With the 2019-20 season long since 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 the roster in order of total minutes played going from lowest to highest, which means today we move on to the Canadian transfer from Utah State.......
Redshirt Junior - Guard - #25 - 6’4” - 205 pounds - Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Koby McEwen Traditional Stats
Koby McEwen Fancy Stats
*** - Denotes a top 500 national ranking per KenPom.com
Koby shares a (slightly altered, spelling-wise) namesake with the greatest assassin of all time, Kobe Bryant. Don’t. Mess. It. Up.
Basically, all that means in the context of this season is being a better complement to Markus Howard than Joseph Chartouny was last year. I am sorry to report that that is not a very high bar to pass. If Koby can be an improvement from Chartouny, I think Marquette fans will be happy. But I believe he can be much more than that.
He’s a proven rebounder and has the potential to be a solid on-ball defender. He’s a 6-4 guard which already gives him an edge over Markus Howard on defense. His athleticism and quickness that he possesses also leads me to believe that he’ll be able to match up well with and/or against Big East guards.
McEwen is a dynamic player that I think will fit in very well with the Golden Eagles. He’s already had a year with the team and a European trip to learn his role and get comfortable playing with his teammates.
Just check out this recent video posted by the Journal Sentinel of Koby talking about how he feels about playing with Markus:
Ooh yes. The Koby and Markus backcourt could be a topic of conversation that catches steam by the time Big East play begins. I love how he said he’s basically comfortable shooting from anywhere. Versatility is just what you want at the guard position. Now he’s just got to go out and prove himself on the court.
Reasons To Get Excited
Speaking of proving himself... well I found this fun highlight video of a game he played his freshmen year at Utah State:
First things first. Note the spelling of his name. I love the mistake...or was it? The most important thing here is that he shows he’s comfortable attacking inside the paint. That can create so many options offensively for the Golden Eagles. Think about it: he can finish at the rim with that lengthy Euro-step; he can dribble drive and kick it out to Markus, Brendan Bailey, or Sacar Anim(who’s a much improved 3-point shooter); he can also play the pick & roll with Ed Morrow, Jayce Johnson, or Theo John to find an open shot or create opportunities for others. The possibilities are endless.
He quietly led the Aggies in rebounds his sophomore year. Now, it might not directly translate to Big East play because the Big East ain’t the MWC, but the potential is there. Depending on the position Koby finds himself on the court, he could be a consistent rebounder for the Golden Eagles game-in and game-out. Someone has to step up in the absence of the Hauser brothers and Koby has it very much in his DNA to do so.
Best case scenario he finds himself second on the team in scoring and the leading assist and rebounding man by the time March rolls around.
Turnovers, aka Joseph Chartouny’s ultimate downfall a year ago. Any primary ball-handler has to worry and Koby is not exception. He averaged 2.8 and 2.9 turnovers/game in his two seasons at Utah State. This isn’t as bad as Markus’ astronomical 3.9 per game last season, of course. However, due to the outrageous load that Howard carried for Marquette last season, McEwen’s turnover rates at USU (both years were between 19% and 20%) were higher than Howard’s 18.4% last year. I know it’s weird to say “Markus Howard turned the ball over less than you think,” but it is true relative to how much he actually had the ball in his hands. If you think about it in terms of opportunity to turn it over, McEwen has been ever so slightly worse than Howard was last year.
If that continues, that’s going to be a problem. The competition is going to get a little tougher in the Big East so ball security is definitely something Koby will need to focus on early on. In his first exhibition with the Golden Eagles he had four turnovers and two assists. Typically you want a positive assist to turnover ratio...so we’ll call it “not ideal.” The good news is that he’ll have all of non-conference to work on eliminating those unforced errors. If he doesn’t...well let’s just say it’s going to be a long season.
In chronological order here are five stages to describe how I felt about Koby McEwen from the start of the season to the end: slightly optimistic, disappointment, utter confusion, acceptance, desolation.
My feelings about Koby’s potential for the season seesawed from a state of despair to being dumbfounded by his offensive outbursts. I am going to circle back to a few things I wrote in the preview as seen above, then address my five stages of emotions watching Koby this season.
Good news: Koby was a MAJOR improvement from Joseph Chartouny averaging 9.5/5.0/3.2 splits compared to 3.0/2.3/2.0 for Chartouny. Like I said in the preview, a very low bar to pass. He was an every day starter from the get-go and played double the minutes as Chartouny and thus had a much larger role for the Golden Eagles.
Bad news: Koby wasn’t the consistent scorer I anticipated. For one, Sacar Anim was the secondary option to Markus Howard, averaging 13.1 points per contest which was a welcoming sight for the redshirt senior. This is McEwen’s review, so let’s focus on him: Koby was inconsistent at putting the ball in the net. He was maddeningly consistent at turning the ball over though with a 26.2% turnover rate. That while being responsible for more than one-fifth of Marquette’s possessions.
Let’s dissect the bad news further. My fear in the preview became a reality this year as McEwen averaged 2.8 turnovers per game—right on par with his numbers at Utah State. With the Aggies, he had a much larger share of the offense, with 27.8% of the possessions ending with him. The more you have the ball, the more chances you get to turn the ball over, of course, so if McEwen kept the same counting number while moving to Marquette...... that’s not great. It’s on Koby and the coaching staff to drill it into his brain to take care of the ball. And for whatever reason — trying too hard to prove he belonged in the Big East? Being pushed to be the secondary scorer/primary creator that Howard wasn’t? — he wasn’t able to figure a way to limit his turnovers. His giveaways ranged from overthrowing cross-court passes into the third row, bad entry passes to either Theo John or Jayce Johnson, or losing the ball on the dribble. For me, this was the most frustrating part of his game.
Koby’s scoring output took a dip from his two seasons at Utah State where he hovered around 15 points per game. This is understandable since he was used less merely due to playing next to the nation’s leading scorer. What’s more worrisome is that all his shooting numbers took a plunge from his last season at Utah State to this season with Marquette. His effective field goal percentage dropped from 47.8% to 41.2%. A big reason for this was his cringeworthy two-point percentage of 38.1% and head-scratching 29.2% on 120 attempts from long-range. It’s headscratching both from the “why are you shooting those when you know you’re hitting them” and the “why are the coaches letting you shoot those when they know you’re not hitting them” perspectives.
He showed slight improvement hitting twos in conference play making 42.4% of them. And there was much rejoicing. Unfortunately, his three point shooting continued to slide with a 27.4% mark. Oof. I feel like now is a good time to mention that at least it’s not as bad as Big East Player of the Year (Lol) Myles Powell’s three-point shooting during conference play which (adjusts electron microscope) was an unexplainably low 26.5%. Explain that POY trophy to me.
But I digress.
Generally speaking, for a team that was built on hitting open shots because all you had to do was compliment Markus Howard’s seemingly guaranteed 25+ points per game... McEwen did not meet preseason expectations.
Before getting to some positive things, it’s worth mentioning that Koby has no reason for committing 4.6 fouls per 40 minutes (up from 3.2 as a sophomore at USU!) which led to five premature exits from games due to fouling out which he could have avoided. Koby actually led Marquette with 3.3 fouls per game. There’s simply no reason a guard should be fouling that much during a game.
Alrighty, let’s get to the good stuff. McEwen excelled when he was able to distribute the ball with crisp precision and corral rebounds. He posted a top 400 assist rate according to KenPom.com at 21.2%. When he was at his best, he was able to put his teammates in great positions to score. Koby’s vision was very much needed for a team that seemed stagnant offensively during long stretches of games.
His athleticism allowed him to average five boards per game and have a defensive rebounding rate of 17.1%, which is a long way of saying that he rebounded his position very well. Head coach Steve Wojciechowski clearly placed an emphasis on guards rebounding the ball because both Brendan Bailey and Greg Elliottg had defensive rebounding rates north of 16%. As a result, the Golden Eagles led the Big East in defensive rebounds averaging 29.2 per game. Whenever you have guys not named Theo John or Jayce Johnson that can consistently attack the glass, that helps limit opponents to one shot per possession. Koby was very comfortable around the glass and delivered on the expectations I had for him before the season.
Koby had a few breakout performances throughout the season. He scored a season high 23 points in the second game of the season against Purdue which helped Marquette to their first big win of the year. In conference play he knocked down four of six triples on his way to 22 much needed points to comfortably beat Villanova at Fiserv Forum. There was one game that stands out in a big way, though: The Xavier game at Cintas Center. With Markus on the bench after picking up an elbow to the face, McEwen took over late in that game by hitting a clutch three with about a minute and change to go to cut the lead to two. He then had two patently absurd circus shots in the first overtime period that were wildly entertaining and kept Marquette in the game. He tacked on 9 of 11 free throws to push the Golden Eagles to an important road win. Although his shooting numbers weren’t particularly great, he did come in clutch in key moments down the stretch which was very necessary without Markus on the court.
The first four games of the season Koby averaged about 15.8 points per game. I was slightly optimistic that he could turn into the secondary scorer that Marquette needed to compliment Markus. He then went through a shooting slump in the ensuing five games where he only made eight field goals and I was scratching my head wondering if the beginning of the year version of McEwen was just a dream. Koby did have a right thumb sprain in late December that caused him to miss a somewhat meaningless game against Central Arkansas. After that, he spent the remainder of the season with tape on his right hand.
Who knows how much the injury affected his game but I’ll just say that he did have some very wild overthrows during a stretch of games and a hurt thumb could have had something to do with that. That’s just speculation of course, because just seven days after he did not play against UCA, he scored 22 against ‘Nova and played 36 minutes. Seems good. At this point, I was thinking that maybe he could turn things around in conference play. Unfortunately, I was frustrated with Koby because he was an inconsistent scorer the rest of the season. When Marquette desperately needed someone, literally anyone not named Markus Howard, to make a basket in the final five games, Koby averaged 4.2 points per game.
Maybe my expectations were too high of Koby this season, but I really thought he could consistently be Marquette’s second scoring option. He had a few bright spots but overall did not materialize into an efficient scorer. He did meet my expectations as a passer and rebounder. Five rebounds and three assists is right on par with what he averaged at Utah State. Koby had a few great performances and passed and rebounded the ball well, but there was a lot left to be desired from Koby as a scorer. For that reason, I’m going to give him a final grade of 4 out of 10.