Lack of depth at point guard position burns Eagles’ nest

Right up there with such high quality thefacebook.com groups as "Tappa Tappa Kegga" and "For Boys Only!" is "Dominic James: Future Marquette God."

James, a 5-foot-11 senior point guard at Richmond (Ind.) High School, is part of the 2005 recruiting class for the men's basketball team and already has a fan club on campus.

The group has 46 members and 11 groupies, including many of James' future teammates.

The existence of such a group speaks volumes about Marquette's 2004-'05 season and the state of the men's basketball team.

The Golden Eagles learned the hard way that a team cannot have too many point guards. When Travis Diener missed three games in the middle of conference play with a stress fracture in his left foot and the final five games of the season because of two fractures in his left hand, the team struggled mightily.

Without its senior point guard and fiery leader in the lineup or anyone to replace him, Marquette posted a 2-6 record, ending any hope of advancing to the NCAA tournament.

After a promising start to the season, Dameon Mason (who should have been named MVP of the Blue and Gold Classic) fizzled down the stretch under the added burden of handling the ball and setting up the offense.

The sophomore, who used to draw comparisons to Dwyane Wade among optimistic supporters, missed 11 shots, had four turnovers and recorded no assists in the first-round NIT loss to Western Michigan.

Niv Berkowitz was expected to replace point guard Brandon Bell, who was out for the season because of a medical leave and has since transferred, but he lasted only seven games and had more turnovers than assists in 34 minutes of action.

The added ball handling responsibilities gave junior Joe Chapman problems, too. He had an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1:1.6 on the season. However, his shooting improved, and he's capable of scoring in double figures on a consistent basis next year.

In Diener's absence the lone bright spot at the point was walk-on Rob Hanley.

The freshman from Catholic Memorial also had more turnovers than assists, but when he was on the court the offense was much more fluid, and things did not look so out-of-sorts.

The hope is that James will have a similar calming effect on the team, but after the 2004-'05 season it is obvious this is a huge risk to take and a lot to ask of a freshman, especially in the Big East Conference.

This article appeared in The Marquette Tribune on April 7 2005.