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2018-19 Marquette Basketball Player Preview: #23 Jamal Cain

The Cain Train is boarding at the station, and you’d best hop on board

NCAA Basketball: Providence at Marquette Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The 2018-19 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 MU’s lone true freshman, then the lone graduate transfer, followed by the three players who redshirted last season for one reason or another, 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 last year’s surprise 3-point wizard….

Jamal Cain

Sophomore - #23 - Forward - 6’7” - 195 lb. - Pontiac, Michigan

Let’s recap our first experience with The Cain Train, shall we? Cain came to the Golden Eagles from the mitten state (I just realized mitten and Michigan sort of sound similar. I’m reaching), having played with both Greg Elliott and Ike Eke in AAU. He was ranked at No. 145 in 247Sports’ composite rankings for the class of 2017, which is solid, and he was by far Marquette’s highest-ranked recruit. And I’d say he played like it, too. Cain’s first notable performance was against Chicago State, which is, yeah, Chicago State. But it was an admirable performance nonetheless for the youngling. 22 minutes, 10 points on 4-8 from the floor, 4 boards and 2 assists. Overall, a solid line. The ironic thing is that Cain was just 1-5 from the 3-point line.

Why is that ironic, you ask? Well, Cain’s value to the team eventually became the go-to corner 3 guy. It all started at home against Xavier, when my man was En Fuego from the corner, hitting 4 of 6 in 29 minutes, finishing the night (a close loss) with 16 points. He never exploded for that many points again (it’s hard to when you have a three-headed dragon running your offense), but he was always good for a 3 a game, it seemed like. His defense was admirable too (he had 4 steals in that Xavier game, too), usually being paired with Elliott to just throw some long arms in dudes’ faces. In fact, I think most people would agree with me when I say that Cain was really the most pleasant surprise about last season. We all knew the freshman had some skills and would play important roles eventually, but Cain really stepped up and showed off a couple of things that he can really hang his hat on and be an immensely valuable piece for the next few years.

Reasonable Expectations

I’m just going to throw out a stat line prediction here. Hmmmm…I’ll say 11.2 PPG on 48 percent from the field, 38 percent from 3, 4.8 RPG, 1.6 APG, .8 BPG, 1.8 SPG. Yeah, that seems exactly right I think. For what it’s worth, Cain averaged 4.6/3.4/0.6/0.8/0.4 last season with a shooting percentages of 48% from the field and 47% from long range.

But seriously, I think Cain is probably going to be one of the five most important offensive players. I’d imagine he plays the same role as last year, just a spot-up man who throws down some fun transition dunks, and that might be it, but I do think at the very least, the scoring takes a spike, because with a true pass-first point guard running the show in Joseph Chartouny, I think he’ll have a lot more looks. As for the defense, he’ll be counted on to be a wing stopped, which I do think he’s capable of with some more attentiveness and strength. Oh yeah, I reasonably expect he bulked up a little bit for this season. Sure, it’s only five pounds of weight, but some people have frames that just aren’t designed to add weight. He’s one of them. I can’t tell yet based off of the few practice videos I’ve seen, but we’ll see more of his body strength in an actual game. That’ll be hugely important, as that boy was a toothpick last year. Overall, I think Marquette fans will once again be pleased with Cain in the moderate but important step forward he takes this year.

Reasons To Get Excited

I’m going to keep this brief because we did something over the summer about this (linked here), but I think Cain could be a very exciting NBA prospect. And even if he doesn’t become the next Mikal Bridges, I think he’ll be a very exciting guy for Marquette fans to watch develop over the next few years, starting with this year. Guys like Cain, assuming his shooting and defense are legit (more on that in a second), are some of the most valuable types of non-superstar players in the present form of basketball. It would be a massive bonus if Cain could create off the dribble a lot or make tight passes, but if all he’s got in good defense and a good shooting stroke, he’s got a clear path to the NBA, he’s just gotta keep getting better. And we all get a front row seat.

Potential Pitfalls

As I mentioned, we assume now that Cain’s shooting and defense are legitimate skills. His defense, I think, is for real — you can’t teach that kind of length and athleticism, but I also think he can learn how to use it to be a shutdown kind of guy. As for his shooting…OK, I don’t want to say that what we saw wasn’t real. I think it is, there’s enough of a sample size that it was. What there was a small sample size of, but still worries me, are his free throws. He shot 48 percent, almost exactly what he shot from 3, on 0.7 attempts per game. So, yeah, small sample size, but there’s a nonzero chance he really isn’t that great of a shooter. Or at the very least, erratic. I’m going to place my bet on the fact that he’s not a 47 percent career shooter from deep, and almost definitely not a 57% shooter like he was in 18 Big East games, but he’s certainly a respectable threat. But the free throws worry me. And even if those aren’t indicative of how his shooting will trend…dude! Make your free throws! Like, just make 20 percent more of them and I’ll be mostly fine. But they don’t cost anything. Anyway, I’m aboard the Cain Train, full stop. Please join me.