The 2022-23 college basketball season is right around the corner, so let’s dive 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 roster one by one: First MU’s three freshmen in last name alphabetical order, then the lone transfer on the squad, moving on to the guy coming of a redshirt freshman year, and then finally the returning active players from last season, 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 second of the three freshmen.....
Freshman - #22 - Guard - 5’10” - 175 pounds - Gahanna, Ohio
If you were just going by the national recruiting rankings, you could easily find yourself not being bowled over by Sean Jones. 247 Sports lists him at #156 in the country in their Composite system, which makes him the #24 ranked point guard and the 4th best player in his class in the state of Ohio. He’s at #151 in 247’s internal setup, #147 according to On3, and merely noted as a three-star prospect by Rivals with no national ranking, maybe because they only go out to #150.
But then you find yourself taking a peek at ESPN, where Jones is #87 in the country and a four-star prospect. That makes him #16 in the country and #2 in Ohio. Not only that, but now you start taking a look at Sean Jones and start thinking top 100 thoughts like “guys like that should be at least in the rotation by the time conference play starts, right?” instead of top 150 thoughts like “well, we’ll see if Shaka Smart and the Marquette coaching staff figures out if they can trust their freshman point guard at some point this year.”
Jones was an early target for head coach Shaka Smart, offering him a scholarship about two months into his tenure. That paid off pretty quickly, as Jones committed in mid-August, a little over two months later. That time span included an official visit to Milwaukee for Jones, so it’s very clear that both sides were pretty immediately invested in what the other had to offer.
I think Jones’ official Marquette bio tells you a lot about what Shaka Smart found interesting about the Gahanna Lincoln High School graduate. Sure, there’s the stuff like “20.0 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 2.1 steals per game as a senior.” Yeah, that’s neat, but pretty much everyone who plays Division 1 should have shiny stats as a senior. How about “Three-time team captain” or “71-8 overall record”? Grabbing you yet? How about Ohio’s Division 1 Player of the Year his senior season? How about breaking Lincoln’s career scoring record? Three time First Team all-state?
I’ve got no other way to say this: How much of the recruiting analysis not going in Jones’ favor is because he’s not six feet tall?
Part of figuring out what qualifies as a reasonable baseline for Jones is figuring out where he can get minutes in the Marquette backcourt. Tyler Kolek is presumably going to play as much as he wants/foul trouble allows him. As long as his defense is up to par, Kam Jones is going to be afforded the same privileges. Stevie Mitchell was showing signs of being a bulldog on defense as last year went along as well as an ability to hit the outside shot, and if he can mix in bringing down the turnovers like you’d expect a sophomore to do, he provides a nice option at either backcourt spot, or perhaps even as part of a three guard set with Kolek and Kam Jones.
Where does that leave Sean Jones? Well, it’s a safe bet that Marquette needs a fourth guard in the rotation, especially if that three-guard idea comes to fruition. If Smart and his staff are going to crank up the tempo as has been indicated, then that might lead to a bit more of a constant churn of subs coming into the game as well as MU’s starters needing to take a breather once in a while. That could be where Sean comes in: A change of pace to Kolek, Kam, and Mitchell.
The increased tempo and pace may play a part in Jones’ ability to get on the floor. Smart has said out loud in public that Jones is the fastest player with the ball in his hands that he’s ever seen. That’s good news, as long as that’s under control. If Jones is capable of pushing Marquette’s tempo even faster than Kolek can, then that’s a good route for minutes.
At the end of the day though, we’re talking about a sub-six-foot freshman guard. It’s reasonable to think that maybe it’s going to take a minute for Jones to get his feet under him and figure out exactly how to make use of his gifts at this level. T-Rank projects him at about 12 minutes a game, along with 3.7 points and 1.6 assists. I don’t know if I agree with going that high on minutes, but I think I tend to expect a little bit better in terms of assists.
Why You Should Get Excited
The kid’s got hops.
An extremely loud shoutout to proud mom Sherrie Griffin here for sharing that with us. Ah, yes, but what about with a ball in his hands?
The older types out there (hi, I’m one of you, we’re old, I’m talking about things that happened 17 years ago) will probably be able to tell you what they were thinking the first time that they got to see Dominic James dunk in a Marquette game. Jones has potential to be the kind of game changing guard that James was immediately upon arriving at Marquette.
Now, the difference here is that Jones has Tyler Kolek in front of him in the point guard depth chart, and until Kolek suddenly forgets how to pass, that’s not going to change.
But what if Jones’ athleticism — remember what I mentioned about Smart’s opinion about his speed? — can not be denied playing time? It’s not impossible to see a way for the coaches to figure out how to play Jones and Kolek at the same time to give MU two point guards on the floor at the same time. What if the combination of killer mindset from Kolek and killer speed from Jones unlocks Marquette’s potential on both ends of the floor?
I’ll put it to a much simpler idea: Of Marquette’s three freshmen on the roster this season, I think Jones is the one who has the best chance of landing on the Big East’s All-Freshman team in March.... and if things go really well? I mean, REALLY well? I could see him ending up as Freshman of the Year.
Marquette didn’t have a turnover problem as a team last season. The Golden Eagles came in at #95 in the country in turnover rate according to KenPom.com. That was the best national ranking that MU put up since a #86 in 2016-17 and just the second top 100 finish for the squad since Buzz Williams’ second Sweet 16 team posted a #76. In short, I’m not looking a gift dramatic improvement in the mouth.
However, Marquette did have a turnover problem with their guards. The team only turned it over on 17.2% of possessions.... but Tyler Kolek was way up there at 24.6% and Stevie Mitchell’s 21.4% was also not good at all. We can get into finicky details about this kind of thing if you want, but it’s safe to say that these kinds of numbers can not be repeated in 2022-23.
You know who’s potentially at risk to commit a lot of turnovers? Undersized freshman guards who are still acclimating themselves to the speed of high major college basketball! Guess what Sean Jones is?
If he’s not going to be able to be part of Marquette improving this particular department this season, then that’s going to lead to Jones spending long stretches on the bench. He’s also going to need to hit threes, because Shaka Smart has said that anyone who plays at the 1 through 4 positions for him has to be able to shoot threes well. Can Jones do that? We’ll have to see.
Oh, and he has to be able to defend. Has to has to has to. If he can’t for whatever reason, and as a freshman, there’s a lot of possible reasons why that might be the case, he’s not going to play for Smart.