Novak thrives under Townsend’s wings

During men's basketball media day head coach Tom Crean said Todd Townsend could become a college basketball coach after graduation if he wanted.

With that reference alone, it shouldn't be tough for the 6-7 senior forward Townsend to find a job. But if a program had any doubts that he was qualified for a coaching position, his resume should seal the deal.

Townsend is a proven winner. During his three seasons at Marquette, he and fellow senior Travis Diener have won 72 games. The last time a Marquette player entered his senior season with more wins the year was 1978.

He reads the game like a coach.

"I notice certain things in practice, in film (and) in games. I pick out certain things that are similar to what the coaches pick out," Townsend said.

He has experience interacting with college-bound teenagers. In between weightlifting, class and working to improve his game in the gym, Townsend spent the summer giving campus tours for the Office of Undergraduate Admissions.

He knows how to help young players.

"When I first got here he was the guy who took me under his wing," 6-10 junior Steve Novak said.

"He just said, 'I'm not going to let you fail.' … He was trying to make me better. He made my transition to college invaluable."

Added Townsend: "We play the same positions. Sometimes Steve would forget where he'd need to go on the floor and I'd just remind him."

Novak, meanwhile, was a good understudy.

A year ago the Brown Deer native was second on the team in scoring, averaging 12.5 points per game, but his accuracy was second to none.

On Jan. 31 at Louisville he went 8-for-13 from behind the arc, scoring a career high 30 points in leading the Golden Eagles past what was then the 4th-ranked team in the country. That wasn't a fluke; Novak's 45.6 percent career 3-point field goal percentage is the best in school history.

Further proof of his precision marksmanship is his accuracy from the free-throw line. In 2003-'04 he set the Conference USA single-season free-throw record by hitting 91.2 percent of his shots from the charity stripe.

Crean wants Novak, who averaged only 2.2 attempts per game last season, to get to the line more this season. "He's about as automatic as anyone," the head coach said.

Townsend spent the summer working hard on his jump shot and ball handling in an effort to get more playing time this season.

After starting every game during the Golden Eagles run to the Final Four in 2003, Townsend lost some of his confidence and started only one game a season ago.

He believes his ability to complete a turnaround hinges on his attitude and approach to the game.

"When I play with intensity I'm 20 times better," he said. "When I don't bring the intensity you can't tell I'm on the court."

If Townsend's drive and hunger is there on a consistent basis, the team could to go far, and the coaching career might have to wait a little while.