With the 2016-2017 season now in the books, let’s take a few moments to look back at the performance that each member of YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles this year. While we're at it, we'll also take a look back at our player previews and see how our preseason prognostications stack up with how things actually played out. We'll run through roster in order of total minutes played (lowest to highest), which means our penultimate review is for the sophomore guard from Florida......
#25 - Sophomore - 6’5” - 200 lb.
Haanif Cheatham Traditional Stats
Haanif Cheatham Fancy Stats
(** - denotes top 500 ranking via KenPom.com)
Cheatham averaged 12 points, a shade over three rebounds, two assists, and a steal last season, which I think can be a nice baseline for him this year. If we want to talk about keeping pace with [Marquette’s all time leading scorer Jerel] McNeal, that means another 426 points this season. Marquette has a guaranteed 31 games this season, which is merely 13.8 per game to stay in line with McNeal. That seems simple enough.
The reason why I think that should be simple enough is because Cheatham was quietly the best three point shooter on the team in terms of field goal percentage. HIs 38.7% was top 350 in the country and narrowly edged out Jajuan Johnson (38.5%) for the team lead. It might not seem like Cheatham was that good because quite honestly, he didn’t shoot it all that much. He averaged just over two attempts per game last season, and given his ability to shoot it and Marquette’s need to spread the floor with shooters, I think that he can easily exceed that this season. More threes = more threes go in = more points.
The other thing that’s safe to bet on is that Cheatham’s turnover rate is going to go way, way down. He turned it over on nearly 25% of the possessions where he was on the floor last year, and finished the year with a team high 88 turnovers. One of MU’s biggest problems last year was keeping track of the ball, and Cheatham was one of the worst offenders.
I’m not worried about him, though. First of all, he’s a sophomore now, so he’s got the freshman jitters out of his system. Second of all, Marquette is not going to need to rely on him for ball handling. Between Traci Carter, Markus Howard, Andrew Rowsey, and even Duane Wilson, Marquette has enough guys to take care of that angle. Get the ball out of Cheatham’s hands, and he’ll commit fewer turnovers.
Why You Should Get Excited
I mean, why SHOULDN’T you get excited?
Cheatham gets to shift to an off-guard/wing role on this team, which seems like a more natural fit for him. We already know he can shoot it, and not just from the arc, either. Last year, he splashed 82% of his free throws, so he can get it done at the line, too. His ability to get into the lane and draw contact is excellent as well, as he finished top 400 in the country in Free Throw Rate, shooting 46% as many free throws as field goals.
Combine all of that and mix it with a heavy dose of “someone’s gotta take all those shots and grab all those rebounds that Henry Ellenson totaled up last year,” and you get a prime opportunity for Cheatham to turn into an all-Big East caliber player by the time March rolls around.
He’s a little bit bigger, he’s a little bit stronger, he’s a little bit smarter, he’s a little bit more in tune with head coach Steve Wojciechowski needs from him on a night in and night out basis. All the signals are there for a big season from the Florida native.
Marquette needs to cut down on their turnovers this season. Period. Full stop. Unfortunately for Cheatham, he’s specifically one of the guys who needs to take better care of the ball. This team is deep enough at the guard and wing spots that if he can’t stop turning the ball over, Wojo will look somewhere else for minutes, somewhere where he can feel better about turnovers being limited.
The other issue potentially looming in front of Cheatham is merely an issue of playing time. Speed and energy are going to be requirements for this team. Yes, he averaged just barely short of 30 minutes a game last season, but Wojo seems to be against the idea of that happening this season. Cheatham’s stats may suffer. As long as his tempo free numbers don’t dip, then it’s fine. However, the possibility exists that Cheatham was so good last year because he got a lot of time to play and thus get into a solid rhythm on the court. If he plays less, is he going to still be able to contribute at the highest of high levels when he’s on and off the court more than last season?
If you could look up “sophomore slump” in the dictionary, there would be a highlight package of Haanif Cheatham’s 2016-17 season playing alongside the definition.
Instead of his freshman year being a launching point for his collegiate career, it now stands as the high water mark for Cheatham. He slipped in most statistical categories, with his most notable improvement -- Turnover Rate — bringing him back from “absolutely atrocious on an atrocious turnover rate team” as a freshman to “tolerable on a reasonably successful turnover rate team” this year.
The biggest indictment of Cheatham’s season comes with his placement here in the Player Review order, holding the penultimate slot instead of the ultimate slot. In the first 25 games of the season, Cheatham played at least 30 minutes on 12 different occasions. Over the final seven games of the season, Cheatham played 11 or fewer minutes in four of them. That’s how he ended up playing 33 fewer minutes than Sam Hauser by the time the season ended.
That’s the math of it, but think about what the final seven games of the season actually were. With Marquette sitting at 15-10 overall and 6-7 in Big East play, the possibility of making the NCAA tournament is dimming quickly as the Golden Eagles dropped four of their last five following the victory over #1 Villanova. MU desperately needed a jumpstart, and that came by way of jumbling the starting lineup for the final seven games of the season. Cheatham was one of three guys who lost their starting spots in that jumble, but it was a bigger deal that Cheatham went to the bench. The National Marquette Day game against Xavier was the first time in his collegiate career that Cheatham did not start for Steve Wojciechowski.
Think about that.
In order to save the season, Wojo benched a guy that had been a mainstay for him. Even worse for Cheatham, his minutes crashed to earth after that Xavier game. He played 26 minutes there, but didn’t break 15 the rest of the season. In order for Marquette to come together and make the postseason for the first time under the direction of Steve Wojciechowski, Haanif Cheatham needed to stop playing almost completely.
That is a long, long, long, looooooooong distance away from “hey, he’s on pace to become Marquette’s all time leading scorer.”
All of this is just a statistical assessment of Cheatham’s season, of course. He didn’t look particularly confident for most of the season, either. For example, Cheatham’s 32.5% on three-point attempts is passable and not really worth criticism or praise. But from having watched him play this season, Cheatham never looked comfortable letting it fly from long range, which is kind of surprising. He shot nearly twice as many threes during his freshman season and made nearly 39% of those attempts. We presumed that Cheatham clearly had that part of his game ironed out, but he never looked excited or confident or whatever other descriptor you want to use when he was shooting. He looked like he was constantly saying “well, okay, I guess I’ll shoot this now I mean unless anyone else wants to shoot it... no? okay, here we go” to himself when rising up on his jumper.
A recurring theme during the season was Marquette fans taking to Twitter to ask Milwaukee Journal Sentinel beat reporter Matt Velazquez during halftime of games about what was wrong with Cheatham. Invariably, the answer would be “opponents have figured out that he doesn’t go to his right, and they’re focusing on taking his left hand away from him.” That would certainly explain a lot of why he rarely looked comfortable on the court, as well as why he shot fewer two-pointers than during his freshman year and made a smaller percentage of said attempts.
Best Game: I legitimately had no idea where to start looking for possibilities here, other than ignoring the final seven games of the season. Cheatham’s season was such that he just did not have any stand out performances that made you say, “hey, remember against [insert opponent] when Haany [did X/Y/Z]?” But, when consulting his game logs for the season, one game in particular jumps out. January 11, with MU sitting at 1-2 in league play and desperately needing a win to get through the hellish start to the conference schedule, Cheatham played all 45 minutes of Marquette’s 89-86 overtime victory against Seton Hall. He had 17 points on 5-of-10 shooting, chipped in seven rebounds and five assists, and committed just one turnover.
Just try to ignore his 3-for-6 free throw shooting in the final 40 seconds of regulation as Marquette let a 10 point lead with 3:53 left evaporate.
Season Grade, on a scale of 1 to 10: For one reason or another, Haanif Cheatham completely whiffed on what I thought was a relatively mild set of expectations for him, other than trimming his turnovers down. He didn’t come close to “a big season” in any regard, but he didn’t really suffer from a loss in minutes played as a result of the rotation that Wojo was using...... right up until Wojo buried him deep on the bench for the final stretch of the season.
That’s not great.
I’m giving him a 3 for the season, and off the top of my head, that might be worst season grade that’s ever been handed out on this site.