Marquette's Big Three Happy To Skip Draft for BBQ
Milwaukee Bucks' World's Largest Draft Party
MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Dominic James, Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews each traded a chance at shooting jumpers in front of NBA executives this month for something a little more rustic.
The talented guards turned down pro aspirations to return to Marquette for the upcoming season and were with new coach Buzz Williams at a Southern-style barbecue on Wednesday night.
"It's a lot less stress," McNeal said, laughing. "I'm sure there's a lot of guys right now on the edge of their seats, that's all they can think about. The last couple of days, that's all they've been talking about on the TV."
James, McNeal and Matthews are all coming back for their senior seasons. James tested the NBA pre-draft process in 2007 and worked out at the pre-draft camp in Orlando, Fla. before withdrawing his name. McNeal announced this season he was returning to school less than a month after making his name eligible for consideration.
"It makes me hungry. I've got a big appetite right now knowing that I'm not in the NBA draft, but I'm not worried about that," James said. "I'm worried about my teammates. We're having a good time."
The barbecue drew more than 1,500 people to the first major event in support of Williams, the Van Alstyne, Texas-native. It included country music and an inflatable bull to ride.
"Our players haven't been over there yet, have they?" Williams joked. "No, I'm not (riding). I told our guys they're not either. I don't want anybody getting hurt."
It's been a hectic offseason around the Top 25 program with the sudden departure of Tom Crean to Indiana, the ensuing search that led to the internal promotion of Williams and the work to keep recruits from backing out of their commitments.
Williams, who joined Crean's staff in 2007, successfully kept half the incoming class and the senior guards, too.
"It was an unbelievable job by coach, he's been doing a great job since he's been named as head coach," said McNeal, who acknowledged he was shocked when Crean left. "He's been keeping guys on the same page, and keeping guys together."
But ultimately, it'll be up to the three guards who have a 69-31 record with three NCAA tournament appearances but only one tournament win.
The NBA? It can wait.
"I hope that all of those guys at some point in time are able to fulfill their dreams and play in the NBA," said Williams, who said the team would watch the draft together Thursday night. "I hope that we're able to continue to recruit guys that can play in the NBA. That's the thing, that way I can keep answering that question."
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)