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Vander Blue, 6-foot-4 shooting guard, Marquette: An athletic wing who thrives on attacking the basket, Blue will attempt to make the transition to becoming more of a combo guard on the professional level. The Wisconsin native, like many Marquette products, is known as a tough competitor and willing defender, but although he emerged as his team's primary offensive option and was at his best either in transition or operating as a “slasher” with the ball in his hands, both his outside jumper and decision-making ability are questionable. Still, he's a talented young player who made steady progress during his college career and while another year in school wouldn't have hurt his stock, his potential is at least comparable to other, more highly-regarded draft prospects.
Career highlights: A rotation player upon arriving in Milwaukee as a highly-touted recruit who spurned hometown Wisconsin, Blue had an up-and-down debut campaign, showing flashes of his ability early on before his performance tailed off as time went on, followed by off-the-court issues after the season and an improved sophomore year that featured better rebounding and playmaking, though not consistency as a scorer due to playing more of a supporting role. As a junior, he capitalized on the departure of key teammates and emerged as Marquette's leading scorer and an excellent defender, earning second-team all-Big East status. One of his best outings occurred during the team's Elite Eight run, as he dropped 29 points on a Butler squad known for its strong defense.
Strengths: Blue is a springy athlete, a tough driver and an acrobatic finisher in the lane with the ability to create for himself in pick-and-roll scenarios and knock down mid-range jumpers. He's a solid rebounder for his size on both ends of the floor and can be a terror in the transition game, as well as defend a variety of perimeter players at a high level because of his quickness and athleticism. Perhaps the best thing going for Blue is the recent track record of players from his school, as Marquette players, especially wings, have built a reputation for their toughness, defensive mentality and continued development once they reach the next level.
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Weaknesses: Though his size and explosiveness suggests he could join the current ranks of big NBA point guards who didn't necessarily play the position in college, Blue's ballhandling ability, perimeter marksmanship and decision-making with the ball in his hands leave something to be desired. He's shown flashes of those traits, but has a long way to go before the possibility of his conversion to even a part-time floor general is realistic. At his more natural position of shooting guard, he's a tad undersized and while some of that can be erased by his athleticism, he'll need to extend his range and experience vast improvement as a shooter before he can be considered a viable scoring threat in the league.
Draft projection: Because of his upside and relative youth, Blue is regarded as a second-round prospect that a team will need to invest time into his development before reaping the benefits of his talent. A veteran team with a direct D-League affiliate could do a lot worse than taking a flier on him, especially if he's molded into a defensive-stopper type at both backcourt spots and his offensive game matures as a reasonable rate. Of course, it can often go either way for young players with major holes in his game, but based on the college culture he's coming from, it's not a stretch to envision him as a rotation player in the league after some quality seasoning.