This is the sixth of ten posts revealing the ten Marquette nominees for the SBN Wisconsin Hall of Fame. These are in no particular order, except for the particular order they're in.
A lot of these posts (at least the ones I've seen so far) have chimed in on players' statistical greatness and professional successes. While my nominee for the SBN Wisconsin Hall of Fame doesn't have a fantastic professional career (a la Ellis, Wade and hopefully soon, Matthews), he does have one night that all Marquette fans will never forget - January 3, 2006. UCONN visits the Bradley Center in Marquette's first ever game in the Big East.
41 points. 16 rebounds. 19,000 hoarse voices. 1 major upset. Novak made his robotic jumper a national spectacle, knocking down shot after shot after shot. He had a three-pointer that was so long, his foot was darn near touching the edge of the "M" at the center of the Al McGuire Court. He officially welcomed UCONN in the BC and told every other Big East team to watch out.
His performance was widely praised around the college basketball world - even declared the number 1 individual performance by Sports Illustrated (found via Cracked Sidewalks - I love Google). He took a young, raw team on his shoulders that year and carried the Golden Eagles to a season that no one, repeat NO ONE, expected.
Novak developed his own mold - a tall, bruising, brutally efficient shooter that found a way to get open, whatever the defense threw at him. He was a guaranteed two points at the line. If I may interject some of his statistical greatness, in his final season at Marquette, he shot 47.7% from the floor - his 3 point percentage was 1 point below that. He made 97% of his free throws. Remember his two-point, fadaway jumper to sink Notre Dame that year? Of course you do.
His 2006 season was special, but what about that first year? What about his gutsy performances in his freshman year? He was the ultimate role player on a team that had it all - superstar player, slick point guard and frontcourt talent. He definitely benefitted from having a more balanced attack in his senior year (versus Sophomore and Junior), but his crunch time shooting made that 2005/6 team.
I know that Novak doesn't have the superstar power of Wade or the legendary name-recognition of Ellis or Rivers, but I nominate him for the SBN Hall of Fame for making us believe in Marquette basketball again. It can be argued that he set the tone for the current stretch of success we've been riding on as a program. That January game was arguably the biggest Marquette upset of the decade and it was his time.
Other than basketball, I also have a personal story regarding Novak. On my first night as a student, when I was at my first college party, Novak was there. I was dumbfounded. I was more dumbfounded when Novak came up to me and introduced himself. I was even more dumbfoundeder when he hung around to talk ball for 20 minutes. That was my first night as a student at Marquette and I'll never forget it. Since then, he's been my favorite player and my nominee for the SBN Wisconsin Hall of Fame.