Marquette builds up its basketball house
Standing behind a podium in the Al McGuire Center on Marquette University's campus in October, Buzz Williams spoke about not just the development of another team, but the construction of a new house. Each team is its own family, and each family must have a place to live.
The home Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder adorned with hardware following a Sweet Sixteen run was sold off last March. And this year, regardless of the fact that many on the current roster were part of the last family, is a new unit in need of a new residence.
What kind of home?
That's up to that particular family. Prior to the season, Williams wasn't sure what kind they would be able to build.
A little more than halfway through the regular season, the fifth-year Marquette head coach still isn't quite sure what's going up in downtown Milwaukee – but be assured it's taking shape.
"It's a hard-ass build," Williams said. "That's what it is. It's hard."
He paused for more than a few beats to put together his thoughts.
"I don't think we're great," he added. "Honestly I'm not sure what we're good at, at times. But if we can be good at winning, maybe that will be enough.
He's not alone. Even the family isn't sure what they're creating.
"I really can't explain it," Jamil Wilson said. "It's not going to be a mansion, I guess. I mean, it's not Buzz's house. But you've got to start somewhere and as we continue to grow and as we continue to figure things out as a team and mesh together more and grind out tough games like Pittsburgh and grind out ugly games (like Seton Hall) you add more to your house, if it's from dry wall to knocking out the back porch to extend the kitchen or something like that.
"We're constantly trying to build every day in practice and every game you learn something whether you win or lose. Fortunately we've been winning."
Indeed. The Golden Eagles may be progressing through the season without a blueprint but they have cracked the top 25 already after starting the year without a ranking (they have since fallen out of the rankings) and sit at 13-4 overall and 4-1 in the Big East Conference.
Winning isn't the worst thing to be good at, and the Golden Eagles are doing so by spreading the wealth through a roster that is deeper than even Williams could have imagined back in October. He knew the loss of Crowder and Johnson-Odom would free up some minutes, but even at this deep in the regular season Williams is willing to go 10-deep, with that many players averaging at least 12 minutes per game.
"We're beginning to understand that's where this guy's room is and that's where this guy's room is and I think they understand that," Williams said. "There's still a long time to go. It's an eternity left. But I think that we're in a much better space as far as understanding how we need to live over the last two weeks than we were maybe a month ago."
The primary reason Williams has such trust is because the family has that much in themselves. No one is complaining about minutes, shots or statistics. It's about winning, which is about working together.
"If you want to be great, you have to do that," Wilson said. "You can't allow selfishness, your goals and your aspirations get in the way of the team's because at the end of the day, that's what matters. The team matters. Individual stats – yeah, you can have 30 points and seven rebounds and three assists and you can lose and everyone will be talking about that.
"But at the end of the season you're sitting at home. And teams where guys are having nine points and this guy has 10 points and maybe this guy has 19 points – those teams are the teams that are winning because they trust and respect each other."
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