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2017-18 Marquette Basketball Player Preview: #25 Haanif Cheatham

Can the junior overcome last year’s slump and be the player he showed he can be?

NCAA Basketball: DePaul at Marquette Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

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, 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, let’s take a look at the most experienced player on the roster……

Haanif Cheatham

Junior - #25 – Guard – 6’5” – 195 lb. – Fort Lauderdale, FL

Poor Haanif Cheatham. Twice a solid contributor for the Golden Eagles, twice overshadowed by other freshmen. His freshman year was his best, averaging 11.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 2.2 aassists, but of course was left in the dust by one-and-done Henry Ellenson. Last season as a sophomore, Cheatham went through a rough patch for most of the season scoring-wise, but found other ways to contribute. Of course, most MU fans’ attention was turned on Markus Howard and Sam Hauser. Maybe this will be the year he gets his due.

Maybe this will be the year he gets his due, but he has to earn it. Last season was rough, at least offensively. There’s really no other way around it. After scoring in double figures in the first six games of the season, something snapped and the dude looked like a different player for much of the rest of the season. Ultimately, Cheatham was one of the three players removed from the starting lineup to solve the post-Villanova win slump, and he was the worst one off of the three. Jajuan Johnson and Luke Fischer found their way onto the floor for regular minutes, but Cheatham struggled with that. He played more than 15 minutes after the change just once, and that was in the first game of the change. After shooting 38.7 percent from behind the arc his freshman season, Cheatham only took more than three three-pointers once all of last year (it was the first game of the season). Much of his offensive flow looked forced and rigid, and his shot looked hesitant. He developed a slight case of the yips, basically. He was productive on the glass and on the defensive end, but he needs to bring the offense back in order to be the player Marquette needs him to be.

Reasonable Expectations

Based off the exhibition against Lindenwood, which was our only preseason look at him thanks to an early fall shoulder injury, Cheatham has his confidence back, as well as his shooting stroke. He hit three of his four tries from deep, making him the only Golden Eagle who connected on more than one, and no longer refused to shoot when left open. That’s good. He should be a reliable third or fourth scoring option (depends who’s on the floor) this season, which is impressive considering the offensive talent we’ve seen before. This should be good for him psychologically as well, as he’ll have less pressure on him to be the guy with the ball in his hands. I don’t know if that was the problem last year, because eventually the team realized it had four or five excellent scorers, but it should certainly help this year.

He’ll also be able to have some fun in this offense. Cutting, alley-oops, kick-outs, this offense should be much more free-flowing than it was last year considering the floor spacing and some of the younger guys having a better feel for the game. He won’t feel any need to be out on the perimeter thanks to the stellar shooting Marquette returns, so the occasional three-ball will be staggered with plenty of small-ball 4-type play from Cheatham. He led Marquette in free throw attempts last year after shooting the fourth most by any MU freshman the year before, so he’ll certainly look to find success around the rim and draw some contact. I’m here for it, as long as his free throw percentage is back up. They don’t cost anything, ya know.

If you’re a fan of a team, it’s alright to have high expectations for those players, because you want your team to do well and that requires players doing well. It’s ok to expect a lot from Cheatham his junior campaign. We’ve seen what he’s capable of and he had the offseason to get right and get better. Be patient.

Why You Should Get Excited

I can’t show you a highlight video of Markus Howard hitting ridiculously long shots. I can’t show you a GIF of Andrew Rowsey knocking down a left-handed three and drawing a foul. I can’t show you Matt Heldt playing basketball, a highlight in and of itself. I can’t, because that’s not the player Cheatham is. He won’t blow you away with an Earth-shattering dunk or a circus shot. He probably won’t even get that fired up after a big play. That’s just not who he is.

In January of his freshman year, Marquette published the Haanif Cheatham edition of “Inside Marquette Basketball” on YouTube. In said video, the Fort Lauderdale product said “I see myself being a guard that does it all.” He can do it all, when given the opportunity. That’s what you should get excited for. Get excited for Haanif to be Haanif again.

He’ll likely be MU’s best perimeter defender, so get excited for his matchups with the likes of Khyri Thomas, Jalen Brunson and Kamar Baldwin. Is he going to get burned sometimes? Sure, but it’s all a learning experience. He’ll learn once so he never has to again. Cheatham’s junior year is going to be a big test for his final year, a season poised to be a big one for Marquette.

Potential Pitfalls

…Well. Last year was the pittiest of the pitfalls. Cheatham was such a drag on the team last year at least in Steve Wojciechowski’s eyes, that he only played for seven minutes in the first NCAA tournament game during Wojo’s tenure. I don’t know how much worse it can get.

I mean, it could get way way worse. He could forget how to play basketball or have his hands replaced with hooks. But that feels drastic. Realistically, it won’t get much worse than last season. It can’t, right?