The 2016-17 college basketball season is right around the corner, so let's get into the Marquette basketball roster and take a look at what to expect from each player this season. We'll be going through the players one by one: First the freshmen, moving on to the two transfer players, and then wrapping up with the returning players, going in order of average minutes played per game last season.
We’re going to organize our thoughts about the upcoming season as it relates to each player into categories:
- Reasonable Expectations
- Why You Should Get Excited
- Potential Pitfalls
With that out of the way, let’s wrap up the freshmen with a look at the youngest player on the team.....
Freshman - #0 - Guard - 5’11" - 175 lb.
I think we have to start the discussion of Markus Howard with the fact that he won a gold medal with Team USA at the U-17 World Championships this past summer. This is an impressive accomplishment, and Howard deserves all the credit in the world for averaging 11.9 points per game and shooting a team best 48.6% from three point range in the tournament as the Baby Nats went 7-0 on their way to the title.
And now, the explanation as to why I started with that. For those of you unaware of how the age limits work for international youth basketball, it’s actually pretty simple. A U-17 tournament is a 17 and under tournament. As long as your 17th birthday is somewhere in the calendar year when the tournament is held, you’re eligible to play. So, yes, that means Markus Howard is currently 17 years old. Yes, Markus Howard is not going to turn 18 years old until March 3, 2017, aka the day before Marquette’s 2016-17 regular season finale.
All of that is prelude to say this: The Chandler, Arizona native comes to Marquette ranked as the #70 player in the class of 2016 according to the 247 Sports Composite system. As a 17 year old who finished high school a year early. With a 4.0 grade point average during his final year at Findlay Prep in Las Vegas. 247’s internal rankings marked Howard as the #40 player in the class, while ESPN put him at #84, Rivals ranked him #73, and Scout has Howard at #77.
In his final year of prep hoops, Howard led Findlay Prep in scoring at 18.6 points per game. He added in 3.4 assists and, even though he’s under six-feet, he grabbed 2.7 rebounds per game, too. Findlay Prep is one of the best prep programs in the country, so it’s easy to see how and why Howard’s scoring came down from the 32.4 points per game that he averaged in his second season at Perry High School in Arizona. That was good enough to lead the entire state in scoring, yes, as a sophomore, and it wasn’t surprising after he helped propel Perry to the state semifinals as a freshman with 23 points per game.
Howard, much like fellow freshman Sam Hauser, provides head coach Steve Wojciechowski with a tantalizing skill: Three point shooting. Now, that nearly 50% mark from the U17 World Championships can not be a baseline for what Howard can contribute to the team. Yes, he was far and away the best shooter on the team and still opponents couldn’t shut him down. There is a certain caveat to that, though: Howard shot a lot of pretty open threes because his teammates were finding him waiting on the arc because defenses weren’t into the idea of just letting the rest of Team USA dunk on them repeatedly.
However, it is reasonable to expect Howard to contribute a long range shooting number over the efficiency break even point of 33%. This is a welcome benefit for a team that ranked #210 in the country in three-point percentage a year ago at a barely useful 33.9%. If you load up a team with a bunch of guys who can hit the open jumper, then all of them will benefit by having that extra little bit of space on the floor. Look no further than the 2009-10 edition of YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles for an example. They finished the season as the fifth best three point shooting team in the country and had three of the four guys who attempted 100 triples shooting over 40%. Even Jimmy Butler, who did not have a rep as a shooter at that point of his collegiate career, went 16-32 on limited attempts.
Why You Should Get Excited
The maximum value for Howard could manifest itself as Marquette becomes a multidimensional attacking guard offense. If head coach Steve Wojciechowski is committed to playing 10 guys every night, then there will be minutes available for Howard to grab. The more he succeeds at what little he’s asked to do at the start of the season will slowly draw Howard into a more and more important role as the season continues. I’m a Traci Carter Believer, so I don’t think Howard can surpass or supplant the sophomore guard, and the same goes for Haanif Cheatham, too. Can Howard be a guy where you feel that everything is fine if Howard subs in for Carter? I believe he can do that. Heck, if Howard adapts to shooting long balls in college just fine, he might even be the better shooting option to Carter’s otherwise prolific point guard abilities.
Marquette’s biggest issue this season is size, and at 5’11", I don’t think anyone’s going to be asking Markus Howard to patrol the paint next to Luke Fischer. However, Howard is going to need to be able to defend someone on the floor while he’s out there. Marquette has four guards that measure in somewhere between 5’10" and 6’2", and while they probably won’t ever all play together, odds are that at least two of them will be on the court at the same time on a regular basis. Howard carrying his end of the defense will be crucial for however many minutes he plays on a given night. If he’s not able to do it, those minutes are going to go somewhere else, three point prowess or not.
The other potential issue is, well, to put it simply, Howard’s a freshman guard. Even more so, he’s a year younger than your average freshman guard. Last year, Marquette went with two freshman guards for a heavy dose of minutes, and they both turned the ball over on more than 24% of the possessions where they were on the floor. At a team turnover rate of 20% of possessions, Marquette was one of the 60 worst teams in the country in terms of turnovers. If the Golden Eagles have a postseason berth as a goal, they can not repeat that kind of performance, and if Howard can’t be trusted to take care of the ball, he’s not going to be getting a lot of floor time.