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2019-20 Marquette Basketball Player Preview: #5 Greg Elliott

After sitting out a year due to a medical redshirt, let’s see what Greg Elliott can bring to the Marquette squad.

NCAA BASKETBALL: MAR 18 NIT - Oregon at Marquette Photo by Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The 2019-20 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 freshmen, then the lone graduate transfer, followed by the two guys who were on the team but sat out all of 2018-19 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 a familiar face finally getting back on the court....

Greg Elliott

Redshirt Sophomore - #5 - Guard - 6’3” - 185 pounds - Detroit, Michigan

After a medical redshirt brought on by a thumb injury that didn’t allow him to be fully cleared until mid-season at the earliest, sophomore guard Greg Elliott looks ready to contribute in more than one or two ways in 2019-20. Elliott averaged 4.5 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 1.4 assists in 18.3 minutes per game as a freshman in 2017-18, where he was used as a perimeter defender primarily and was playing with one hand due to a thumb injury on the same hand that kept him out all of 2018-19. He was actually one of the only players to be in the top 300 in both block and steal percentage according to KenPom.com, and if you think about the physical gifts required to do each of those tasks, that’s incredibly impressive. He also had a 116.0 offensive rating according to KenPom, also good enough for a top 300 rating.

Reasonable Expectations

So, let’s be honest here. He wasn’t an elite offensive weapon as a freshman. He hit his fair share of shots, yes, but he wasn’t a go-to guy. This year, at one point or another, he’ll be playing alongside arguably the best go-to guy in the country in Markus Howard, another usage monster in Koby McEwen, and more polished scorers like Brendan Bailey and Sacar Anim. Spare me the eye rolls, both of them are more established than Greg at this point. He was much better defensively, which was great considering he was usually spelling one of Markus Howard and Andrew Rowsey, both notably not defensive stalwarts. If he continues to grow as a defender, he’ll demand minutes to shut down top-level perimeter competition, whether as a backup to Sacar Anim or as a stopper in his own right.

If he develops offensively as an extra option for the go-to guys, I could see 6-7 points a night being reasonable to go along with 2-3 rebounds and 1-2 assists. I think the offense will come with more time and notably less Markus Howard (NOT THAT IT’S A BAD THING TO HAVE MARKUS HOWARD, HE JUST TENDS TO SHOOT AND SCORE A LOT AND THAT’S GOOD, I JUST MEAN MARKUS ONLY HAS ONE YEAR LEFT), so I’m not too concerned with it this year. I’m much more excited to see how he grows on defense.

Why You Should Get Excited

Well, in his healthy year, Greg shot 55% from 2 and 37% from 3, proving that he isn’t a black hole on offense. In the totally secret nobody knows about it scrimmage against Indiana, he went 2-for-5 from three-point range. I think that all of the smoke is hiding an offensive fire waiting to happen. He’s whacky athletic and I’m excited to see if he can get to the rim more and generally open up the floor by slashing or driving. While he can make the three, I don’t think his offensive role should be limited to spot up shooter. Opportunistic shooter? Sure, big fan of that. If the bigs can work the pick and roll with him, I’m very ready for him to be moving towards the basket.

But, as mentioned above, Greg was one of the only players to be in the top 300 in both block and steal percentage according to KenPom. He will be a defender first. With the evolution of the Marquette defense last year into something to not pointedly stare away from, I’m ready to see how a top perimeter defender with elite length and quickness slots in. Due to the Hauser departures, we will see better defenders in Brendan and Jamal on the wings, leaving Sacar, Greg, and Dexter to take on the elite perimeter players. Greg is a matchup nightmare, and I’m so very ready to see him steal people’s lunch from them night in and night out. At his best, if he develops, he’s a competitor for Defensive Player of the Year in the Big East.

Potential Pitfalls

Well, I’m going to start with the obvious. Greg played his entire first season basically one-handed due to a lingering hand injury on his non-dominant hand. Then he redshirted a full year due to a torn ligament in his thumb, and again, that was the same hand/thumb that was injured during his freshman year, just not the exact same injury. He spent time injured this past summer, suffering an ankle injury that was projected to be healed right around now. While recent video highlights and box scores from the totally secret scrimmage that people definitely don’t know about indicate that he’s playing (15 minutes in the secret scrimmage), we still haven’t seen Greg at the peak of his health. I don’t mean “for a whole season,” I mean “not even for one second of a regular season game.” Furthermore, we have a long injury history and thus, until he proves us wrong and stays healthy for an extended period of time, that will always be a nagging thought. I’m worried that he will suffer some other injury.

The Marquette backcourt also seems a bit.....crowded. I am assuming that Markus Howard and Koby McEwen will be the two starters at the 1 and 2, however you want to officially designate them in whichever role. That gives us some combination of Elliott, Symir Torrence, and Dexter Akanno to fill in the backup roles, in addition to the possibility that Sacar Anim, Brendan Bailey, and Jamal Cain may also slide into the 2 spot here and there based upon the matchup. Yes, I know that they will be on the wing 95+% of the time. But I could see a game where we need to bring in, say, Bailey or Cain to handle a long, lanky lineup (that is, if Elliott or Akanno can’t handle their matchup at the 2, but I do have confidence that they can do that). The point is that if you include the 3 as a “backcourt” position, we’re talking about Elliott being part of an eight man group trying to split 120 minutes per game. Or, if you prefer, because Markus Howard will obviously play 30 minutes a night, it’s seven guys splitting 90 minutes. If Greg can’t stay healthy, he might struggle to get game time or establish a definite place on the depth chart. In his one year of playing, he also didn’t flash much in the way of assists and also had a turnover rate just shy of 20%, which is not optimal but not the worst thing known to mankind.

Conclusion

If Greg stays healthy, he’s a ridiculously valuable addition to this team. A top level perimeter defender, a consistent offensive presence that has to be taken seriously, with a few years of maturity and way more time in the weight room and in the film room. I think he establishes himself as the go-to Koby backup and averages 18-22 minutes per game. I’ve said for a long time that he reminds me of Providence alum and current Bulls player Kris Dunn: a lanky point guard who was an elite defender that developed to a top-level offensive player. Greg has all the tools. If he can put them together, he will be Marquette’s Swiss Army knife and a future star.