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Does Steve Wojciechowski Have Trouble Coaching And/Or Recruiting Point Guards?

This is coming up in the comments, so let’s go ahead and take a look at it.

Marquette head coach Steve Wojciechowski Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

One of the things that came up in the comments on “Well, Now What?” article on what happened to Marquette basketball in 2018-19 is the following:

Certainly no pg help coming in as a freshman next year ….can’t comprehend how a coach who was a decorated pg at Duke can’t seem to find one even adequate pg in over 3 years

This is not the first time that that this general sentiment has come up in the comments. Please check out the Seton Hall Big East tournament recap, the at Seton Hall regular season recap, and the Creighton home game recap for previous instances. In fairness, this is the same two commenters combining for all four instances, two each. Still, though, that’s two people who are operating under the idea that the Marquette coaching staff in general and former collegiate point guard Steve Wojciechowski in particular are not doing an adequate job getting high level point guards on this team or at the very least, getting point guards to produce at a high level for this team.

Well, if we’re comparing what Wojo is recruiting and coaching at Marquette, I guess that we have to start with laying out exactly what kind of player Wojo was in the first place.

Career: 5.4 points, 2.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists in 127 games for Duke. Shooting split of 38.3% overall, 36.4% from behind the arc, and 73.2% from the free throw line.

Just Junior & Senior Year: 6.9 points, 2.8 rebounds, 5.0 assists in 68 games. Shooting split — 41%/39%/75%

I’m pulling all of that from his College Basketball Reference page. I separated out his junior and senior year stats into their own line there because Wojo didn’t lead Duke in assists in his first two years. In fact, as a sophomore, he wasn’t even second on the team. Because he played between 1994 and 1998, the stats that we do have appear to be not complete enough to give us any kind of style advanced stats for his full career. However, I can tell you that he had an assist rate of 23.5% as a freshman and 19.9% as a sophomore, combined with turnover rates of 26.9% and 26.6% in those years respectively. I can’t give you turnovers per game numbers for his career, as there isn’t anything for his junior and senior year, but he averaged 1.4 per game in his first two years, for whatever that’s worth to you.

If I’m understanding the complaints properly, then, in theory, any point guard on the Marquette roster that outperforms what Wojo did as a player would be good, right? In fact, the complaint in the quoted comment above was regarding merely an “adequate” point guard.

Okay, so let’s take whoever led the Golden Eagles in assists for four of Wojo’s five seasons in charge (I’ll explain in a bit why one is dropped out), and you tell me which one isn’t up to the same standards that Wojo set as a player. I’ve added their ranks according to KenPom in assist rate here so you can see where they ranked nationally in that regard as well as within the Big East. I’ve also included each one’s rank in the Big East in terms of pure counting assists per game. No tempo bonuses there.

Point Guard A: 5.6 points, 3.9 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.6 turnovers. 27.9% assist rate per KenPom, #135. #4 in BE in rate, #3 in BE in counting. 20.6% turnover rate per KenPom. Shooting splits: 41%/23%/47%

Point Guard B: 5.4 points, 2.5 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 2.3 turnovers. 32.8% assist rate per KenPom, #45. #3 in BE in rate, #5 in BE in counting. 29.1% turnover rate per KenPom. Shooting splits: 34%/31%/74%

Point Guard C: 20.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 2.8 turnovers. 28.6% assist rate per KenPom, #102. #4 in BE in rate, #4 in BE in counting. 16.4% turnover rate per KenPom. Shooting splits: 42%/42%/90%

Point Guard D: 25.0 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 3.9 turnovers. 27.2% assist rate, per KenPom, #127. #5 in BE in rate, #7 in BE in counting. 18.4% turnover rate per KenPom. Shooting splits: 42%/40%/89%

This is just my general impression of it, but I would say that all four of those guys are at least equal to the standards set by the collegiate career of the head coach. If you think I’m wrong, please light me up in the comments section for any of the four. I’m happy to listen to where you disagree with me, because this is a complaint that I’m hearing from other people, not one that I particularly have with how the team is going.

PGs A and B clearly have a bit of a problem shooting the ball, but let’s be honest about it: So did Wojo. He was a fine FT shooter, a pretty good long range shooter, but a kind of crummy overall shooter. A and B made up for it by being neck-and-neck with Wojo in terms of assist totals. C and D are much better shooters than Wojo, amplifying their lesser assist totals and rates with great shooting and scoring. Both of those guys averaged more turnovers per game than Wojo, but their rates were pretty low, so maybe that’s okay.

Big reveal time, although y’all are pretty smart folks and probably have already figured these guys out. In order: You’re looking at 2015 Derrick Wilson, 2016 Traci Carter, 2018 Andrew Rowsey, and 2019 Markus Howard. That’s the numbers for those guys. Those have been Marquette’s point guards under the direction of Steve Wojciechowski. I don’t have a problem with any of this. I seriously need you to tell me which ones you have a problem with, if you’re one of the people who think Wojo has a problem with getting and/or coaching good/competent/useful/talented/adequate point guards.

2017 is the year that got left out, because it’s kind of a confusing mess to actually point at one particular guy as the point guard for that season. The four up there, pretty good with those ID’s as the guy for that season. Traci Carter leaving after just eight games kind of screwed everything up in terms of figuring out who was running the show for the full season, as did Wojo essentially benching Haanif Cheatham down the stretch in favoring of Andrew Rowsey. What this led to was Jajuan Johnson leading the team in assists amongst guys who were on the team the whole year at 2.7 per game. Howard and Rowsey both landed at 2.3 per game, while Carter was averaging 3.6 per game when he left.

Of course, coaching guys up is just one part of the college basketball head coaching job. Recruiting is the other part. The following is, according to 247 Sports, the list of top 150 point guards that Steve Wojciechowski and his staff have given scholarship offers, starting with the class of 2015 and going through the 2019 class that was eligible to sign letters of intent back in November. In parenthesis, you’ll see the school that they ended up choosing.

  • Bryant Crawford, 2015 #99 (Wake Forest)
  • Cassius Winston, 2016 #31 (Michigan State)
  • Quentin Goodin, 2016 #78 (Xavier)
  • Ashton Hagans, 2018 #12 (Kentucky)
  • Tyger Campbell, 2018 #91 (UCLA)
  • Nico Mannion, 2019 #10 (Arizona)
  • DJ Carton, 2019 #28 (Ohio State)
  • De’Vion Harmon, 2019 #36 (Oklahoma)

And just for kicks, here’s the guys listed as shooting guards or combo guards that Marquette offered with Wojo at the helm. I’m including these guys because I know there’s more than one in here that was listed as a point guard at some point in the process.

  • Jimmy Whitt, 2015 #68 (Arkansas)
  • Brevin Pritzl, 2015 #94 (Wisconsin)
  • Terrence Mann, 2015 #100 (Florida State)
  • Shizz Alston, Jr., 2015 #126 (Temple)
  • Kobi Simmons, 2016 #26 (Arizona)
  • Amir Coffey, 2016 #49 (Minnesota)
  • Kevin Huerter, 2016 #65 (Maryland)
  • Brandon Randolph, 2017 #38 (Arizona)
  • Jordan Poole, 2017 #93 (Michigan)
  • Quentin Grimes, 2018 #10 (Kansas)
  • Ayo Dosunmu, 2018 #32 (Illinois)
  • Tyler Herro, 2018 #37 (Kentucky)
  • Noah Locke, 2018 #80 (Florida)
  • Torrence Watson, 2018 #113 (Missouri)
  • Jeenathan Williams, 2018 #131 (Buffalo)
  • Montez Mathis, 2018 #135 (Rutgers)
  • Tyrese Maxey, 2019 #9 (Kentucky)
  • Josh Nickelberry, 2019 #99 (Louisville)
  • Jalen Gaffney, 2019 #100 (Connecticut)
  • Dahmir Bishop, 2019 #113 (Xavier)

I think that we can safely say that, regardless of what your opinion of what Wojo has done in terms of coaching the guys that he does have on the team, you can’t accuse him and his staff of not trying to get some capital D Dudes on the roster. In fact, in the Guy/Dude/MFer ranking system, I think it’s safe to say that there are some straight up MFers in those two lists.

Of course, there is the aspect of “yes, well, he didn’t get any of those guys to Marquette.” Fair point! But there are a few counterpoints to that. First: If you’re losing recruits to Michigan State or Arizona or Kentucky or any other tippy top program, you have to just chalk that up to the cost of doing business. Can’t fault any kid for picking Kansas or what have you. Second: How many of these chaps weren’t interested in attending Marquette once they saw that Marquette had Markus Howard on board, or for the class of 2017 in particular, Howard and Andrew Rowsey? If you’re going after tippy top guys, they’re going to want situations where they’re going to step in immediately and contribute. How many of these guys would have had to take a backseat to Markus Howard through the end of the 2019-20 season? How many of them told Wojo “no” as a result?

Finally, there is the part where we have to give Wojo credit here. Look, if Markus Howard’s ongoing turnover problem grated on you — and if it did, that’s fair and justified — you have to appreciate the fact that Wojo was going out and shooting high to get someone to help solve that problem on what would be his most talented roster. That was the entire point in recruiting Quentin Grimes, for example. Looking at next year, that was the point in going hard after Nico Mannion. If you have Markus Howard, really, honestly, the only possible solution to alleviating his workload immediately is to get a tippy top guy like those two.

Alrighty, that’s enough from me. The point of this article was to address issues I saw popping up in the comments, and so, I turn things over to the comments section. Got questions/complaints about anything here? Well, fire away. The floor is yours.