Currently, there are three former MU players in the NBA…Dwyane Wade, Steve Novak, and Travis Diener.
I predict that number will double next year.
Dominic James, Jerel McNeal, and Wes Mathews are having excellent senior seasons and have turned themselves from borderline NBA prospects to solid NBA prospects. Detractors (I can think of three on this board) will point out the things these players cannot do. Dominic James has a suspect jump shot and is a so-so free throw shooter. Jerel McNeal cannot play the point. Wes Mathews has been something of a one-year wonder on the offensive end of the floor.
Rather than focus on their negatives, focus on their positives. All three are excellent defenders that can guard multiple positions and players significantly taller than they are listed. James, in particular, has turned into one of the top on-ball defenders in the land. All three have improved offensively as well. McNeal and Mathews have significantly improved their three-point shooting and James has become an excellent floor leader with an outstanding assist/turnover ratio.
Their improvement does not necessarily guarantee NCAA success or a Big East title. MU has obvious limitations and a team that can handle their pressure and exploit their lack of size has a great chance to beat them. Louisville, Pitt, and UCONN immediately come to mind. The three amigos have shown the value, both individually and for an academic institution, that can occur by staying all four years in college hoops.
The Milwaukee Bucks could use McNeal or Mathews tomorrow, and James is better than most backup point guards in the league. MU fans need to enjoy this season and hope that some of the work ethic these players have demonstrated rubs off on next year’s talented young team.