SOMEHOW, we are NOT. DONE. with new MU basketball player news!
On Wednesday evening, George Mason transfer Tyler Kolek announced that he is committed to play at Marquette for new head coach Shaka Smart.
I don’t know how far things got with any program other than Marquette, but Kolek had no shortage of high major programs after him once he entered the transfer portal. Oklahoma, Penn State, Virginia, and UConn all made contact with him at the very least, and those are only the schools that were listed at the same time as Marquette.
Kolek is a 6’3”, 190 pound guard from Rhode Island. As a freshman for the Patriots this past season, he averaged 10.8 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.3 steals per game while playing in 22 games and starting in 18 of the final 19 games of the season. In GMU’s 14 game Atlantic 10 season, Kolek averaged 11.6 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.4 steals.
Most of Kolek’s offensive output came by way of three-point shooting in the 2020-21 season. He fired off 148 long range bombs for George Mason, which is 6.7 per game, and he connected on 35.8% overall and 37% during league play. This also seems good!
I already wrote this next bit about Kolek once when MU got involved in recruiting him, so I’m just going to cut and paste it here:
I’m intrigued by Kolek’s ability to contribute on the defensive end. That 1.3 steals per game works itself out to a steal rate of 2.5% according to KenPom.com, which ranks Kolek in the top 500 in the country. That’s pretty good! Perhaps more impressively, Kolek was also in the top 400 for the lowest amount of fouls called per 40 minutes played. I will openly admit to not remembering watching any of George Mason this past season, but generally speaking, you’d think it would be pretty hard to be really good at creating steals and not committing fouls. Maybe there’s a specific way that GMU head coach Dave Paulsen coached the team that allowed for Kolek to do that, but it would seem to imply that he has really great hands on defense, and that’s always helpful.
I do want to tack something else on to that, particularly relative to Kolek’s hands. He posted a turnover rate of 16.2% this past season. That’s not amazingly great, as it’s not in KenPom’s top 500 nationally, but it’s also nowhere near bad. He did this while playing in the Atlantic 10, a perfectly cromulent basketball conference. He did this as a freshman who was asked to carry a decently sized load for an A-10 team and finished the year third on the team in scoring. The only caveat I want to throw in here, and mind you I haven’t watched a lick of George Mason from this past season, is that if Kolek was mostly only shooting three-pointers, then he probably wasn’t doing a lot of moving with the ball, either. If you do a lot of catch-and-shoot type stuff, then it’s really hard to actually turn the ball over. Still, as someone who has had to watch seven straight years of Marquette teams be mediocre at best at maintaining possession of the ball on offense, I am encouraged by the idea of bringing in a guard who did a pretty good job keeping track of the ball as a freshman.
Let’s head to the scholarship table!
As we discussed in the Keeyan Itejere commitment article, Marquette’s roster is now most likely set for the 2021-22 season. Two questions remain: What’s up with former walk-on Tommy Gardiner as he returns from his season ending knee injury and what’s up with Dawson Garcia, who entered his name into the NBA Draft pool without hiring an agent. As things currently stand, one of those two guys is definitely not going to be on scholarship next season. If Garcia returns to Marquette, then there’s no scholarship space for Gardiner. If Garcia remains in the draft and turns pro, then Gardiner would be the most likely landing spot for Marquette’s 13th and final scholarship.
Then again, something else totally wild could happen between now and August when the fall semester starts. Who knows!
I will say this, no matter what happens with Garcia or Gardiner, Marquette is looking to have the same core group of players — next year’s freshmen and sophomores — for Shaka Smart’s first two or three teams. 2021-22 looks to have just two seniors on scholarship, while 2022-23 appears to have only one. It looks like the same nine guys — or 10, depending on Garcia’s future — are going to be playing together an awful lot over the next couple of years. That’s potentially a very good thing. We’ll see how it all pans out eventually.