Marquette’s 2003 Final Four team kicks off 20th Anniversary with golf outing

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Travis Diener (left) and Dwayne Wade (right) embrace during the M Club Golf Outing Aug. 8 at The Legend at Brandybrook golf course. (Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

TOWN OF WALES — The 20th Anniversary of the Marquette men’s basketball 2003 Final Four team kicked off Aug. 8 at The Legend at Brandybrook Golf Course in Wales, Wisconsin in an event put together by the school’s M Club.

It was a day filled with action on the golf course along with several trips taken down memory lane for members of one of the greatest teams in men’s basketball program history.

“The stories and the reminiscing are incredible,” former guard Travis Diener said. “Our team was so special and so close and that continues 20 years later … When we come back it’s like we never left the locker room together.”

From memorable moments in practice, which gave them all a reason to laugh almost 20 years later, to epic comebacks to heart-breaking moments, Diener and his teammates could not help but remember the road to the Final Four.

Diener, who was an All-Conference USA performer each of his four seasons with the Golden Eagles, said his legacy at Marquette did not stop when the Golden Eagles fell to Kentucky in the Final Four.

“When you lose Dwyane and lose Rob (Jackson) from that Final Four team, you lose a lot. My role changed quite a bit after that,” Diener said. “Coach Crean always had a vision for me … Through hard work and family support, coaching, my teammates, I ended up having a career that I never even dreamt of when I was a little kid.”

Looking back at his own experience, Joe Chapman, who was the lone first-year guard on the team, reminisced on what it was like being led by a team full of leaders, especially with Wade leading the way on both sides of the floor.

“To be one of the younger guys on the team and seeing older guys have the expectations of the year that was coming, that was huge for me,” Chapman said. “To have that family atmosphere, have a coach be demanding and have the players that wanted to achieve a goal at the highest level, that was special.”

Although all eyes were on Wade, the 3-time NBA Champion says that the historic run was “never about him” and more about the team wanting to solidify its own moment in Marquette history.

“We knew coming in that the 1977 team was the team, everyone talked about it,” Wade said. “I remember us talking about it and saying ‘We want to be remembered’. It was always that ‘Why not us’ mentality.”

Wade even mentioned how his talks with Marquette legends such as George Thompson, Butch Lee, Bo Ellis and Doc Rivers inspired the team “to be part of that”. Now, Wade has a message for today’s team.

While it has been 19 years since the Golden Eagles made a run in the postseason like the Final Four team, many of those on that team believe Marquette’s time for another historic run is coming soon.

“I look at the new Marquette and I say ‘Why not you guys? What can’t you guys re-create that 20-year history when you guys come out and do something that no one expects you to do’,” Wade said. “That’s what we did. It’s special all around.”

Wade further explained what it takes to get there.

“Everyday, you have to come in everyday,” Wade said. “Even the days that you don’t want to, the days you’re injured, … Whatever you have, you have to come in every day to do the work. For (today’s team) they have a blank canvas and the goal is to create beautiful art at the end of it. Show up every day, do the work, don’t cheat yourself.”

Former head coach Tom Crean said keeping Marquette’s culture of discipline and selflessness alive is key for success in March. 

“You’ve got to get over yourself quickly and you’ve got to be committed to making your teammates better,” Crean said. “Winning hasn’t changed, how you win is still the same. You’ve got to care about your teammates, you’ve got to be willing to fight for them, fight them once in a while to get the most out of each other and that’s exactly what they did.”

As for the program’s current head coach Shaka Smart, the anniversary of Marquette’s ’03 team brought similar memories of him leading Virginia Commonwealth University to the program’s sole Final Four run in 2011.

“We didn’t have a D-Wade, but we had similar experiences as a team from a standpoint of going through adversity, overcoming adversity,” Smart said. “One thing that the best teams have in common is that they’re able to take conflicts within the team and they’re able to use those to come closer together around winning.”

Even with the eventful weekend the Final Four team had, the celebration of the team’s accomplishments is certain to not end there. Not only will the recognition remind fans of Marquette’s unique place in NCAA history, but the hope is to inspire the next generation to achieve the same heights and more.

“Those guys were awesome to be around and to listen to their stories,” Smart said. “I think the most valuable lesson is you’re not going to win without truly caring about each other and you’re not going to win big without doing it for each other and (the ’03 team) had a lot of stories that spoke to that point.”

This article was written by Andrew Amouzou. He can be reached at andrew.amouzou@marquette.edu or on Twitter @AndrewAmouzou.