Back in mid-October, I began the process of putting together my 2023-24 preseason All-American team, and as I finalized my list, there was one thing that immediately stood out about my first-team selections: Four of the five players listed on my first team were big men, all standing 6-foot-11 or taller, with the lone exception being Marquette point guard Tyler Kolek.
In a year that has been predictably dominated by big men up to this point, it is Marquette’s 6-foot-3, 195-pound lead guard who is the center of attention in the Big East Conference. The reigning Conference Player of the Year has lived up to the billing 14 games into the season, averaging a team-best 15.3 points, 6.3 assists and 1.7 steals per contest while helping guide the Golden Eagles to an 11-3 mark and the No. 7 ranking in the latest AP Top 25 poll.
Kolek’s impressive start to the season led to him being named the recipient of the inaugural FOX Sports Army National Guard of the Week. With that, I had the opportunity to sit down with the Golden Eagles’ senior point guard and discuss a number of topics, including his upbringing in a basketball-centric household, playing the villain role in visiting Big East arenas, and what it would mean to lead the Golden Eagles to their first Final Four since 2003.
“It’s something that not a lot of people get to do and very few have accomplished here,” Kolek said when asked about the thought of guiding Marquette to its first Final Four since three-time NBA champion Dwyane Wade donned a Golden Eagles jersey back in the early 2000s. “Doing those things, you’re enshrined forever. You are in Marquette lore.
“I feel like this team is special enough to be in that rare air and in the same breath as the teams that have come before us and have done it. We’re just looking to constantly be improving and seeing where this season takes us.”
Kolek and the Golden Eagles have already notched several impressive wins through the early part of the campaign, including a memorable victory over then No. 1-ranked Kansas in the Maui Invitational back on Nov. 21. According to Kolek, it was after that game that this year’s Marquette team knew they could compete with any team in the country.
“Going against Kansas, they are a blue-blood school, and they obviously set the standard that we’re trying to get to,” Kolek said. “We knew we couldn’t tip-toe against those guys because they are Kansas, but in the end, we are Marquette and they are Kansas. That’s all it is. They don’t get any added respect from us just because they’ve done certain things or have a certain number next to their name. We want to be at that same level if not better at some point.
“Beating them was a nice steppingstone for us. It showed us that we can go anywhere and play with anyone on any floor.”
Following recent wins over Georgetown and Creighton, Kolek and the Golden Eagles currently sit at 2-1 in Big East play heading into a conference showdown against Seton Hall at noon ET Saturday at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
Watch my complete interview with Kolek below and follow along at FOXSports.com and on social media, @CBBonFOX, for our next FOX Sports Army National Guard of the Week interview.
Marquette’s Tyler Kolek is John Fanta’s Guard of the Week | CBB on FOX John Fanta is a national college basketball broadcaster and writer for FOX Sports. He covers the sport in a variety of capacities, from calling games on FS1 to serving as lead host on the BIG EAST Digital Network to providing commentary on The Field of 68 Media Network. Follow him on Twitter @John_Fanta.
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Source : Fox Sports