Wednesday marked the first day of the one-week period for recruits from the 2010 class to sign national letters of intent to their respective schools. Marquette wasted no time in locking up their two prizes for the early signing period, receiving letters from small forward Jamail Jones and point guard Vander Blue.
Jones averaged 17 points, 10 rebounds, and 8 assists per game playing for Green Forest Christian Academy in Decatur, Georgia. He will play his senior year for Montaverde Academy in Florida and is a big reason why the Eagles are touted as one of the best high school teams in the nation.
Marquette coach Buzz Williams has already seen improvement from Jones from the first time he saw him play.
"He plays for arguably the best high school coach in the country," he said. "[Jones] has gotten better during his time at Montaverde already. We've been down there a few times, and he has gotten a lot better."
Jones, or "Mellow" as he prefers to be called, fit the "Buzz Williams mold" to a tee. At 6'6", his physical 180-pound body will make him difficult to defend, as he has improved his outside jump shot and is able to handle the ball off the dribble. Because of this, Jones will be able to play shooting guard or both forward positions, and his multi-faceted game was a huge plus for Williams.
"We want to sign as many guys as we can that are hard to guard," Williams said. "We want to sign as many guys as we can that can pass, dribble, and shoot. We want to sign as many guys as we can that can guard multiple positions."
As big of a signing as Jones, a top-100 prospect, was for the Golden Eagles, much of the hype surrounding Marquette's recruiting class circulated around Madison, WI native Vander Blue.
After backing out of a verbal commitment from Wisconsin in May, Blue re-opened his recruitment and ultimately chose Marquette over Wisconsin, Florida, and UCLA. Ranked as high as No. 22 on Rivals.com, and listed as the No. 4 shooting guard by Scout.com, Blue is Marquette's third highest ranked commitment in the last thirty years and will be able to step in right away, something that Williams is grateful for.
"The thing that's probably not talked about enough is how hard it is to sign players that can have an immediate impact at this level," he said. "Where their bodies are ready, where their minds are ready, where their skills are ready to have an impact right away, and I think Vander can do that."
Blue's decision to come to Marquette, after de-committing from Wisconsin, should add more fuel to the already lit instate rivalry, but Williams said his recruitment of Blue was never anything negative towards the University of Wisconsin.
"I want people that want to be a part of who we are, and I don't want it to be because we knocked down every other program and we were the only one left standing. I want them to come here because, in their heart, they feel like this is where they are supposed to be."
One thing Williams looks for in every recruiting class is a true point guard, something he believes Blue can be. At the same time, that all-important versatility is something that drew him to recruit Blue.
"I'll put him wherever is best for our team for him to do what he does best. I think he's a guy that can play all three positions. I think he'll be a hard guy to get off the floor and I think he's a guy that can guard all three positions, which makes his value really, really high."
"Mellow" and Blue have vaulted Marquette's recruiting class into the top 15 by most, including 13th by Rivals.com and 25th by Scout.com. However, Buzz Williams and the Marquette staff are not done recruiting and hope to sign another player or two before the Wednesday deadline, saying Marquette will "sign as many players as we can sign that are great players and fit what it is we want to be about on and off the court."
The main prize for Marquette would be Tarik Black, a 6'8" power forward from Memphis. Memphis, Tennessee, and Florida are competing with Marquette for his services and he is expected to sign during the early period. Rumors floating around the internet have pegged Marquette as the favorite, but Memphis is the hometown team, and Black took his official visit to Florida this weekend.
With a point guard and small forward already in his pocket, Williams understands that size should be next on the checklist for the 2010 class, but he will not pass up the opportunity to add another guard.
"We need size for sure. I think I would always say that and I think that if you only have three dribble guys on your team, it should be because you couldn't sign a fourth dribble guy. And so if we can add another guard that can dribble, we'll do that too," he said.
Other names worth keeping an eye on include point guards Reggie Smith (IL) and Stargell Love (NC), power forward Jayvaughn Pinkston (NY) during the early signing period, and small forward Justin Coleman (VA) in the spring.
While there are still questions concerning the status of Monterale Clark, Marquette will has two remaining scholarships. But Williams has shown a tendency to over-recruit, so as many as three signings could occur before the 2010 signing period is over.