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Shaka Smart Wades Into The Transfer Waters

Marquette is going to have space to fill on the roster for the new head coach’s first season in charge.

News: New Marquette Mens Basketball Coach Shaka Smart Milwaukee Journal Sentinel-USA TODAY NETWORK

Well, Shaka Smart has been 1) officially announced as the new Marquette men’s basketball head coach and 2) officially introduced by way of press conference as head coach. The next thing to do? Start recruiting new Golden Eagles. Right now, that means getting into the weeds with guys who are transferring and looking to make a change in their team and school. There are already three new names that we need to talk about as well as an old and familiar name that Coach Smart has already reached out to to gauge their interest in becoming a Golden Eagle next fall.

Let’s drop in the ol’ scholarship chart here so we’re all on the same page as to what Marquette’s current as of this second situation is,

While things can still move between now and, I mean, literally before I even finish typing this, Marquette is looking at a guaranteed three available scholarship spots for the 2021-22 school year. Depending on whether or not Tommy Gardiner 1) returns from his season ending knee injury or 2) returns to the team after the coach that elevated him from walk on to scholarship player, it’s possible that Marquette has four scholarships to work with right now.

In short, if you’re a high major Division 1 caliber player, then there’s probably a spot on the Marquette roster for you right now. That goes double if you’re a big guy.

Noah Gurley

Phew, that is a list of teams chasing down after Noah Gurley, huh? No matter what MU’s new head coach says, we can pretty much guarantee that the Furman transfer is going to end up somewhere that really wants him.

Gurley is a 6’8”, 210 pound forward, although’s positional algorithm has him as a center for the Paladins the past two seasons. He appeared in 88 games in three seasons for Furman and started in 83 of those, including every game that he played in over the past two years. As a junior this past season, Gurley averaged 15.4 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.1 blocks per game. So you can see why he’s highly sought after, and that’s before I tell you that he’s a career 34% shooter from behind the three-point line.

There are some question marks, though. KenPom has Gurley as top 200 in the country in usage in 2020-21. He doesn’t turn the ball over all that much, not good and not bad, so that’s not why his usage is a little elevated. He and Mike Bothwell were neck-and-neck in terms of who was leading Furman in shots this past season, and I don’t know if Marquette needs a guy who shoots the ball a whole ton next year. I also don’t really know exactly what Marquette needs next season because there still could be roster movement news coming from the McGuire Center.

I’m also curious about why Gurley just stopped shooting three-pointers as a sophomore. He went from 3.5 attempts per game while shooting 31.5% to just 1.8 attempts per game in his second season of college hoops..... while hitting 40.7% of them. It was the same coach in charge in Greenville all three seasons that Gurley was a Paladin, so I’m not exactly sure what the deal is there. If he’s 6’8” and can stroke it to the tune of 4.5 attempts per game and 33.9% like he did as a junior, then I can see how he could fit into any roster in the country.

Tari Eason

Jake Weingarten says that Marquette was inquiring with Eason back when Justin Gainey was expected to still be an assistant on the staff for the 2021-22 season. That has (probably?) changed with Shaka Smart taking over, but Smart has also taken over communication with Eason in terms of the potential of bringing him to Milwaukee.

In 23 games as a freshman at Cincinnati, the 6’8”, 215 pound Eason started eight times and averaged 19.6 minutes per game. His starts came early in the season for the Bearcats, but his minutes stayed mostly consistent as he played in every game. The Seattle native averaged 7.3 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.2 steals, and 1.3 blocks per game, and may I remind you that he was averaging less than half the minutes in a game per night?

While there are real questions about Eason’s total offensive game (he only shot 29 threes all season and only hit 24% of them), he contributed a whole hell of a lot all over the floor in his limited minutes. In league play, Eason ranked #8 in the American Athletic Conference in two-point shooting percentage and shot 52% overall. He was top 60 in the country per in offensive rebounding rate and “only” #151 in defensive rebounding rate. Eason was top 100 in both steal and block rate as well. I don’t know if that would hold up he started playing 25 or 30 minutes a night or if the former top 150 prospect should be playing that much if he can’t stretch the floor, but the ability to impact the game in multiple ways can’t be ignored, either.

Noah Locke

You’re not going to hear me complain very loudly about Marquette chasing after a guard who played for three years in the SEC on a team that was an NCAA tournament caliber squad every year. That’s what you’re getting in Noah Locke, a 6’3”, 203 pound guard out of Maryland.

With that said, all you’re really getting is a shooter, admittedly a consistent from Day 1 as a Gator shooter. Locke has appeared in 92 games for Florida, starting in 79 of them and averaging 27.8 minutes per game. He’s only averaging 10.1 points and 2.4 rebounds per game in his career, but he just keeps laying roughly that same kind of stats out there year after year.

Locke is only a career 40.8% shooter from the field, but 68% of his attempts are from behind the three-point line.... where he connects 40.3% of the time and has never hit less than 37% of his threes in any of his three seasons in Gainesville. He’s also dependable with the ball, ranking #2 in the country in turnover rate as a freshman and #53 as a sophomore before “slipping” all the way “down” to #315 in the country this past year. Yeah, that’s fine. Locke has also been incredibly consistent in being amongst the national leaders in fewest fouls called per 40 minutes, but that’s the kind of thing that can be 50/50 in terms of “defends very intelligently” and “doesn’t play very much defense at all.” I can’t really say I’ve watched much of him at Florida, so I don’t know which one it is.

Symir Torrence

Hey, look, a familiar name! Symir Torrence made his plans to leave Marquette known before the MU administration terminated the contract of Steve Wojciechowski. As such, you can see how new head coach Shaka Smart would be interested in making sure that Torrence is sure that he wants a fresh start somewhere else.

Here’s a quote from Torrence:

“The hire of coach Smart is a great opportunity and a great fit for Marquette,” he said. “He brings in a new situation, it’s interesting and brings me to my toes. He has contacted me already and I have been interested ever since, so who knows. I may or may not be back.”

“It was a short text message saying how excited he is to be at Marquette and he just wants to talk to me over the phone,” he said.

That was published around the middle of the day on Tuesday..... right about the same time that Torrence said a decision was on the way.

I presume that actually means an announcement is coming on Wednesday, not that Torrence is going to sleep on it and make a decision first thing in the morning.

Torrence appeared in 52 games in his two seasons in Milwaukee, but never quite got on the “regular playing time” wagon. As a sophomore this past year, he averaged 2.4 points, 1.4 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game while getting 13.0 minutes a night. For whatever reason, the former top 100 prospect never quite clicked with what Steve Wojciechowski wanted on the floor, and so he didn’t contribute all that much. It’s impossible to say how much of a difference that Shaka Smart could make in how Torrence would and/or could be used on the floor, and if he’s going from “Coach Smart reached out and wanted to talk to me” to “I’m ready to commit” that quickly, I’m somehow guessing that Torrence is still ending up somewhere that’s not Milwaukee when next school year starts.