Marquette had a strong run of appearances in the 2010, 2011, and 2012 NBA Drafts. Four players selected, two in the first round. Two of those four players have latched on to regular rotation spots in The Association, and both of those guys - Jimmy Butler and Jae Crowder - massively improved their profiles over the last calendar year.
But since then... man, things have been rough. The 2013, 2014, and 2015 NBA Drafts have all come and gone without either the commissioner or the deputy commissioner uttering the name of your favorite Milwaukee-based Big East school, and even worse: There's not really an argument to be made that someone got hosed by NBA scouts and general managers. MU's draft eligible guys over the last three years: Junior Cadougan, Trent Lockett, Vander Blue, Jake Thomas, Chris Otule, Jamil Wilson, Davante Gardner, Matt Carlino, Juan Anderson, and Derrick Wilson. I suppose that Blue would have been the player that came the closest to getting drafted out of that bunch, with Carlino, Gardner, and Jamil coming in behind him.
So what about the future? Who's the next Marquette player that will hear their name called from the podium at the Barclays Center? We did a post like this a year ago, and oddly, the two players that garnered the most votes in the poll - Deonte Burton and Todd Mayo - both left Marquette before their eligibility expired. How's that for a weird one?
Let's assess the Marquette roster for an NBA future, shall we?
- Henry Ellenson - I mean, DUH. Draft Express currently lists the big man from Rice Lake, Wisconsin, as the #7 prospect in the 2016 NBA Draft. That's obviously taking into account any underclassmen from this past college hoops season that came back, but even with that, there's still five freshmen and an international player in front of Ellenson. Utah's Jakob Poeltl is sitting in the #8 slot, for what it's worth. Of course, Ellenson will only be a freshman in 2015-16, so there's always a chance that he'll want to come back for his sophomore season.
- Luke Fischer - The Germantown, Wisconsin, native occupied the #2 hole on last year's list, too. Sometimes all you need to get yourself drafted is showing one obviously discernible skill, and after missing one-third of the season and playing with a shoulder that needed surgery, Fischer was still the 60th best shot blocker in the country (via KenPom). He's had that surgery already this off-season, and is on the road to recovery. If he rounds out a bit more of his game and Ellenson comes back for another year? I could see Fischer knocking his way to the top of the pile, even though he doesn't make Draft Express' list of the 100 best sophomores.
- Duane Wilson - Last year, the question was whether he could play after missing a year with a stress fracture. Wilson very clearly can play at the Division 1 level, as evidenced by assembling one of the greatest freshman seasons in Marquette history. Now, can he expand his game as needed to play in the NBA? Will his height (listed at 6'2") end up holding him back?
- Matt Heldt - Yeah, okay, he's a freshman. But so is Henry Ellenson. As we pointed out a year ago, you can't teach height, and Marquette lists Heldt at 6'10". He already weighs 10 pounds more than Luke Fischer (255 lb.), so that's intriguing for development under the watchful eye of Marquette strength coach Todd Smith. I doubt that Heldt will turn into an NBA player in just one season, so the chances of being the next name called are probably low. But, he does like to step outside and shoot a three on occasion, so that has to help his case a little bit.
Outside of those four guys, I don't know if I can make a case for someone on the Marquette roster at this point in their career. Jajuan Johnson got waaaay better in the second half of 2014-15, but he's still nowhere near NBA level. Sandy Cohen spent most of the season nailed to the bench. Wally Ellenson couldn't get off the bench for two different coaches at Minnesota, and everyone else are guards that have never played a minute for Marquette at this point.
What do you think? Is it Ellenson for sure? Does someone else have a case to be made to get to meet the NBA Commissioner first?