One of the parts of wrapping up any college athletics season is saying farewell to the seniors. However, the global pandemic altered that this year for college basketball as Marquette men’s basketball had three men who were allowed to return for an extra season of eligibility if they so wished.
As it turns out, whether it’s because they made the best decision for themselves or because they felt that starting over with a new coach at Marquette wasn’t something they wanted to do, none of Marquette’s three seniors will return to the Golden Eagles for the 2021-22 season. Here’s the rundown of what all three men will be doing for their next steps.
Jamal Cain will be headed to Oakland University, not far from his hometown of Pontiac, Michigan.
Koby McEwen will be headed to Weber State, which means he’ll wrap up his collegiate career in Utah, the same place that he started it.
Theo John has elected to wrap up his collegiate career after his four years at Marquette and will move on to whatever professional opportunities are available to him.
Marquette's Theo John plans to pursue professional opportunities and is unlikely to return to school for an additional year of eligibility, per a school spokesman. Averaged 8 PPG, 5 RPG, and 1.5 BPG in 20-21.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) April 7, 2021
I don’t think I ever expected any of the three to return to Marquette for an extra season of eligibility. I’m actually kind of surprised that Cain and McEwen are taking an extra year at all, especially McEwen who will be in his sixth year of college due to sitting out for a year at Marquette after transferring from Utah State. If I’m not mistaken, John had already talked about his lack of interest in continuing to play college basketball past the 2020-21 season to Ben Steele of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in the past, which makes his decision the least surprising of the three by far.
John is also the one of the three that has had the most physically trying time in his four years at Marquette. He spent nearly all of the 2019-20 season with a brace on his hand due to an injury that required surgery after the season. After delaying that due to the start of the pandemic, he had to undergo a whole bunch of rehab as well as physical conditioning to get himself back to playing shape after not being able to use his hand to exercise while recovering from the surgery. Then, a few games into the 2020-21 season, he suffered a knee injury that never stopped him from playing, but it did stop him from practicing for most of the Marquette season.
Still, even through that, John still had his most productive season at Marquette, averaging a career best 8.0 points and 1.2 assists per game along with 5.0 rebounds while averaging more minutes played than in any of the three previous seasons. If nothing else, John ventures into the possibility of a pro career, wherever that might be, looking the best he has as a player, including hitting three of the four long range attempts of his career early in the season.
Cain also had his best season as a Golden Eagle, starting in 26 of the 27 games this past year. He posted career bests in points (9.6/game), rebounds (6.3), and assists (1.0), not to mention minutes per game, too. He was given the opportunity to be a major player on the roster, and Cain excelled. While he won’t be in blue and gold next year, we can hope that he continues to take a step forward and tears it up in the Horizon League next year.
McEwen had his best scoring season as a Golden Eagle this past year, bumping up from 9.5 points per game as a junior to 10.2 as a senior. He also made a big jump in his shooting percentages, going from 33% to 39% from the field and 29% from long range to 34%. His rebounds and assists dipped, but with Markus Howard gone, McEwen’s role on the team changed as well, so that’s not that big of a deal. I don’t know what he’s looking to get out of a year in Ogden, Utah, but I hope he finds it and is happy with his choice.
All in all, we have to issue a big Anonymous Eagle THANK YOU to all three guys. They busted their butts in practice every day to make themselves better and make the team better, and that’s all we can ask from anyone who pulls on the jersey. In the case of both McEwen and John, they played through hand injuries in 2019-20 to get the Golden Eagles into position to be into the NCAA tournament. They had that taken away from them by the pandemic, and then all three guys showed big improvements from the year before while going through all the personal and team difficulties that came along with attending college and playing during the pandemic. Maybe more than any other senior class in Marquette history, these three guys gave of themselves to make the team the best that they possibly could, and that is more than worthy of our respect, our admiration, and our thanks. We wish Jamal, Theo, and Koby all the best in the next steps of their lives and whatever comes after that, too.