With the 2018-2019 season in the books, 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 going from lowest to highest, which means that today we take a look at the sophomore from Michigan that didn’t quite factor into the team’s gameplan this year.....
Sophomore - #23 - Forward - 6’7” - 195 lbs. - Pontiac, Michigan
Jamal Cain Traditional Stats
Jamal Cain Fancy Stats
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 stopper, 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, 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.
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.
Oh no no no no.
Well, we — and by we, I mean Connor, who wrote that preview back in the fall — fell royally short of what happened to Jamal Cain this season. Matt Heldt was the most notable victim of the roster adjustments from 2018 to 2019, but Jamal Cain is right up there with him. The really bad part about the dropoff for Cain this season, is that it happened in-season. Heldt wasn’t getting playing time to start the year, so when he kept not getting playing time, no one was particularly surprise. Of Jamal Cain’s 250 minutes played this season, 97 of them happened before December 1st. Did you remember that he started three games this season? Presbyterian, Kansas, and Louisville! All starts for him! And then he played just 162 minutes in Marquette’s remaining 28 games.
I’m not entirely sure what Steve Wojciechowski and his staff saw or I suppose didn’t see from Cain in the month of November that ended up relegating him to the deep end of the bench for the rest of the year. He seemed.... fine! 3.3 points, 4.0 rebounds in a shade under 14 minutes per game. These are acceptable performance numbers from a guy who’s coming off the bench anyway. Cain started off the year shooting 4-for-10 from three-point range in Marquette’s first three games, which is absolutely great. He then missed his next five, which, y’know, things happen..... and then he didn’t get a chance to even attempt another long range shot until December 28th, eight games later.
I know that hitting corner threes was a big part of what made him such a useful component to the team during his freshman year, but he essentially never got a chance to even try to show that he could recreate that performance as a sophomore. After a great start, the minutes essentially were never there for him the rest of the way, and perhaps the biggest part of hitting shots in game situations is being comfortable shooting the ball in game situations. Cain was just never on the floor to do that.
I feel kind of bad about it, but I don’t have very much to say about this season for Jamal Cain. This is the kind of thing that happens when you rack up five DNP-CD’s in Big East play and only appear for more than five minutes in five of the other 13 league games. To put it another way: When Jamal Cain secured a Brendan Bailey missed three-pointer and put it back up and in with 37 seconds left in MU’s 86-54 victory against St. John’s in the Big East tournament on March 14th, it was Cain’s first points since February 20th. Not to say that scoring is the only way you can contribute to the team, of course, but this illustrates how little we saw of the athleticism that we glimpsed during his freshman year.
Y’know, as horrible as it sounds, but you can make a very serious case for the season opener against UMBC. A season high seven points on 3-of-6 shooting, six rebounds, two blocks, all in just 15 minutes played. I don’t want to do that to him, though. Instead, I’ll go with the home date against Buffalo. After already experiencing the rise to the starting lineup and being relegated to the back end of the bench, Cain saw 18 minutes of action in a very important non-conference game for Marquette, and threw together six points, five rebounds, two blocks, and three steals. He made all three of his shots, two of which were actually pretty important shots. Cain had buckets within 70 seconds of each other early in the second half, with the first pulling Marquette within one, 45-44, and the second tying the game at 49. I know, it seems kind of wild to think about now, given that MU won the game by 18, but Jamal Cain made two really big plays when Marquette really needed them when the game was very much in doubt.
Season Grade, on a scale of 1-10
Even with giving him credit for being ready to go whenever his number was called, no matter how much or how little that happened as the season wore on, I really can’t go any higher than a 4 for this year for Cain. After being a pretty solid cog as a freshman and/or for a freshman, things never came together for him in his second season for whatever reason. I think it’s safe to say that everyone expected to see more of him in 2018-19, and since we didn’t, it feels like it was slightly disappointing, even though it’s really not his fault at all.