Young Spartan Pride

With its fifth state tournament appearance in the last five years, Madison Memorial is making its latest run with a bunch of young players. When you have highly-touted recruits Jeronne Maymon and Vander Blue on your team, however, nothing is unimaginable.

Entering the year with only two seniors, one solid starter and a handful of letter winners, Madison Memorial boys basketball head coach Steve Collins could do the math.

With nothing but a handful of juniors, the math teacher by day and basketball coach by night was waiting for something to flip the switch.

Playing tough teams with tough players throughout the non conference season (winning in Minneapolis against five-star recruit Royce White and De La Salle but losing to future Badger Jordan Taylor and Benide-St. Margaret's), Collins got his wish when his Spartans won at Minnetonka on January 26th in Minnesota.

"Whenever you have a team that young, you are never sure what's going to happen when the season rolls around," Collins told Badger Nation. "They have really bought into the system of what we are trying to do and, I think when we beat Minnetonka, the light bulb went on and we knew we could do something pretty special."

Since losing to Benide-St. Margaret's on January 5th, Memorial (21-2) has won 17 straight games, including winning its three playoffs against by an average of 21 points per game.

Winners of five-straight Big 8 conference titles and heading to state for the fifth consecutive time (winning the Division I championship in 2005), Collins has done it with his team of naïve juniors, which is hardly a bad thing.

"I don't think they realize how big of games that they are playing in," Collins said. "They are just going out, having fun and being kids. They're working hard and listening, which makes it a pretty good thing."

Of course, having two of the best future prospects in the state in junior Jeronne Maymon and sophomore Vander Blue can't hurt.

A three-star recruit by, Maymon has been the catalyst that has led Memorial all season long, especially in the WIAA Playoffs. Averaging 18.9 per game during the regular season, Memorial was 18-1 with Maymon in the lineup, as the junior scored over 20 points nine points and in double figures 18 times.

In the playoffs, however, Maymon has taken his game to another level, scoring 28, 17 and 27 points (24 ppg) in Memorial's three wins.

"He's a really hard matchup that if you take him away, he leaves lanes open for all the other guys," Collins said. "You have to pick your poison with him. He's played in more games than most high school kids in Wisconsin. He's started as a freshman, went to the state finals that year and went to the quarterfinals last year. He's played a lot of 70 some games in high school which is pretty impressive."

Combined with his older brother, Devonte, who plays senior guard for the Spartans and averages 12 points per contest, the duo have a bond on the court that reminds Collins of the Flowers brothers who led Madison La Follette to a state title in 2002.

"When that happens, there's a special bond there that coaches can't teach," Collins said. "They've been playing together so long that it's a good thing, something I wish we had more of."

Maymon, who is 6-foot-6 and 230 pounds, has drawn interest from Iowa State, Marquette and Wisconsin among others and has received scholarship offers from Baylor and Wisconsin-Green Bay. According to Collins, who coaches him everyday, Maymon is an extremely versatile athlete who can play multiple positions at the college level.

"He's obviously not going to play a point or play a five in college but with some improvement can play a two, three or four at the next level," Collins said. "He can shoot the jumper or take off on the dribble, he can play defense and he can rebound. There really is no weak aspect to his game other than he could probably get a little stronger. He's a pretty special player."

But Maymon isn't the only college prospect on Memorial's roster, as sophomore Vander Blue is putting up exceptional number in his first season on the varsity roster, especially in the playoffs.

Putting in 13 points per game, Blue scored 23 points in the sectional semifinals against Watertown and shows an incredible amount of poise for such a young age.

"Vander is an exceptional athlete and an exceptional basketball player," Collins said. "He does not turn 16 until July and I think he is going to be very special. It says something for our program that he did not make varsity last year as a freshman. I think he's going to be one of the top players in the state if he isn't already."

Already showing interest from Wisconsin's four D-I schools, Collins believes that Blue may be one of the best prospects that the state of Wisconsin will have in the next few years.

"He's a good of rebounder as I have seen," Collins said. "He's able to take the ball to the rim extremely well, his mid-range jumper is very good, he can defend just about anybody and he is as quick a player on the court as anybody. He's like a gazelle. There will be a lot of recruiters coming after him very hard."

With one of his youngest and most talented teams, Collins is looking forward to seeing how his young players react to the vastly different environment that the Kohl Center brings. If, however, Blue and Maymon play how they've been playing in high-pressure environments, their will be little to worry about.

"I have coached in the quarterfinals, semifinals and the finals, but the scariest game is the first one because you've got to win that first one to get with a second one," Collins said. "You're never sure with a young team how they're going to react to the limelight. But, I like how this team has reacted this season."

2008 Boys State Basketball Tournament

Thursday-Saturday, March 6-8, 2008

Kohl Center, Madison, Wis.


Quarterfinals: Thursday, March 6

Game-1: Madison Memorial vs. Lake Geneva Badger - 1:35 p.m.

Game-2: Oshkosh West vs. Germantown - approx. 25 min. following Game #1

Game-3: Bay Port vs. Brookfield Central - 6:35 p.m.

Game-4: Eau Claire North vs. Wauwatosa East - approx. 25 min. following Game #4

Semifinals: Friday, March 7

Game-5: Winner of Game #1 vs. Winner of Game #2 - 6:35 p.m.

Game-6: Winner of Game #3 vs. Winner of Game #4 - approx. 25 min. following Game #5

Championship Game: Saturday, March 8

Game-7: Winner of Game #5 vs. Winner of Game #6 - approx. 35 min. following Div. 3 championship game

Badger Nation Top Stories