We are now on our fourth update about potential transfers coming in to the Marquette men’s basketball program. That’s four updates in five days in terms of when we’re publishing these things, but let’s be honest: This is playing catchup from yesterday/waiting for a full day of information to compile everything into one spot.
This is the kind of thing that happens when your team has two more scholarships open than they may have been planning to have when the 2018-19 season ended. That was too late to do much about new freshmen last year, and thus the departures of Joey Hauser and Ike Eke from the active roster led to more open space than head coach Steve Wojciechowski really wanted to see at this point of the calendar.
It is what it is at this point, I suppose. I guess the good news is that it gives us something to talk about with the NCAA tournament shut down due to COVID-19. The bad news is that Wojciechowski is having to reach out to transfers without a full staff available to him, as Stan Johnson has departed the Marquette program to become the head coach at Loyola Marymount. Then again, I presume that Johnson wasn’t doing all that much work over the past few days for the Golden Eagles as a result of working on landing that job. For now, it will be Wojciechowski, Dwayne Killings, and Jake Presutti manning the phones to fill the holes in the Marquette roster.
Let’s check out the two latest names to pop up on the radar, shall we?
UNLV grad transfer Amauri Hardy has heard from Kentucky, Michigan State, Oregon, Arizona, Arizona State, Memphis, Arkansas, Maryland, Seton Hall, Missouri, Cincinnati, Butler, Marquette, Washington State, Wake Forest, TCU.— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) March 20, 2020
Averaged 14.5 points and 3.3 assists this season.
Amauri Hardy is a 6’2”, 190 pound guard who played the last three seasons for UNLV. He came off the bench for 19 minutes per game as a freshman, then worked his way into the starting lineup midway through his sophomore year. When TJ Otzelberger took over the program before the 2019-20 season, Hardy stayed in the starting lineup. As a junior, he averaged 14.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game while playing nearly 35 minutes a night.
A teeny little bit of detective work turned up that Marquette is likely already very familiar with Hardy’s abilities. You see, Hardy has Detroit listed as his hometown on his UNLV roster page. If you read the High School section of said roster page and/or peek at his old 247 Sports recruiting page, then you see that he played grassroots ball with The Family. That is, of course, the same club team that was once home to Jamal Cain, Greg Elliott, and Ike Eke. Seeing as those three guys were all Class of 2017 prospects like Hardy, I think it’s safe to say that Steve Wojciechowski remembers seeing Hardy play with the other three. There’s also the part where Hardy would fit in on the team particularly well because of his familiarity with those three guys. That can’t be overlooked in terms of fitting a guy in for one season.
I don’t have anything particularly interesting to say about Hardy as a player from glancing at his KenPom.com page. He appears to be a perfectly competent Division 1 college basketball player, and as Marquette has seemed bound and determined to prove over the past few years “perfectly competent Division 1 player” is what you want to see and expect in a grad transfer. Rebounds well for his position, solid assist rate which is a little lower than it could have been if Elijah Mitrou-Long wasn’t in and out of the lineup for the Rebels this past year. Doesn’t turn the ball over too much, doesn’t foul too much, gets to the line pretty well. There are questions to be asked about his shooting, as Hardy is only a career 32.9% long range bomber. If you knock his freshman year out of the way, he shot 33.6% the last two years, which is a wee bit better. Hardy is also not a particularly great free throw shooter, connecting on just 69.5% in his three years at UNLV. For a guy who can get to the line a good amount, he struggles to convert those fouls to made free throws.
American F/C Mark Gasperini (RS JR) has entered the transfer portal. Grad transfer w/one year to play. https://t.co/hITWxK7xUO— Verbal Commits (@VerbalCommits) March 12, 2020
Massive losses next year for American, as Jacob Boonyasith and Mark Gasperini enter the transfer portal. Boonyasith showed star potential when healthy, and Gasperini has been a steady presence in the post for 3 years.— Jon Kolodny (@JonKolodny) March 12, 2020
Mark Gasperini has heard from— Tom Nelson (@NEBallAcademy) March 19, 2020
William and Mary
To name a few. #wegotus
Mark Gasperini is a 6’10”, 245 pound big man who went to high school in the Boston area but lists Moscow (yes, the one in Russia) as his home town. He has played three years at American University, missing the 2017-18 campaign due to a season ending injury suffered before the Eagles played a game. Marquette may have film of Gasperini in the archives somewhere, as the Golden Eagles hosted American during the 2017-18 season. Pulling 2016-17 film on 2017-18 opponents would have been an obvious offseason plan, but considering that MU didn’t play American until December 21st, Steve Wojciechowski and his staff would have been aware that Gasperini was not going to play against them and they may not have focused too much on him.
However, they would have done the offseason work to be ready for him, as Gasperini started all but two of his 88 appearances for American, including 29 of 30 as a freshman. In his three seasons, he averaged 10.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game in 24.9 minutes per outing. Gasperini had career lows in minutes, points, and assists in 2019-20, but he had a career high in rebounds per game at 5.1 in 21.4 minutes. That’s kind of impressive.
Gasperini was top 200 in the country per KenPom.com in offensive rebounding rate, and top 500 on the defensive end. He was careful with the ball, ending up with a top 425 turnover rate, and he defended the post well, ranking #461 in the country in block rate. I would also like to point out that in 2018-19, Gasperini was #478 in the country in assist rate. That’s a particularly interesting playing aspect to add to a roster.
There’s another bit in his American University bio that I want to highlight. This is a quote from head coach Mike Brennan which appears to be associated with when Gasperini signed his letter of intent back in the day:
Mark is a highly skilled, mobile big man. He can make open threes, score on the block and is an adept passer. I believe he will be able to help us immediately.
The emphasis is mine. Now, to be clear, this never came true at American, as Gasperini went 13-for-57 (22.8%) from long range, with 12 and 47 of those (25.5%) coming in his freshman year. Brennan clearly didn’t want him shooting outside any more after that, and you can understand why. However, if Gasperini were to end up at Marquette, it’s something that you’d like to see the coaching staff at least explore in the practice gym. If Gasperini could make enough shots to create a situation where opposing fives would have to at least respect him standing out there, that’s another interesting dimension to the Marquette offense.
Here’s what the Marquette scholarship situation looks like right now.
At a glance, it would seem that Hardy may be the more important option for the Golden Eagles. Marquette’s backcourt depth for the 2020-21 season ranges somewhere between “I have several questions to ask” to “completely unproven at the Division 1 level.” Hardy just being a reliable presence on the court would be beneficial to Marquette.
As for Gasperini, I see the benefit to having him on the team. Theo John is Marquette’s only proven five on the roster, and he’s going to have offseason surgery on the wrist/hand that he injured back at the start of the season. Rendering one hand unusable for weight and skills training for roughly two offseason months isn’t super great, and given the current coronavirus situation, we quite honestly have no idea when John is actually going to get that surgery.
In addition to the question marks around John’s availability for the 2020-21 season, Marquette’s best options at the four and as John’s backup are freshmen. While we all like the potential upside of Dawson Garcia, Oso Ighodaro, and Justin Lewis, the fact of the matter is that they’re freshmen, and relying on all three of them for heavy minutes for is a risky proposition.
Then again, depending on what you think about Marquette’s prospects for success in 2020-21, letting the freshmen run wild might be beneficial in the long term. T-Rank has an estimated efficiency map for next season up, and, uh, things do not look good for the Golden Eagles down in that bottom left corner. Letting Garcia, Ighodaro, and Lewis get their freshmen jitters out of the way quickly by playing a lot from the get-go could end up paying off in March 2022 or March 2023.
Of course, the flip side of that is the question of whether or not Steve Wojciechowski will still be the head coach in March 2022 if Marquette ends up in eighth or ninth place in the Big East as the T-Rank efficiency map suggests. Having Gasperini as an option in the middle may be something that Wojciechowski needs on his roster to ensure that it continues to be his roster going forward.