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2021-22 Marquette Men’s Basketball Player Preview: #12 Olivier-Maxence Prosper

Can the once highly touted Canadian transfer big man find his footing in his new home and become a star in Milwaukee?

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Clemson Andersen Independent Mail-USA TODAY NETWORK

The 2021-22 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 in alphabetical order, then the two underclassmen transfers, then the two super-seniors on their extra year of eligibility, and then finally the three returning players, going in order of average minutes 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, as we always do:

  • Reasonable Expectations
  • Why You Should Get Excited
  • Potential Pitfalls

With that out of the way, it’s time to talk about the transfer from Clemson with international experience with Team Canada.......

Olivier-Maxence Prosper

Sophomore - #12 - Forward - 6’8” - 220 pounds - Montreal, Quebec, Canada

The transfer portal and one-time transfer waiver have changed the way we see college basketball. In a game where one player can impact a team’s future in a far more significant way than college football, having a free agency of sorts can allow teams to find both stars looking for greener pastures and under-utilized assets that just didn’t mesh at their first home.

In this case, we’re talking about an asset with sky-high potential and four years of eligibility to contribute.

Olivier-Maxence Prosper comes to Marquette after one year at Clemson. He was a highly-touted recruit but never seemed to catch on in head coach Brad Brownell’s system. He averaged a hair under 10 minutes a game through 22 appearances and 2 starts, but down the stretch fell out of favor. He went from regularly getting 13 to 18 minutes a game, sometimes even as many as 22, to somewhat suddenly never getting more than 6 and averaging 4.2 minutes in the final seven games of the season.

Add in the fact that the man who recruited him — Anthony Goins — moved from Clemson to take a job on the Boston College staff, and it becomes no surprise that Prosper ended up in the transfer portal. All of that might be viewed as misfortune for Clemson, but it would seem to be to the good fortune of the Golden Eagles. Tack on being partnered with a new coach who “gets” big men, and especially gets mobile big men like Olivier, the matchmaking here is downright serendipitous and fortunate for all.

Coming out of high school, the Montreal native was ranked the 86th best prospect in his class, 15th best power forward, and 3rd best Canadian prospect. In an odd twist, he has also ranked as the best recruit out of Mexico because of his attendance at the NBA Academy Latin American in Mexico City for what would count as his senior year of high school. To say he’s well-traveled would be an understatement.

From a style standpoint, “O-Max,” as he was called in his time at Clemson, is an image of the modern-day power forward. At 6’8 and “only” 220 pounds, he is a versatile lengthy athletic big man who can play many different roles on defense. He moves well on the floor and has the leaping ability to become a factor in on the Z-axis, not just X and Y. He’s quick off the dribble and can become a slasher with the best of them while showing a touch of outside scoring. He can guard the wing positions effectively but has yet to demonstrate the ability to really bang with other big men.

At one point in his high school tenure, he was seen as a player who could quickly ascend to being an NBA draft pick. After all, that’s how you end up at an NBA academy. However, after a difficult freshman season, some of that shine has worn off...but the potential is all still there. What is most exciting about O-Max is that he’s young. As Shaka Smart has indicated in a culture shift year, the flexibility and willingness to play young talent are there. If given the time to really play minutes, the good and the bad, real experience, the collective outcomes could be far more exciting than they are dreadful.

Reasonable Expectations

After being essentially benched in the season’s stretch run, Prosper’s supposed value is hard to ascertain. Is he the top prospect with potential NBA value in his future? Or is he an overhyped former prep star whose value isn’t there? The answer is clearly somewhere in the middle but probably on the upper end of the center.

This summer, Olivier went to Latvia with Team Canada and had an excellent appearance where he averaged 6.4 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 1.7 steals at the 2021 FIBA U19 World Cup. He clearly showed an ability to compete with his peers on the World Stage and contribute to a competitive and successful team. This was a Canadian team that took eventual gold medalists Team USA to the wire in the semifinals and finished third at the World Cup.

O-Max is a high upside, young contributor in the immediate term that you hope excels and rises to be a focal point of a roster’s attack and defensive scheme. The question for him becomes more a matter of showing consistency and effectiveness across situations and exposer to opponents.

As a rotational piece, you hope that his athleticism, length, and energy would be critical to a high tempo scheme, and his physicality gives you both reprieve and flexibility in the signature Shaka Smart Man-to-Man defense.

It wouldn’t be unreasonable to hope for more scoring output as well from Prosper. At 2.4 points per game, it’s hard to get much lower, and when accounting for games in which he had more than four minutes in a game, his average doubles. Add in an offseason of competitive play and improvement, a hope that his shooting touch improves; you can reasonably expect him to be more of a scoring threat than his 2.4 points per game last season indicates he can be.

Olivier-Maxence Prosper is the kind of player you can very quickly talk yourself into being a high-end impactful player; the only nuisance there is being measured as to when that time will come.

Reasons To Get Excited

Underneath the basket, O-Max has fantastic touch and is an elite finisher. Especially when given the ball in hand-off or guard penetration situations. He’s a budding threat as a jump shooter, especially in the midrange but has shown, at the very least, an ability to extend that shot to the perimeter. He’s not a ball-handler in the sense that you want him being the guy breaking a press or a trap, but when asked to attack the basket, he can certainly be someone who can handle his own with the ball in his hand.

His passing skills are an underrated skill as both a ball mover, pushing in transition, and as an entry passer into the paint. It’s a skill he could show off more often and could be asked to in a new role, but he had limited opportunities to do so at Clemson last year.

As a defender, Olivier can really shine. Factor in Shaka’s suggestion to lean towards his “Havoc” defense at Marquette, and O-Max is the type of player who can excel both in that system and as an individual. The ability to guard multiple positions because of his length and agility makes him primed to fill roles both as a man-to-man defender and in the zone press that Smart likes to mix in with it.

More than anything, Prosper is a player who has all the tools to be a consistent and reliable player and will only continue to develop. He needs time and reps to get better, and given his ability to defend in a system, provide offensive upside, and has shown a winning basketball IQ, he is at the very least a prospect worth developing for the future with significant upside and could be a star right now.

Potential Pitfalls

So, with all that potential and upside being said. OMP actually has got to go out and perform. It’s hard to know why Olivier’s minutes cratered at Clemson, but they did, and it’s not as if he was an all-American before that drop-off. He’s got a lot of talent, but it never really translated in tangible ways while in South Carolina.

Could that be because of opportunity? Sure. Not the right fit? Yea sure could be. Being a freshman living in his third country in three years? That’s not easy. He did play well at the FIBA U19 World Cup, so there is some light at the end of the tunnel, but he’s got to go out and put up numbers or at the very least make a tangible impact that leads to consistent playing time.

The actual problems in his game that we know about are fairly few and far between. As a shooter, his most significant question mark isn’t so much his skill or mechanics...those skills need to be refined, but the talent is there...it’s his selection/situational awareness. He’s a tad turnover-prone, but it’s hard to say how true that is with the small sample size in playing time. He doesn’t have a great handle, but it’s certainly serviceable.

More than anything, the primary reason to be worried is can he put together all of these skills to be a high-level major conference player or, conversely, can he shake out the particularly bad ends of his flaws to minimize their impact? He’s going to get opportunities to prove himself but on a team with lots of young talent... so are a lot of guys. You hope that Olivier is the guy (or at least one of the guys) to break out and be a potential star, but there isn’t a detailed history or proof of doing so, not yet at least.