When it was announced that Buzz Williams and the Marquette Golden Eagles had filled their last spot in the 2010 recruiting class with Jae Crowder, fans had just one question: how tall is he?
The answer? Crowder stands 6-foot-6 and weighs in at 230 pounds, numbers that had some fans excited while others wondered why Williams had decided to fill the spot with another undersized wing instead of a true power forward who could man the interior. Truth be told, there were many reasons Williams landed on Crowder and even more reason to believe the recruiting strategy he has implemented is going to pay off in the end.
Why can't we ever pull in a true post player like DeMarcus Cousins or Derrick Favors?
Williams takes a lot of heat for not being able to pull in quality (top 100) power forwards or centers. The first thing to remember is that the system Williams has put in place has not had the opportunity of playing with a full roster. Due to injuries and transfers, Marquette has had to adjust their style to fit their roster, mainly guards and wings that play an up-tempo style.
In turn, recruits haven't seen the traditional low-block play at Marquette and as a result are going to value a Michigan State or a Memphis who dump the ball down low more often.
Williams' focus on guards and versatile wings, combined with Marquette's lackluster history producing "bigs" outputs an equation that makes it all but impossible for Marquette to find a true "big".
In the Rivals 2010 Top 100, ten players were listed at 6-foot-8 or taller. Five of those players were ranked in the top 23 and seven were in the top 40. Recruiting a top-40 player in the nation is hard enough, regardless of the position they play. But trying to pull in a power forward or center to run up and down the court and play up-tempo for 40 minutes is even more difficult.
Outside of top 100 players, most players 6-foot-8 or taller are projects that are still developing and learning to play within their bodies. Conditioning, building strength, and adjusting to college life in the paint can slow down their progression, which is why it takes so much longer for them to progress. Williams has done this with Youssoupha Mbao and also has Chris Otule, so it's not like he has totally forgot about the position.
Well if we never look for them, they aren't just going to come knocking on Marquette's door.
Another criticism of Williams and his staff is that they don't even look for power forwards or centers, rather honing in on guards and wings and, in turn, missing out on potential front court stars.
Since Williams took over the job at Marquette in 2008, he has recruited five wing players, six guards, and three bigs. One of his wings, Jerrone Maymon, and two of his bigs, Brett Rosebro and Monterale Clark, are no longer with the team.
Those numbers would seem to support the notion that Williams does not care about brining in size, but let's not blame him right away before digging a little deeper. As recently as last year, Williams and the Golden Eagles found themselves in the top three schools for seven-footer Carson Desrosiers, the top two for 6-foot-8 Tarik Black and in the mix with 6-foot-8 Tony Mitchell and 6-foot-7 Cameron Clark.
Chalk those up as wins for the programs that were able to lure those players away rather than to put the blame on Williams for not being able to reel them in. It's no secret that post players will have a tough time at Marquette, so naturally they look to other schools where their skills will fit in.
Still, why the 6-foot-6 Crowder instead of a taller Junior College player or high school project?
While Crowder isn't the traditional power forward that pulls in rebound after rebound, there's no question he has the ability to play that way. Look no further than Marquette's own Lazar Hayward to see if Crowder, who is an inch taller than Hayward, has enough height.
Crowder is averaging just under 18 points and 9.5 rebounds per game for Howard College, currently 20-2 and ranked sixth in the nation. To put that in perspective, Jimmy Butler averaged seven rebounds per game during his only year in the JUCO ranks.
With the last two scholarships, Williams said he was looking for players who could contribute right away. He then went out and practiced what he preached by signing 6-foot-3 guard D.J. Newbill and Crowder to fill out the class. Newbill has a Big East body and will be able to play right away while Crowder is polished after two years of Junior College and should be ready to go from day one.
It's possible Williams is looking for Crowder to step up and be what Jeronne Maymon could have been before he transferred (their games match up almost identically). Instead of taking on another high school project, Williams went out and found a player that will not have to make the freshman adjustment.
As it stands, Williams is a perfect three-for-three when dipping into the junior college talent pool, finding arguably the team's second and third best players there in Jimmy Butler and Darius Johnson-Odom. Add in former All-American JUCO Dwight Buycks to the mix, and it becomes clear that Williams knows what to look for in a junior college transfer, making the addition of Crowder that much more exciting. (During their junior college time, Butler was an All-American honorable mention, Johnson-Odom was a first team All-American, and Crowder was a pre-season All American choice this year)
The Crowder signing also evens out the class, as Marquette will enter the 2010 season with four freshman, four sophomores, three juniors, and three seniors.
*Note* Chris Otule and Joe Fulce are technically Tom Crean's recruits, so they were not used in any of the stats compiled in the article.
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