Well, things got interesting for the offseason for Marquette Golden Eagles men’s basketball on Monday when it was announced that redshirt junior guard Duane Wilson would be finishing his degree and making use of the graduate transfer rule to head elsewhere for his final season of eligibility.
Why is that, you ask? Well, Wilson is the third player to leave the program since the start of the 2016-17 season, and thus, Marquette now has three open scholarships for next fall.
Maybe that seems like a lot. It might not be.
That means that Marquette has 10 scholarship players on the active roster for next season. Go ahead and look at the box score from the loss to South Carolina. Eight guys played upwards of 10 minutes. Chips on the table, season on the line, Wojo played eight guys. Having only 10 for next year might not be the worst thing in the world. It will probably make practicing a bear, as the Marquette coaching staff will have to lean heavily on Cam Marotta and Deon Franklin (presuming both return as walk-ons) to keep guys fresh, but as far as competitive games go, 10 would probably work out just fine.
That brings us to the point of considering how Marquette will deal with their roster spots. First things first, though: The Golden Eagles will have just one senior next season, guard Andrew Rowsey, and Brendan Bailey, currently on a Mormon mission, is expected to be on campus in the following fall. Bailey would essentially just take up Rowsey’s roster spot, so any decisions Wojciechowski and his staff make about the current open spots may affect how they approach recruiting for the fall of 2018 as well.
Here’s the possible avenues that the Golden Eagles could pursue. As you read over the next few paragraphs, remember that the goals for Marquette next season should be to 1) maximize the shooting ability of Markus Howard, and probably Andrew Rowsey as well and 2) improve their defense from the #165 KenPom ranking it has for 2016-17 to somewhere in the top 100. If a guy doesn’t fit into that Venn diagram, he’s probably a bad fit for MU.
TRADITIONAL HIGH SCHOOL RECRUITS
That’s usually how you go about adding guys to a roster, but as things currently stand, it seems like Marquette’s only real prospect is Michigan guard Greg Elliott. A look at the 2017 Offers section on MU’s 247 page shows a bunch of guys who have already committed along with Elliot and Phillip Flory. You may remember Flory from when he received an offer from Buzz Williams and then accepted it a few days later, all before he even played one second of high school basketball. He’s finally a senior now, but at least according to 247, he doesn’t have any other offers than the one from Marquette that probably doesn’t exist any more.
Anyway, that leaves us with Elliott, who is currently ranked #304 in the class of 2017 by 247 Sports. The 6’3”, 165 lb., shooting guard finished ahead of Marquette signee Jamal Cain in the recently announced Michigan Mr. Basketball voting, and Cain is in 247’s top 150. You go figure it out. Elliott’s recruiting appears to be down to Michigan State and Marquette, with the Detroit area prospect visiting Milwaukee for the Golden Eagles’ Senior Day victory over Creighton and apparently planning an official trip to East Lansing for later this month. We’ve still got some time to go before Elliott can sign anyway, as the spring signing period doesn’t start until April 12th.
That’s about it for high school guys, though. There are 10 guys in 247’s top 100 that haven’t committed or signed right now, but it’s probably much too late to think about going after any of those guys. There’s also the possibility of schools that have recently changed coaches releasing guys from their letters of intent, but it’s absurd to speculate about any of them for the moment.
There is also a mild issue with putting too many guys into one recruiting class, and Marquette already has three freshmen in the 2017 class. Of course, the counter to that is looking at the 2016 class and realizing that for one reason or another, Marquette has gone from a five person freshman class to a two person junior class.
While this might seem like a solid way to go, the problem is that any transfer worth bringing in would either join Marquette’s four player sophomore class or their three player freshman class when each group moves on to be juniors or sophomores respectively. That’s where the strength of the roster is, at least in terms of number of guys, and adding guys to those classes just adds recruiting issues down the road when you try to fill four or five spots all at the same time. There’s also the issue of not being able to contribute to the 2017-18 team on the court since they would have to sit out a year, but that’s really a minor thing to worry about right now.
In any case, we’re not going to get a solid view of the players that are available for transfer until after the NCAA tournament is over, so we’ll just have to back burner this one for now.
As is the case with four-year transfers, we’re not going to get a full view of who is and is not available through grad transfers for a while. Patience will be the key word of the next month or so and as announcements start to trickle out, please keep in mind that Katin Reinhardt was one of if not the best graduate transfer available a year ago.
If there’s a graduate transfer knockdown shooter available to change schools and play right away, they might be able to fit in pretty well with Marquette. The Golden Eagles are not in any way in the market for someone to be a star, but if someone is just looking for a new home for one last run and can either A) knock down 3s in the neighborhood of 40% or B) defend the perimeter exceptionally well, or hell, C) both of those things, they can fit in perfectly with this roster as far as I’m concerned.
JUNIOR COLLEGE TRANSFERS
If there’s some mystery JUCO player out there that hasn’t gotten a fair shake yet, then hey, why not bring him in. However, all of 247’s top 12 JUCO guys have all signed or committed somewhere already, so that pool is a bit thin at this point.
It’s important for Marquette fans to remember that what Buzz Williams did with Jimmy Butler, Darius Johnson-Odom, Dwight Buycks, and Jae Crowder is essentially impossible to recreate. Here’s what I mean: Steve Wojciechowski has shown some interest in junior college players in the past, specifically with effort being made to recruit Deshawn Freeman and Darral Willis. Freeman is averaging 12 points and seven rebounds in 38 games across two seasons with Rutgers with a knee injury mixed in there while the Scarlet Knights went 22-43, while Willis put up 10 points and five rebounds per game with Wichita State this season. If you’re looking for/expecting guys who can play a part on a roster, cool. If you’re operating under some kind of belief that Wojo can randomly unearth guys who will be starting on an NBA team in 4 years, especially after jumping into the pool very late in the process, you’re probably overestimating what’s possible.