Vander Blue understood the scrutiny surrounding him after a disappointing freshman campaign. But just two games into his sophomore campaign, it’s apparent that Blue is out to turn doubters into believers.
A highly-touted recruit of of high school, Blue averaged just 5.0 points per game in 19 minutes as a freshman and was nearly invisible on the offensive end during the Big East season. His confidence lacked and Blue admitted his head wasn’t in the right spot during games.
But Blue has shown a new focus in Marquette’s first two wins of the season, filling up the box score with averages of 12 points, three rebounds, five assists and two steals. Blue led the Golden Eagles with four steals in a Friday night win over Mount St. Mary’s, beautifully reading passing lanes and deflecting a handful of other passes.
Monday night it was his offense that spoke volumes, as Blue filled the box score with 14 points and a career-high six assists. Blue was aggressive on the break, drove to the basket with his mind set on scoring and connected on his first three pointer since Dec. 7 of last year.
Williams said this season feels difference because of his guard’s maturity level.
“He’s really matured,” Williams said. “I think that as you grow as a human you grow as a player. And as you struggle as a human, you struggle as a player. I absolutely love [Vander]. I’ve spent an incredible amount of time with him during his tenure so far, and I think there are really bright days ahead of him.”
Senior forward Jae Crowder said Blue’s progression began this summer, beginning with a new focus.
“He knew he had a lot to improve on, so he just got in the gym and worked on a lot of stuff,” Crowder said. “Confidence wise, I knew it was going to be a great time for him to show everyone what he’s really about. His work ethic has really helped him out confidence wise, so everything else is falling into place for him.”
Blue has started the first two games as the third guard with Junior Cadougan and senior guard Darius Johnson-Odom. There were rumors of Blue seeing time at point guard, but Williams said that, regardless of position, Blue’s role will stay the same.
Because of Marquette’s “switchable” offense, all players outside of point guards and centers move around enough where Williams said, the description of positions don’t matter.
Williams described this by referring to a question he asked his starting five in Monday’s win, asking them what position they played.
“But I say, ‘No, you’re just really good players,'” Williams said. “What position has nothing to do with that. Can Vander initiate offense? Yes, but does that make him a point guard? I don’t know.”
Still, the combined 10 assists through two games show that Blue’s versatility is shining through. Cadougan has firmly planted himself as the starting point guard and freshman Derrick Wilson has played well defensively, meaning Blue should continue to see time on the wing.
Regardless of position, Williams said Blue’s improved focus will continue to have an impact on the team.
“He’s a hard playing dude whose competitive aura impacts our team,” Williams said. “And you can see it. When he’s hooked up, not when he’s making baskets, but when he’s hooked up, it impacts, and it ripples down to the rest of our group.”
And there’s a big difference between being 17 and 18. Especially when during that year you experience playing at the highest level and for the best league for the country, in your home state, where everyone thought that if the collective bargaining agreement would’ve been different you would’ve went straight to the league.