MILWAUKEE – After watching his future Marquette teammates dispose of North Florida Saturday afternoon at the Bradley Center, guard Vander Blue suited up for his current team, Madison Memorial High School, as they faced Rufus King (Milwaukee) High School in the Converse/Eastbay Classic at the Al McGuire Center.
After watching Blue play, here are the pros and cons of his game, to give Marquette fans a better look at what they can expect from the highly touted 6'4" recruit in 2010.
Speed: An observer who knew nothing about Blue would still be able to tell pretty quickly who the Division-I prospect was on the court based on the speed he played with. It's easy to see why Marquette coveted Blue so highly, as he loves to run the fast break. On the majority of missed shots, Blue was looking for the ball and pushed it up court at every opportunity.
In half court sets, Blue was able to dribble through defenders despite not having many plays run for him. Teammate Tre Creamer had the hot hand on Saturday, so Blue was the second option most of the night. But when he had the ball, he got by his defenders with ease. The left and right wings seemed to be where Blue is most comfortable driving from, and he excelled at getting to the paint.
Ball Handling: Going hand-in-hand with his speed on the fast break, Blue showed excellent ball handling ability for a player of his size. The 6'4" guard used both hands well and didn't lose much speed when running the break with his left hand. Blue crossed over his defender on multiple occasions, using an array of ball handling skills in the process. This combined with his speed makes Blue very tough to stop in getting to the basket.
Jump Shooting: For the game, Blue went 2-of-4 from beyond the arc, with one of his misses rimming out after being all but down. Known for his range, Blue should have no problem shooting deep balls once he gets to Marquette. He can be streaky sometimes but when he is on, look out. He showed a very nice release and got good height on his jumps, meaning he will be able to get shots off over most defenders.
Athleticism: Head coach Buzz Williams is known for wanting the most athletic players he can find, and Blue fits that bill perfectly. Playing out of position in the team's 1-3-1 zone, Blue had one block and altered countless other shots. While he got pushed around on occasion, his leaping ability was incredible and he tried to block any shot he felt he could get to. He also has a knack for picking the ball away and was incredibly active on defense.
Offensively, Blue used his speed and ball handling to get to the basket then used his athleticism to finish. He hung in the air and drew contact, all while getting his shot off. He ended his performance at the Al McGuire Center with a thunderous dunk to seal the game for Madison Memorial.
Attitude: As if his play didn't speak for itself, Blue's attitude on the court revealed him as a gamer, a leader, and a competitor. Over the course of the game, he was constantly talking to teammates and making sure they were in the right position. His swagger on the court was borderline cocky, but he more than backed it up with his play. He got impatient at times, but one has to remember that he is the main senior on the defending state champions.
His attitude also encompasses wanting the ball in clutch situations. With Madison Memorial down five points in the closing minutes of the third quarter, Blue hit back-to-back threes, then stole a pass and dished out an assist on a fast break to put the Spartans up three heading into the final quarter. Little stretches like that show why Blue is considered one of the best in the class of 2010.
Control: While Blue should be expected to have the ball in his hands at most times, he still needs to work on staying under control and playing within the game. Whether he was nervous with Buzz Williams in the stands or just had an off night, he finished the game with five turnovers and could have had about seven or eight.
If he expects to play any point guard at Marquette, he will need to be smarter with the basketball. His passing is one of his stronger suits, and showed has lightning quick reflexes and consistently found the open man, but he was sometimes guilty of forcing a pass in traffic in an attempt to make a great play.
Size: Blue's height and wingspan are both above average for the type of player he is, but if he is going to see time at "small forward" in Buzz Williams' three-guard offense, he is going to have to put a little more muscle on. His wiry frame (185 lbs.) made it easy for him to slide through the lane, but in the Big East he will need to be more physical.
Defensively, Blue played the bottom of the team's 1-3-1 defense and found himself in bad positions at times. His athleticism made up for some of the beating he took in the paint, but that gap in athleticism will close considerably in college. He doesn't need to become Wesley Matthews, but some more muscle will go a long way towards giving him an NBA body.
Blue's unofficial stats (12/19): 22 points, 4-9 FG, 12-12 FT, 2-4 3PT, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, 5 turnovers