Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Jeronne Maymon: The Most Confusing Departure Ever

It was 9pm last night when my friend Gus called and asked if I’d seen the news. Knowing Gus, I knew that it could be just about anything basketball-related, or something about one of the characters in our hometown. But even though it turned out to be basketball-related news, I absolutely did not expect him to tell me that Jeronne Maymon had quit the Marquette team. That totally floored me, and after spending the night thinking about it, I’m still perplexed at this turn of events. The timing just seems so confusing.

Maymon, of course, was something of a gamble to bring to Marquette. Though he was the state player of the year, there were plenty of questions surrounding his academics, and his outspoken father made lots of people cringe when he opened his mouth. Similar to another departed Marquette player from a few years back, Trever Mbakwe, there were enough red flags that you knew there was some risk in bringing Maymon aboard. But I thought it was a good gamble for Marquette. Grabbing a state player of the year from the same city of one of your biggest rivals is always a good move, and despite some of the questions about Maymon, he always seemed to be an excellent teammate. The positives were plentiful enough and the upside was big enough that it made sense to give Maymon a scholarship. But it seems that things didn’t work out.

Obviously, with so little information about what went down, speculation about the reasons behind Maymon’s departure abound. I’ve yet to come up with a reason that makes sense to me. Grades are an obvious first place to look, given Maymon’s reported past troubles. But the timing of his departure, prior to the end of the semester, means that he’d be leaving before any grades were even in. There’s little logic to a move like that.

I’ve seen some talk that Maymon could potentially be upset with his role as a supporting player, or that he doesn’t like the fact that he’s had to play a post position could be reason for conflict with Buzz Williams. But that doesn’t make sense to me either. In high school, Maymon seemed to be an almost frighteningly ego-less player to me. Two years ago, he dominated the state high school tournament like few others have ever done. Last year, teammate Vander Blue took over the breakout star at state, as Maymon seemed content to support his teammate and fill up the stat sheet in ways that didn’t involve being in the spotlight, so long as it meant his team would win. I don’t know of too many 18-year-old kids who reach a peak like that, and then step aside to let a teammate blossom, all in the spirit of success. To complain now would seem out of character, given Maymon’s past history as a seemingly outstanding teammate. And any rational person could see that his confinement to post-play this year is due to a freakish rash of frontcourt injuries, as well as the Brett Roseboro pre-season departure. I don’t claim to be an expert on Maymon’s demeanor, but leaving so quickly because of a dispute over how and how much he’s being used doesn’t add up to me.

Finally, I’d initially thought that his opinionated father was somehow involved in this, but early reports are that as of this morning he’s claiming to have known nothing about what went down. I’m not sure if I totally believe that, but for now, I’ll take the man at his word. Perhaps the only other thing that I can think of is that Maymon is involved in some sort of legal or other type of trouble, as Marquette has traditionally been good at protecting player privacy in those sorts of situations. But that’s a completely wild theory, and one that I can’t say that I actually believe.

So why Jeronne Maymon is no longer a member of the Marquette team is a question that I can’t answer. But there are other questions raised by his departure. Namely, the following two:

1) What happens to Vander Blue? Maymon’s relationship with Vander Blue seemed to be an important part of Blue’s decision to attend Marquette. With Maymon out of the picture, does that change things? If Blue’s smart, it shouldn’t. To start with, the letter of intent that he signed with Marquette would provide an extra hurdle to him should he decide to go elsewhere. Even if he could get Marquette to release him, his options would likely be limited. Aside from that, Blue has already publicly changed his mind once. To do so again would be bordering on ridiculous, particularly when he’s walking into a fairly good situation at Marquette. Marquette has a whole lot more to offer to Vander Blue than a chance to hang out with one of his friends. Given the early comments from his mother, I'm expecting that she'll read this situation well and will guide him in the right direction. It’s not even worth discussing Blue going elsewhere at this point, because I don’t see it happening. (I’ll only add that as great as it would be to see a player of Blue’s caliber in Badger red, after all that’s happened in his recruitment, it would probably be wise for him to leave the state and clean his slate, should he be inclined to depart Marquette.)

2) What will happen to Marquette this year? Well, practices just got a bit tougher, given that there are only 10 healthy players on the roster. Hopefully some of the assistant coaches are in shape so that they can practice if someone goes down or needs a breather (a la Rob Jeter and Tony Bennett for the 2001-02 Wisconsin team, the last season that I’ve seen a roster meltdown of this magnitude). In terms of actual games, I actually think Marquette will be more okay than we think right now. No, Youssoupha Mbao isn’t ready to play, and Rob Frozena will never rise above his walk-on status. But in the limited minutes that he’s played, I think Erik Williams has looked promising. Buzz Williams might disagree with me, though, given that I’ve never seen a coach berate a player like Buzz laid into Eric Williams during a timeout in the midst of garbage time in an early non-conference game. But Buzz Williams doesn’t have many other choices of players to go to now, and I think that the younger Williams will be up to the task. The already depleted Golden Eagles have looked somewhat better than expected so far, and let’s not forget–that 2001-02 Wisconsin team that I referenced earlier may have had a similarly cursed roster, but they also won the Big Ten championship that same year. I’m not saying that Marquette will rise to those heights, but let’s not start eulogizing this season just yet.

Here’s looking to whatever news comes out in the coming days. It’s sure to be interesting, particularly if the rumored press conference involving Maymon’s father actually occurs.


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