The 2017-18 college basketball season is right around the corner, so let's get into the Marquette Golden Eagles 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 four freshmen going in alphabetical order by last name, moving on to MU’s lone available transfer this season, and then wrapping up with the returning players, going in order of average minutes played per game last season from lowest to highest.
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, we turn our attention to the second of Marquette’s four freshmen, and the second of MU’s three freshmen from Michigan....
Freshman - #13 - Forward - 6’9” - 225 lb. - Lagos, Nigeria
Ike Eke is a long and lean big man who originally hails from Lagos, Nigeria but has been playing basketball at University of Detroit Jesuit HS in Detroit, MI. Eke played with other Marquette freshman Jamal Cain and Greg Elliott on The Family AAU team based out of Detroit. Eke has not been known as a prolific scorer in the past, however, it is listed in his bio on the Marquette basketball team website that Eke averaged a double double his senior year of high school so he was clearly making some sort of impact on the offensive end.
Eke was ranked as the 361st best player in the country by the 247 composite system and the 310th best by their own internal rankings. This should not be too off-putting, however, as Eke is very raw and it is expected to be a few years until he can be a major contributor. Head Coach Steve Wojciechowski originally spotted Eke as he was recruiting his then-teammate Cassius Winston. Winston ended up at Michigan State but that's ok because we got Markus Howard instead.
I’m not going to lie to you here, Eke is probably going to contribute the least of all the freshman this year. Look at the box score from the exhibition against UWM. Matt Heldt picked up four fouls, Theo John had four, Jamal Cain fouled out.... and Eke played just four minutes. Ike is a tremendous athlete but has a pretty raw skill set. I could reasonably see him taking a redshirt this year in order to preserve his eligibility and build up his lower body strength, however, that would make this a very short article so we will assume that Eke is playing this year for now. If Eke plays this year the best way for him to get on the court will be his defense. Eke has solid foot speed and a great jumping ability which could get him some playing time this year if Marquette’s pick-and-roll defense is as bad as it was last year. If Eke could get around 10 minutes per game and force the opposing players to alter their shots because of his shot blocking ability, I would call it a successful season for the young big man. (I could honestly see him getting big time minutes against Wisconsin if Marquette decides to Hack-A-Happ and doesn't want to burn the fouls of their other big men.)
Why You Should Get Excited
As mentioned previously on this website, Eke may not be as much of a project as previously thought. With a potential three point shot in his arsenal, Eke’s offensive game may be more advanced than that of fellow freshman big man Theo John. Even though John already has a college-ready frame, Eke could push him for time if his offensive game is head and shoulders above John’s. As mentioned above, the real reason to get excited about Eke is his defensive potential. With a large wingspan, quick feet, and a great vertical, Eke has all the tools of a defensive stopper similar to Jordan Bell at Oregon who now plays for Golden State in the NBA. Head Coach Steve Wojciechowski’s defensive system relies on very heavy hedges from the big man, Eke is tailor made to fit such a system. If Eke could show himself as a valuable defender early in the season against lesser opponents, with the emphasis that Wojo has been putting on defense, he could find himself with meaningful playing time late in the year.
There are pitfalls aplenty for Eke’s freshman season. This first of which is that this is only his fifth year playing organized basketball. This will make the adjustment to the college game much more difficult as he has just been getting acclimated with the high school and AAU game. Eke also has the issue of lower body strength. He has a chiseled upper body, however, his lower body is not nearly as strong and he has had issues in practice maintaining position on the block against bigger guys like Theo John and noted dude (and transfer redshirt) Ed Morrow.
Eke’s rawness makes him an excellent candidate for a redshirt. He clearly has the natural ability to play high level college basketball but it seems that he is just not there yet. If given a year to build up his lower body with strength trainer Todd Smith and practice his ball handling he may be ready to contribute his redshirt freshman year. However, if he does not redshirt he could have difficulties finding playing time behind Theo John, Matt Heldt, and Harry Froling, all expected to play time at center this year with Sam Hauser occupying the power forward spot.
Overall I have pretty low expectations for what Ike Eke will do this season. If he redshirts, I will be fine with it and hope he can come back next year and make an impact. If he does play this year, I expect to see flashes of brilliance mixed in with more than a few freshman moments. However, if he has built up enough lower body strength and Marquette does not need him to really touch the ball on offense to be effective, he could play an important role on the team later in the season.