Marquette’s DJO and Crowder ready to live NBA Draft dream

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Following Wesley Matthews‘ breakout rookie campaign during the 2009-2010 NBA season, the Marquette Golden Eagles have seen players selected in the first round of the NBA Draft each of the past years; Lazar Hayward in 2010 and Jimmy Butler last summer.  A pair of MU ballers are expected to be selected tonight when Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder will likely hear their names called.

DJO and Crowder played integral parts in helping Marquette reach the Sweet 16 the past two seasons.  The former junior college players will almost certainly have their dreams come true this evening as they are projected to be second round picks.

“It’s always been a dream,” DJO said at the NBA Draft Combine.  “I can’t take anything for granted.  I always wasn’t one of the top guys.  Being here humbles you even more to work even harder and do even better things that might stand out to other people.  That’s what I want to do.”

DJO hasn’t had to go through that process alone.  His college roommate, Crowder joined him at the combine and it was evident that DJO still had his former teammate’s back.  “I was yelling at Jae when he was on the court,” Johnson-Odom said of watching Crowder compete at the combine.  “Telling him to talk, be that player, be yourself, be what you were at Marquette and everything’s going to work out.”

“When we get to see each other, we’re just like a band of brothers,” he continued.  “We talk to each other about what can happen, how much our lives can change.”

Crowder was quite the player in his two years at Marquette.  He came from out of nowhere to win the Big East Player of the Year honor this past season, serving as a jack-of-all-trades stat stuffer.  However, his draft stock doesn’t really reflect that accolade as there are questions regarding what position Crowder will play at the next level.  It was a similar situation Lazar Hayward faced two years ago as both guys were forced to play “bigger” at MU due to injuries and a lack of size inside.  “Lazar taught me; find out what your craft is and do it well.”

Like he did for Buzz Williams and the Golden Eagles, Crowder feels he doesn’t have one particular craft and that he can help a NBA team due to his versatility.  “I take pride in my defense,” Crowder stated.  “I can knock down open shots, create my own shot.  I can play multiple positions.”

Johnson-Odom is hoping to prove to NBA teams that he can play multiple positions as well.  Primarily a shooting guard during his three years at Marquette, the 6’3 lefty lacks the ideal size for an off guard in the association.  That lack of size is hurting his stock and I strongly believe that if DJO was 6’5, he would be a surefire first round pick.  Instead, he might have to prove to team that he can run the point at the NBA level to maximize his potential and floor time.

“The one question was what position do you play?” DJO said of his talks with NBA teams at the combine.  “I know that’s one question I’m going to be getting.  That’s the only concerns from teams is what position I can play.  I told them I’m going to be a player.  I can play both positions.  Whatever you need me to play, that’s what I’m going to do.  I’m going to try and give you my best effort at 110%.  That’s all I can do.”

DJO gave his best effort at the combine with some incredible numbers during the testing and drills.  He had the highest vertical jump of all prospects in attendance at 41.5 inches.  He also displayed his strength for NBA decision-makers, benching 185 pounds 17 times which was the fourth most of all players.  Crowder had the most with 20 reps.

Whichever teams draft Johnson-Odom and Crowder will get a guy with incredible toughness and an unquestionable work ethic; something that has become a recent staple of MU players under Buzz Williams.  Both prospects are prepared for wherever that destination may be.

“I’m ready to go anywhere, to any team so we’ll see what happens,” Crowder declared.  “At the end of the day, you don’t have any control over it so no need to be distracted.”

DJO echoed those sentiments, “I’m definitely not worried about the draft.  All I have to do is take care of what I can do.”

CLICK HERE TO SEE WHERE I HAVE DJO AND CROWDER BEING SELECTED IN MY LATEST MOCK DRAFT

The Sports Bank’s Ngozi Ekeledo stopped by the 2012 NBA Draft Combine’s Media Day and talked to Marquette’s Jae Crowder about what he can bring to an NBA roster.

David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank.  He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities.  David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu.  He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft on the web.

You can follow him on Twitter at David_Kmiecik

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