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JIM PETERS: The pieces of the puzzle come together for Marquette

2014-03-27T17:00:00Z 2014-03-28T00:39:06Z JIM PETERS: The pieces of the puzzle come together for MarquetteJim Peters Times Columnist nwitimes.com
March 27, 2014 5:00 pm  • 

They come from spots on the map in northern Indiana, a four-county area that includes Lake Station, Chesterton, LaPorte, Nappanee and, of course, Michigan City.

While the long reach of a private school like Marquette Catholic is an unquestioned advantage, it's not enough to simply have the pieces to a puzzle. They each have to interlock to form the whole.

"Anytime you have a bunch of new faces, it takes time to build chemistry," Blazers coach Donovan Garletts said. "We don't have kids who play AAU or middle school together, so there's a learning curve, for the players as well as (the coaches) as leaders. It certainly wasn't easy at the beginning. It's been a three-year process."

When junior Ryan Fazekas arrived as a freshman in 2011, he was an immediate starter. Classmate JoVonte Peals was in the first five, too. It took them a while to find their niche. As they started to settle in, Richard Mitchell, Nate Flores and Braxton Miller all joined them on the Scholl Center court last season.

"We had to start all over again," Fazekas said. "We knew there would be some bumps we'd have to get over with all the new guys coming into a different system. We just needed to get to know how to play together."

Though cynics say it's a good problem to have, it's not as simple as throwing talent out on the floor and telling them to play.

"No matter if it's basketball, business, life, it all centers around establishing and building relationships," Garletts said. "It doesn't just happen. We worked very hard as a staff to get everybody on the same page, to try not to do their own thing. We had a lot of that at the beginning. With so many kids coming from all over, you get everybody thinking they're the man."

Marquette's balanced scoring suggests that nobody's had an issue sharing their spotlight for the benefit of the group.

"We were kind of like the Heat," Miller said. "Last year, we were a little unsure of each other, because it was a new situation. There was never a problem with players getting along. We just didn't know each other yet. The more experience we get, the better it worked out. Everyone's more comfortable with the other people, the surroundings. It's more natural."

Fazekas particularly noticed it in summer workouts.

"You could see everybody really coming together, buying in," he said. "Last year to this year, we've really meshed. We started to adjust to things. We all know each other, and it's working well."

Fred Mooney has coached for more than 35 years, most of them at Hammond Baptist. An assistant at Marquette since 2011, he has seen teams from diverse backgrounds succeed through the forging of bonds. He's also seen teams done in by divisiveness. He recalls the day this season when he realized the Blazers had attained that vital connection, becoming unbreakable links in a chain.

"We had a chemistry issue," Mooney said. "We've worked extremely hard as a staff to have them get along. Listening to the chatter of players, I told them at a practice that they had become coaches, teachers of the game, and they were relating it to their peers. They truly are all their brother's keepers right now. It's a great feeling."

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at james.peters@nwi.com.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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