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Making his name one to remember

Do you remember Patrick Hazel? If you don’t, this year’s college basketball season may refresh your memory.
The product of Bayside High School, who averaged 16 points and 16 rebounds per game in his junior season of 2004-05, is now a member of the Marquette Golden Eagles - also known as the first-place team in the Big East, alternatively known as the Associated Press poll’s No. 8 team in the country.
The sophomore is not yet a starter - he is averaging 13 minutes per game off the bench - but he is leaving his mark. As of Monday, January 26, his 21 offensive rebounds are fifth-most on the team; the 6’7” forward’s eight blocks are second only to senior standout Wesley Matthews, with 10.
More importantly, the Golden Eagles are thriving in college basketball’s toughest conference, joining Louisville as the only teams left undefeated as of January 27. Marquette is 7-0 in league play; the Golden Eagles have beaten Villanova (currently No. 20 nationally), Notre Dame, Cincinnati, Rutgers, Providence, and DePaul along the way. Of particular note was a January 10 thrashing of West Virginia, 75-53, just 12 days before the Mountaineers stunned No. 12 Georgetown.
Hazel’s favorite win came from elsewhere among Marquette’s 18-2 record. He points to the Golden Eagles’ 68-65 away win over North Carolina State on December 22, in which Hazel tallied four points, four rebounds, two steals, and a block in 12 minutes.
“It was a great feeling to get a win down there,” he says. “That was a big-time game in a big-time environment. … It was a packed house. It was crazy.”
That game was decided when Dominic James, a senior guard, hit a three-point jumper with one second left in regulation. Never had either team led by more than seven points the whole way through.
“Just being on the road with your team, or going in there in clutch moments where you gotta stand out,” are the best part of college basketball, Hazel says. Versus NC State, he was in the middle of the excitement, putting in a lay-up early in the second half that emphatically closed an 11-minute deficit, and later blocking a shot from sophomore forward Tracy Smith that kept the score tied at 48.
On-court drama notwithstanding, Hazel is enjoying himself at Marquette.
“Milwaukee’s a nice place. It’s cold,” he says, laughing at the obviousness. I haven’t experienced that cold. But I’m well-prepared.”
He ended up there less than two weeks after then-head coach Tom Crean, now with the Indiana Hoosiers, watched Hazel at a practice session while a senior at New Jersey’s Blair Academy. Hazel had moved to Blair, the one-time home of fellow Queens product Charlie Villanueva, after his junior year at Bayside.
Crean offered Hazel a full scholarship on the spot, and after Hazel made his official visit to Marquette, it took him two days to commit to the school. At the time, he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he was “thinking about committing while I was up there, but I just wanted to take a day, take a deep breath and think about it first. Sleep on it. I called Coach Crean and left him a message. I’m really excited. I’m ready to go.”
The transition from high school to college athletics has not been without its bumps. Hazel says the Big East talent level is “the biggest adjustment I have to make,” and as a former center, he realizes that his altered position necessitates a few changes to his usual strategy.
“I blocked a lot of shots in high school,” he says. “I gotta get out of that habit.”
His head, however, is in the right place.
“This year, we’re trying to go as far as we can, just try to win every single night,” he says. “As far as my career, no big aspirations or anything - just to be with my teammates, get a degree, and be the best competitor I can be every night.”
If you’re interested in following Hazel and Marquette’s progress over the course of this season, be aware that some roadblocks lie ahead. Potent opponents like Georgetown, Connecticut (No. 3), Louisville (No. 9), Pittsburgh (No. 4), and Syracuse (No. 8) await, not to mention a team called St. John’s. You can also expect to see the Golden Eagles live at the Big East Championships from March 10 to 14 at Madison Square Garden.
Only the top two teams will survive the work week to reach the final on Saturday. For a squad with high ambitions, though, records of 7-0 and 18-2 are not too shabby a place to start.

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