In the Rupp Arena media room in March of 2013, I tweeted about the possibility of Vander Blue forgoing his senior season at Marquette to pursue his professional aspirations. The response I received was one that didn't think it was an option for the guard that had just set the Golden Eagles on fire with two impressive performances against Davidson and Butler.
Fast forward a few weeks and Blue was gone. If anyone thought he made the right decision, it was because he was chasing a dream. No one thought he was ready for the NBA as a player.
Everyone thought the 2013-14 Marquette team would still contend for a Big East title and it would simply be a case of "next man up." Obviously, it is now clear that the team needed Blue to be among the conference's best. That means people aren't happy with him. I've seen a few #CurseOfVander's on Twitter during games. His decision to leave Marquette early clearly irks people.
Whenever someone reminisces on Blue's time as a Golden Eagle, it seems like it's always about what could have been instead of what was. I'm yet to see anyone bring up his game-winning shots against St. John's or Davidson, or his incredible performance against Butler. It's always what if, not what was.
I get it. Everyone thinks he made a mistake and the lack of success this season's team has had makes Blue an even easier target for fans. It makes sense for people to still be bitter about what could have been.
I'm here to try to make you think about what was. While in some people's minds Blue only fulfilled his potential during one of his three seasons at Marquette, his run last March was memorable.
Moments like those that Blue created don't come along very often. His buzzer beater at Madison Square Garden won Marquette a conference championship in the last season of what some would call the real Big East. Then Blue's heroics were on display not once, but twice in the NCAA Tournament in March.
Blue's junior season was refreshing. He made people proud. While expectations may have been too high when he arrived on campus, he finally lived up to them. Everyone was happy and relieved for Blue.
Marquette's current campaign isn't turning into what everyone thought it would. The Golden Eagles are not fighting for a regular season conference title and probably are on the weak side of the "bubble." I thought people would have stopped blaming Blue and pointing fingers at him by now, but some still do. For the most part, though, people don't talk about it that much. The focus is on this team's faults and occasionally their strengths.
That makes now as perfect a time as ever to start recognizing what Blue did for Marquette. I'm not going to be Skip Bayless and compare players by postseason accolades or performances, but it's worth noting that Blue's performances in March of 2013 relieved Marquette fans. He didn't light the world on fire against Miami (FL) in the regional semifinals, but without him the team wouldn't have been there. He led a team to a point in the NCAA Tournament that Jimmy Butler, Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom all couldn't: to the Elite Eight.
Was Blue was good of a player as those three aforementioned former stars? Probably not. Did he make an unpopular decision? You're darn right he did. But was his impact on Marquette a positive one? Yes, it was.
Whether it is one of his game-winning shots in March of 2013 or his overall transformation into a go-to-scorer his junior season, it's about time the name "Vander Blue" stopped being associated with unfulfilled potential and a poor decision. It should be associated with a player that started on two Sweet Sixteen teams and was the star of an Elite Eight squad.
Let me put you in a good mood. When you get home from work tonight, watch a highlight tape of Blue, his heroics against Davidson, and the best of possibly the most intense game I've ever attended.