In the event you were able to completely avoid ESPNU for the past 24 hours, you may have missed the fact that yesterday was opening day of college basketball's spring signing period. If you did see ESPNU, then you were probably appalled by the Signing Day Special done on a scale that would rival the NFL Draft. Seriously, a live interview with Brandon Knight at his press conference? And I used to think the press conferences themselves were bad. I didn't watch much past the first 5 minutes because I was fairly mortified at the spectacle of it all, so I don't know if they gave Marquette any love. In the event they missed us, I'm here to deliver all due respect to the two young men that officially signed on the dotted line to play for MU next season.
Devonte "D.J." Newbill - G, 6'4", Strawberry Mansion HS - Philadelphia, PA
At 6'4", maybe even 6'5" according to his high school coach, Newbill provides a strong-physical combo guard to bolster the Golden Eagles' backcourt. While not an overly explosive player, his size and strength give him the versatility to play all of the guard positions in Marquette's offense. (And with the lack of size around these parts, who knows -- he could end up playing the 4.) All accounts are that D.J. has a pretty well-rounded game: good mid-range jumper, good handle, and a knack for getting to the rim. His lack of quickness could prove a liability on the defensive end, but his strength and size help him make up for it.
Newbill was not ranked by most recruiting services coming into the year. His high school coach attributed that to the fact that he didn't play AAU ball until the summer before his senior season. ESPN's Scouts Inc. did give him a grade of 80 (compared to 96 and 90 for fellow MU commits, Vander Blue and Reggie Smith). Also, some teams shied away because he hadn't taken his SAT until December, and that was seen as an indication that he might not qualify academically. That turned out not to be the case when Newbill passed his SAT and qualified on the first try. D.J. had a solid senior season - averaging 24.2 points, 9 boards and 5 assists a game - while leading Strawberry Mansion to the Class AA Pennsylvania State Championship, and was also named Class AA player of the year. This past January he garnered headlines when he dropped 64 points on W.B Saul High School. But his coach is quick to point out: "He could have scored 100. But he's so unselfish. He had 64 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists and seven steals."
Newbill chose Marquette over Track Suit Bob and West Virginia, and a host of mid-majors.
Jae Crowder - F, 6'6", Howard College (JC) - Big Spring, TX
It seems odd to be excited about an incoming junior college player. Most people have learned that it is unwise to expect big things from a JUCO. Some people just kind of groan and shrug when they learn their team has signed one. I, too, was once one of those people. After the Mike Kinsellas and Jamil Lotts of the world, who could blame me? But after seeing Buzz Williams' string of success in plundering the JUCO ranks, I am singing a different tune these days. And you should be, too.
Jae Crowder, son of former NBAer Corey Crowder, comes to Marquette University with even more hardware than last year's JUCO success story, Darius Johnson-Odom. Jae averaged 18.9 points, 9.0 rebounds a game, and led Howard College to the NJCAA National Championship. With his physical attributes (6'6", 225lbs) as well as his inside-outside game (36.2% from 3-point range), naturally he is being compared Lazar Hayward. While filling Lazar's shoes is a pretty tall order, it appears that Jae will be filling a similar role, schematically at least, as No. 32. His coach at Howard feels that he also has the intangibles to take up the leadership role, vacated with ‘Zar's departure. Sez coach: "He'll buy into what Coach Williams wants to do, and he'll also be able to step onto the floor and be able to, through his leadership, come up to his level when he plays." But make no mistake; the Big East is not the NJCAA. Jae will have to show the ability, and willingness, to score inside and out, defend inside and out, as well as rebound for him to truly make an impact for MU.
Crowder chose MU over Baylor, Georgia, Texas Tech and UNLV. As you might expect, after a 27 point, 12 board performance in the NJCAA title game, some programs hoped he may have had a change of heart. But it's official now: Jae Crowder is a Golden Eagle.
We can't wait to see both these guys in blue and gold next year.
For more on MU hoops, recruiting, and other news on the Golden Eagles, don't forget to read professional journalist Todd Rosiak's Marquette Blog on the JS.