There was a lot to be excited about after Saturday afternoon. Your Marquette whomped the Badgers in Madison, which is always nice. Markus Howard and Andrew Rowsey combined for 47 points and shot the lights out with sniper-like efficiency. Sam Hauser was hitting dagger threes. Joey Hauser was smiling and high-fiving behind the bench. Life is good.
In fact, life is getting better! 6’11” Australian sensation Harry Froling, having sat out his required two semesters after transferring from SMU, is now eligible to suit up. With a new player entering the mix, I sat down and ran over some film and some stats and came up with what I think Harry’s impact will be.
#1 - Harry Froling can stretch the floor.
He’s not a lights out shooter (3-10 from 3 in his one semester at SMU) but he definitely has the stroke to hit a wide open jump shot (side note: I am so ready to yell “From Way Down Under” when he hits a three). I imagine this means that he’ll be playing in pick-and-pop situations in the half-court offense. I wouldn’t be opposed to him taking a wide open three in transition, but only if it’s off of a pass from an initial drive to the paint from a guard or wing. Leave the pull-up jumpers in transition to Andrew Rowsey!
Froling did show flashes of ability to get to the rim from outside the paint in the video I did watch. He’s not the quickest person in the world, but he does have some decent ball handling ability. I’m not going to compare him to Henry Ellenson, nor even call him Ellenson-lite, but Froling certainly does possess some of the same skill set, and I wouldn’t be opposed to him keeping the ball going towards the rim on a fake handoff to a guard. He will not be the best offensive player on the court at any time, but he will have a very particular set of skills that are not possessed by Marquette’s other big men on the roster.
#2 - Harry Froling can score in the post if he wants to.
Froling doesn’t appear to have an elite array of skill moves to get him buckets, but he is instinctual around the rim and can finish in a variety of ways: over people, around people, and (sometimes) through people. From what I can gather, I’d expect most of his points inside will come off of face-up situations going towards the basket or on turnaround jumpers rather than truly backing down his defender to the basket. Again, he’s not the quickest of people -- these kinds of things happen at 6’11” and 250 pounds — but his first step is decent and he’s shifty with his upper body to find an angle to shoot from down low. He won’t blow by people or be so much stronger than them, but he’ll find creative ways of getting his shot.
Head coach Steve Wojciechowski said in his weekly sit-down with ESPN Milwaukee before the Wisconsin game (found here, dated 12/8/17) that he believes that Harry can score with his back to the basket and that was interesting to me, based on the Froling film that I could find. There’s a reason he’s the D1 high-major basketball coach and I’m not, so maybe they plan on putting him more at the center role to play inside with the ability to pop out to hit a jump shot if need be, but that remains to be seen. If Wojo believes in his back-to-the-basket skills, that means I should. It actually wouldn’t shock me if he played center primarily, as he showed good passing skills in film (and Wojo said the same on the radio with Steve “The Homer” True), so I could see him facilitating slashing players like Sacar Anim and Greg Elliott or hitting open shooters out of the post. However, he had a turnover rate of 29.2% at SMU in his limited time, so expect coaching points on finding the right pass. Wojo raved about his basketball IQ and feel for the game, so expect some well-played post offense (both with scoring and facilitating), but expect some growing pains, too.
#3 - Harry Froling looks to be a decent defender.
Not elite, but decent. At this point in the year, Marquette’s best defensive performance was against Wisconsin. Matt Heldt and Theo John both played well and kept Ethan Happ in check. At this point, we’ve established that the best post defenders on this team will probably be Theo John, Matt Heldt, and Sam Hauser, who has played incredibly well matching up with players both similar to him and with taller true centers. As long as Froling does not turn into a defensive liability, he’ll be fine. He brings a much more diverse offensive skill set than he does defensive, and he’s much better as an offensive threat than both Heldt and John right now. He’ll earn his minutes playing offense, which may be the first time anyone has ever said that about a Steve Wojciechowski Marquette player, but I think he’ll hold his own on the defensive end, even if he’s not as talented as Theo or Matt at that end of the court. Because of his speed (and him being the tallest player on the team), I expect him to guard the other team’s traditional centers.
However, with Froling eligible, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Wojo to try out a double-big lineup to utilize either John or Heldt against a dominant true center (say, Angel Delgado) and still allow Harry to use his offensive abilities to gain an advantage on whoever the opponent has playing the four (say, Ismael Sanogo). These next two games against Northern Illinois and American are the best chance to see if that experiment works, so I’d expect it to happen early if Wojo is interested in trying it. If it does work, it could end up radically altering the course of the season. In theory, it would allow Sam Hauser to get more rest (he’s played more than 35 minutes against four of MU’s last five opponents) or allow Wojo to push Sam down to the three and exploit a different matchup at that position.
What to take out of this hilarious amount of words? I like what Froling provides offensively, as Marquette doesn’t current possess an offensive playmaker amongst its big men. Sure, there will be growing pains, and I’m not sure just how good Harry will be against elite big men when asked to guard them, but I am excited for where his ceiling is offensively. If he can become another Hauser-level scorer down low, the offense becomes even more versatile and it opens up more lanes for our wings to get to the basket and more open opportunities for our elite shooters. If Harry can even scrape that potential this year, Marquette is in much better shape for it.