It's not often an entire team gets upstaged by one
player--especially one who rarely cracks the starting lineup--but
that's what happened to Marquette last season. No matter what
the Golden Eagles did on the court, it seemed that all anyone
wanted to talk about was William Gates, the likable reserve who
happened to be one of the stars of the film Hoop Dreams. Even
during Marquette's run to Madison Square Garden and the finals
of the NIT, Gates was the only Golden Eagle with name
recognition on Broadway.
Gates has used up his eligibility and--come December, when he
gets his degree in communications--will be moving on to bigger
and better things. Marquette hopes to do the same. With four
starters returning from a team that finished 21-12 and took
Virginia Tech to overtime before losing 65-64 in the NIT
championship, chances are the Golden Eagles will take the next
step, to the NCAA tournament, and return the spotlight to the
court. Marquette coach Mike Deane, now in his second year, has
the right blend of players--led by versatile 6'6" senior forward
Roney Eford, 6'11" shot-blocking specialist Amal McCaskill and
6'3" long-range specialist Anthony Pieper--to help the Golden
Eagles survive the rigors of the new Conference USA.
The big question for Marquette is this: Who will provide the
leadership lost by the graduation of do-it-all senior point
guard Tony Miller? A four-year starter, Miller finished his
career with 956 assists, fifth alltime on the NCAA career list.
Sophomore Aaron Hutchins, who averaged 17.2 points per game and
shot 53.6% from three-point range during the Eagles' NIT run,
will be heavily counted on to replace Miller and keep the
offense clicking. "We'll miss the intangibles Tony Miller
brought us," Deane says. "We won't have his leadership and his
physical toughness, especially on the defensive end. But with
Aaron Hutchins we might get better offensive numbers. And if we
get leadership from Roney Eford, we may be a better team."
Eford, a native of Queens, N.Y., who attended prep school in New
Hampshire, would seem a perfect candidate for the role of team
leader. Eford's scoring average has been in double figures in
each of his first three years at Marquette, and he has not
missed a game. Though not flashy, he's able to score, rebound,
help bring the ball up court when needed, and do all the other
little things coaches love. Ask Eford about Marquette's defense,
for example, and he'll point out that the Golden Eagles held
opponents to 38.2% shooting from the floor last year, third best
in the country. "We know defense wins championships," he says.
"You can't step on the court here without thinking defense
first. We know we always have to make the extra cut or fight
through the extra screen in order to get out and contest every
If Eford can translate those words into action and Hutchins can
replace Miller in the backcourt, Marquette players won't have to
worry about recognition. They'll be too busy realizing their own
COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BIEVER Eford will have to lead as well as shoot. [Roney Eford]
THE DATA BOX
Coach: Mike Deane
Career record: 211-114 (10 seasons)
Record at Marquette: 21-12 (1 season)
1994-95 record: 21-12 (final ranking: none)
Great Midwest record: 7-5 (tied for third)
SF *Roney Eford, 6'6", Sr.
Led team in scoring, second in rebounding
PF *Chris Crawford, 6'8", Jr.
Will split time with junior Faisal Abraham
C *Amal McCaskill, 6'11", Sr.
Swatted 76 shots last season
SG *Anthony Pieper, 6'3", Jr.
Launched team-high 195 threes--made 73
PG Aaron Hutchins, 5'10", Soph.
Hit 11 threes in first 28 games, 15 in last five
Nov. 26 vs. Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Golden Eagles 30-0 against Panthers
Dec. 31 at Wisconsin
Dairy State bragging rights on line in 102nd meeting
Jan. 7 vs. St. Louis
Great Midwest rivalry is Conference USA opener
Feb. 28 at Louisville
First meeting since 1984
March 2 vs. Cincinnati
Regular-season ender with big C-USA ramifications