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2017-18 Marquette Basketball Player Review: #4 Theo John

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A pretty decent season for the freshman big man. Could it have been better? Probably, but that goes for most players.

NCAA Basketball: Seton Hall at Marquette
When Theo John lays claim to a basketball, it’s best to just let him have it.
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2017-2018 season in the books long ago, let’s take a few moments to look back at the performance of 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 we move one spot up the chain today to the freshman from Minnesota.....

Theo John

Freshman - #4 - Forward - 6’9” - 245 lb. - Minneapolis, Minnesota

Theo John Traditional Stats

Games Min FGM FGA FG% 3PT M 3PA 3P% FTM FTA FT% OReb DReb Reb Ast Stl Blk Fouls Pts
Games Min FGM FGA FG% 3PT M 3PA 3P% FTM FTA FT% OReb DReb Reb Ast Stl Blk Fouls Pts
33 11.8 1.7 2.9 57.3 0 0 inc 0.5 1.1 50 0.8 1.5 2.3 0.2 0.3 0.8 2.5 3.9

Theo John Fancy Stats

ORtg %Poss %Shots eFG% TS% OR% DR% ARate TORate Blk% Stl% FC/40 FD/40 FTRate
ORtg %Poss %Shots eFG% TS% OR% DR% ARate TORate Blk% Stl% FC/40 FD/40 FTRate
91.7 19.4 16.7 57.3 56.6 8.2 15.9 3.7 27.7 7.1 1.6 8.5 3.5 37.5

What We Said:

Reasonable Expectations

Marquette has six players listed as forwards/centers on their roster. One of those players is Harry Froling, who is ineligible until late December, and another two are Sacar Anim and Sam Hauser who are not really capable of playing the four or five in a full time capacity. This will lead to Theo getting prime playing time as a freshman I believe. I think Theo will come off the bench but will come into games early especially if Sam, Sacar or Matt Heldt are in foul trouble. I expect Theo to come in and help the interior defense a lot. Head coach Steve Wojciechowski recruited him to block shots and grab rebounds, which he did by the boatload for his Howard Pulley club team. Theo seems to be a gritty player with a thirst to get better on both ends of the court. After watching his highlight tapes, I can tell Theo is a fan of the pick and roll and can dunk ferociously, he even showed the ability to drive baseline during the tape. There was even one video called Marquette’s Theo John Man Child which drew my interest immediately. The video featured John blocking shots and destroying defenders on alley oops while he got excited. I love excited players and cannot wait to see some highlight reel dunks from Theo.

Why You Should Get Excited

You should get excited for Theo because Theo is excited to be at Marquette. He brings a lot of energy on the court and has shown that he can make fans get out of their seats. Marquette was one of the worst defensive high major teams in the country last year and John was brought in to help fix that. He will get a bunch of playing time early on in the season and all coach Wojo and his staff want Theo to do, at least right now, is block shots and get rebounds, which are two things he is pretty good at. He will be played at both the four and the five, but he is a bit undersized to play the five. You should also be excited for Theo because he is around the same size as the Big East’s best big men in Angel Delgado and Omari Spellman. If Theo sticks around long enough he could turn into a double-double machine/one of the nation’s best big men like Delgado. Theo is an old school stay in the paint gritty big man and fans should be excited to seem him develop.

Potential Pitfalls

I hate exposing a players weakness because they are obviously much better at basketball than myself, but that’s my job right now. So, I need to address Theo’s weaknesses and scenarios where he could find himself not getting minutes on the hardwood.

A weakness I have noticed is that Theo is a bit slow. He’s a big man so he gets some leeway, but I think if he wants to be an elite big man he needs to get quicker running down the floor. He’s a strong dude which will give him an advantage in the low post, but if he gets down the court faster he could beat his defender and have an easier look at the rim.

Other than just pure speed, the coaching staff has talked about John’s need to stop thinking about what he’s doing on the court and just react and attack by instinct. This isn’t a flaw in his game, mind you, as the coaches acknowledge that a large part of it is merely John acclimating himself to Division 1 hoops.

Other than his speed, I cannot really find a weakness in Theo’s game. He is a tough kid who gets upset when his defensive assignment scores on him, which will play well into Wojo’s coaching style. I expect Theo to play a ton minutes as a freshman based on his defensive ability and his ability to finish in a pick and roll situation. Defenders will look to press out on Markus Howard this season so if he can develop a pick and roll play, Theo John will be on the receiving end, finishing with a vicious dunk. Heck, even just the simplest alley-oop may help John find his way onto the scoresheet on the regular. RIP to the rims in the Bradley Center and other Big East arenas because Theo John will be looking to do some serious damage on them.

This ended up being a weird season for Theo John.

Well, maybe “weird” isn’t the right word. There has to be a word for it, though. John was all over the map in 2017-18 in terms of playing time, sometimes earning the trust of the coaching staff for 10 or 15 minutes for several games at a time, and then he would struggle to play even five minutes in a game for several games at a time.

John’s season can be summed up into a three game span in early February. On February 3rd, John played a season high 24 minutes, scoring a season high 14 points as he didn’t miss a shot from the field. He also grabbed up six rebounds and swatted five shots, too. And then he didn’t play at all in Marquette’s next two games. Not “played seven minutes and committed four fouls” like he would do against Georgetown at the end of the month. At least there you can say “well, it just didn’t work out for everyone involved.” Nope. Didn’t play a lick after a 14 & 6 with five blocks.

Now, as it turns out, the cause for John’s DNP’s were an illness. No big deal, really. But this ends up helping making the point. The two games immediately previous to PC? 12 total minutes played, no points, three total minutes, just two fouls committed. His first game back from whatever bug had sidelined him? Eight minutes, just one foul committed. He would play 11 and 12 minutes in the next two games, but then fouls took their toll on him in MU’s final three regular season games. He never really got back to the outburst that he had against the Friars, and that’s just the story of his season: The occasional flash of brilliance, but never regular enough playing time to give us a sense of what he could really do.

His averages are fine for a freshman big man: 4 points, 2 rebounds, 12 minutes a game. His fancy math numbers are indicative of an extremely talented player who just didn’t get enough playing time, too. If he had enough minutes to qualify, John’s offensive rebounding rate (8.2%) would have ranked in the top 400 in the country. His defensive rate wasn’t exactly the best (15.9% wouldn’t be top 500), but it’s still fifth best on the team regardless of minutes played. In fact, his block rate shows us that Theo John absolutely has the physical skills to defend the rim unlike anyone else on the roster. Again, if he had the minutes to qualify, John’s block rate would have landed him in the top 90 in the country. To give it some local historical contest: John ended up with 26 blocks on the season, which is the fifth most by any Marquette freshman, trailing only Jim McIlvaine, Henry Ellenson, Trevor Powell, and Tom Copa. Had he played an extra 100 minutes, maybe 200, he probably launches himself into the top 25 all time. Unfortunately, John’s minutes were just too inconsistent for that kind of play to show up as a regular influence on the floor for the Golden Eagles.

Maybe, hopefully, the way John finished the season tells us a lot of how his sophomore year will go. After all, as Al McGuire said, the best thing about freshmen is that they become sophomores. Over the final four games of the season, John averaged 15 minutes and six points per game. His rebounding numbers aren’t great, as his nine grabs against Penn State help drag his average up to 3.5 per game. He did average a block per game, though, and it’s hard to be upset about the guy shooting 9-for-14 from the field, too. Best of all? Only averaged 2.5 fouls. If he can replicate that kind of performance, perhaps boost it up to 20 minutes a game, Marquette will benefit greatly from the kinds of things that Theo John can do on the floor.

Best Game

It’s quite clearly that home game against Providence. 14 & 6 with five blocks plus an assist and a steal? Where do I sign a contract to get that from him every day in 2018-19? An underrated part of that? Only committed two fouls. Another underrated part of that? KenPom’s statistical algorithm tabbed John as the MVP of that game, even though Marquette lost, 77-75.

Season Grade, on a scale of 1-10: 6

This season wasn’t a failure on any level for John. On average, it was a pretty standard big man freshman year. It did have a lot of high points, and it had a lot of low points. It also had a whole bunch of fouls. These things happen. It wasn’t a bad season in any regard, but there was a whole bunch of unexplored potential. Hopefully we get to see more of that potential next season.