wisconsin. Don't let the blond hair and looks fool you, he is as tough as they come. He trained as a boxer over the summer and he is one of the best shooters to ever come to Marquette.

Patrick Hazel (F): His high school coach said that he is one of the most mentally tough guys on his team. His dad is a corrections officer at Riker's Island[prison] and runs the floor with a ton of energy.

Trevor Mbakwe (PF): Overcame adversity – transferred from Sibley High School in Minneapolis to Minnesota to St. Bernard's High School and some of the credits did not transfer. The NCAA took its time to review and as a result, through no fault of his own, he is behind the other players. He could not be at the trading table, could not be at team outings and I delayed a team party at my house so he could be eligible to attend. Be patient with him, he will do a lot for the team – he will be a very good rebounder and he can run the floor for us.

Sophomore Class

Maurice Acker (PG): Getting him as a transfer from Ball State may overcome one of my biggest mistakes, not recruiting him out of high school. He played alongside Jerel McNeal at Hillcrest High School in Illinois and I watched as Hillcrest beat a highly ranked Thorton team in Illinois tournament. After that game I knew I screwed up not recruiting him but fortunately when Tim (Buckley) left Ball State, we were able to get him. He has really built up his body. When he first got here he wasn't in the top 8 ranking of our best shooters, but now he is one of the best shooters on our team. Not many can run as fast down a basketball court. He has improved his defense and his communication skills, he flies down the court and he is one tough dude.

David Cubillan (PG/2G): David hit 42% from three point last year as a freshman. The highlight of his season was his 20 points versus Pittsburgh at the Bradley Center last March. He brings a ton of energy to the games and whenever we needed a big defensive stop or a key shot to be made from the outside, he took it and he will be better as a sophomore.

Lazar Hayward (PF/SF): Lazar needed to build his body to be able to matchup and guard different opponents on the floor, post or perimeter. He needs to improve his ball handling and passing and he has much more confidence in his outside shot this year.

Junior Class

Crean says when MU signed the three juniors, McNeal, Matthews and James over a five-day period, one of the great periods of Marquette history. All have done well in school and are scheduled to graduate at the end of the summer after their junior years.

Jerel McNeal (2G/SF): Saw him in high school where he scored 27 points and had six steals in a tournament game and he was so efficient doing it (within the flow of the game). He has started every game for us and in our first Big East game against UConn in January 2006, everyone remembers Steve Novak's 41 points, 16 rebounds but in that same game, Jerel had 19 points and 12 rebounds. He always guards the opponent's best player and his shooting and decision making have really improved.

Dominic James (PG/2G): Tim Buckley (Assistant Coach) who was instrumental in the recruitment of Dwyane Wade called me about James and told me that you have to get him. He carries a chip on his shoulder and he can really be a good player. After spending the off season trying to reach his dream (the NBA), he came back and knows what he has to work on.

Wes Matthews (2G/SF): I remember the first time I saw him play. It was at a high school AAU tournament in Los Angeles where he scored 27 points in the game. When it comes to Wes, you have not see anything yet.

Dwight Burke (PF/C): He knows his role and that is to defend, rebound and play with passion. He has to get to the rim with confidence. Dwight will help us take another step this year.

Senior Class

Ousmane Barro (C): Amazing what he has accomplished on and off the floor since he arrived in the U.S. (English was a second language). His best basketball is still ahead of him, he is motivated and tough.

Lawrence Blackledge (F): Has worked hard to come to his own rescue (after not being able to play second semester due to academics). He has built himself up and can be an important contributor. His best talent is his ability to get to the rim. We need him to play this year as a defender and rebounder.

Dan Fitzgerald (2G/SF/PF): Del Harris (now retired) was at a recent practice and he said the one thing on this team that struck him the most was how Dan Fitzgerald's body has changed. He has really hit the weights and gotten stronger. He has suffered injuries (hip, leg, knee) through his career here and has also had some of the biggest shots for our team. Last year they may not have been game winners, but he had two big ones on the corner pick & pop at Pitt. He comes back this year and he is better. He is a high impact player for us and his rebounding and decision making skills are critical to our team's success.

Overall Team Assessment: The keys

Rebounding and decision-making are critical aspects for thise team.

Note: Crean says MU will not keep the same starting lineup for every game this year.

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