Todd Mayo. John Dawson. Deonte Burton. Steve Taylor. Gabe Levin. Sandy Cohen.
And now Traci Carter.
Carter’s departure brought about an immediate spate of panic amongst Marquette fans regarding the direction of the program under head coach Steve Wojciechowski. To be honest, for just a 32 month span, that probably is a lot of guys heading out the door. If you want to panic about Wojo losing control of
the Georgia locker room his team and his program, I’m not going to tell you to not do that. If you weren’t a fan of how this program is going under Wojo’s guidance already, losing Cohen and Carter after this season started almost assuredly isn’t going to help your mood.
If you look at the list of guys who have left, though, you start to notice some obvious non-basketball things at work here and I don’t know how much Wojciechowski could have improved or fixed any of it. Todd Mayo is, well, he’s Todd Mayo. If you think that his senior season under Wojo was going to go smoothly, you’re probably taking massive amounts of hallucinogens and should seek medical attention soon. Deonte Burton’s mother passed away right before the start of his sophomore season, and you can’t fault him for thinking that he needed to leave his hometown of Milwaukee. In Traci Carter’s interview with Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, he spoke about “problems back home” in Philadelphia that led him to leave MU. Lord only knows what Gabe Levin’s deal is/was, but given that joined and left the team within a four month span, you have to figure it had very little to do with basketball.
That leaves us with Dawson, Taylor, and Cohen. Dawson left Marquette after playing just four minutes in MU’s season opener. He’s been a high quality player for Liberty since transferring, and while it was kind of surprising to see a guy who had some shining moments as a freshman not get any chances at all under Wojo, I don’t know how much blame you can assign to Wojciechowski for not seeing how Dawson fit in to his team. While Wojo’s first year in Milwaukee was Taylor’s best year in blue and gold, the Chicago native opted to leave for Toledo instead of spending his senior year on the bench behind Henry Ellenson and Luke Fischer. He’s playing extremely well for the Rockets this season, and while it would have been great to see him contribute to Marquette a year ago, you can’t really blame him for opting to make a splash in his final year of college hoops.
Cohen provides an interesting situation. He said this to John Hand of the Marquette Wire:
“That’s the hardest point because the coaches are always going to say, ‘Stay ready, you got to play your role the best even if your role’s not getting in the game,’” Cohen said. “That’s tough. Especially for me, a player top-ranked coming out of high school. I had a lot of schools I could have went to. I come here and my role was completely changed to a rebounder, a defender and a junk yard dog, something that I have never been in my basketball career. It was really tough.”
“I love everybody at Marquette, coaches and everything. I just had to make the best decision for me. … Being a junior and not being able to play much is not really what I envisioned and not really what I thought would happen. It pretty much comes down to playing time.”
That would put him in the same category as Taylor: Salvaging what’s left of possible playing time for his collegiate career. But Hand also had this quote from Jon Murphy, Cohen’s high school coach and, as discussed in Hand’s story, Cohen’s surrogate father:
“He just didn’t feel like he had a connection. … Sandy made a comment, ‘I don’t have a relationship with any coach. No one ever talks to me.’ I said, ‘Sandy, maybe it is time for us to look elsewhere and feel like you are a part of something.’ Because he felt like he was on the outside.”
So there’s that. Two of the three assistants - Chris Carrawell and Brett Nelson - have been in Milwaukee since Day 1 of the Wojciechowski regime, which started at the same time as Sandy Cohen’s time in college. If the attributed comment is true, then yes, you have to ask why Cohen believed that he didn’t have a relationship and why no one was communicating with him.
If we’re going to take that at face value, though, we’re going to have to ask a question. If you want to panic about Wojo’s lack of attention with Cohen, then I have to ask you this: What are your thoughts on how Wojciechowski has handled Sacar Anim?
If you think Wojo is messing with guys and not being honest with them, then what’s up with Anim coming to Marquette with an understanding that he wouldn’t play much as a freshman? What’s up with Anim and the coaching staff deciding together that Anim should redshirt this season? Remember, Anim’s not a project that we’re hoping turns into a major player at some point. He was named the Minnesota Player of the Year by the Associated Press as a senior and scored 32 points in the state title game to win De La Salle their fourth straight title. He averaged 25 points and eight rebounds as a senior. He can play a bit, just a smidge. He’s redshirting this year because of an open and honest conversation between Anim and the coaches that ended up there.
If Wojciechowski and his staff are having an open and honest conversation with Anim about his role on the team, can we really believe that they’re not doing the same with Cohen? Or at least trying to do that? I mean, it’s possible, sure. It seems unlikely, doesn’t it? Even Cohen himself pinned his departure on playing time and a difficulty accepting the role that was being offered to him.
Things happen in life. The game of basketball is a part of life, and so things happen there, too. Have there been a lot of guys departing Marquette early during Steve Wojciechowski’s tenure? Yeah, you can probably safely say that. I just don’t think you can really attach much of it to how Wojciechowski is running the team.