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 guy who was on the team last year but spent it as a redshirt....
Redshirt Freshman - #40 - Forward - 6’9” - 215 pounds - Knightdale, North Carolina
FUN FACT: We wrote a preview for Keeyan Itejere last season. It published on October 22nd. On November 4th, following Marquette’s 98-40 exhibition victory over Bowie State in which Itejere did not play, head coach Shaka Smart announced that Itejere would be redshirting for the season. And so, all of that hard work, all 1,200+ words of effort, shooooooop, right down the drain.
Or is it?
Let’s start with the basics, shall we? Here’s how to pronounce Keeyan Itejere phonetically, taken straight from last year’s preview, which was taken from GoMarquette.com a year ago: KEE-en eh-TEE-zher-ay. I’d love to point you back towards the roster page again like I did last fall to get to hear Itejere pronounce his own name for you, but apparently that functionality went out the damn door when the official MU website got a recent fresh coat of paint.
Itejere was originally committed to play for Shaka Smart at Texas before he moved along to take the Marquette job in the spring of 2021. Heading into last season, Itejere was ranked #202 in the 247 Sports Composite system, which makes him a three-star prospect. Rivals only ranked him by position, and they said he’s the #23 center as a three-star prospect. There’s an argument to be made that ESPN liked Itejere the most, since they marked him as a four-star prospect.
Here’s the biggest thing that you have to know about Itejere before we talk about anything else: He didn’t start playing competitive basketball until his freshman year of high school. Given that he committed to Texas and Smart before the start of his senior year, you can get an idea of exactly how much the Marquette coaching staff, three-quarters of which were at Texas, likes his upside.... but he might be mostly upside at this point. 9.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.5 steals, and 1.2 blocks per game as a senior is decent, especially if there’s a certain amount of “just scratching the surface” there. If the stats listed in his official MU bio are his full and actual senior year stats — 11.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.0 blocks and 2.0 assists per game — well, that’s even better.
247 Sports listed Itejere at 190 pounds as a prospect. Last year, Marquette listed him at 205 pounds. Now, after a year of development with Todd Smith, MU’s director of Applied Sports Science and Performance, he’s up to 215 pounds. Still 6’9”, but hey, I don’t think anyone was expecting him to find a way to get an extra inch or three here.
That’s the baseline for the question: Is Keeyan Itejere now prepared to pick up the role as back up to Oso Ighodaro at center? Last year, being one of Marquette’s 5s meant playing somewhere between 18 and 19 minutes a game, as the Golden Eagles occasionally went small with Justin Lewis playing as the man in the middle. Head coach Shaka Smart has been incredibly emphatic about how much he likes what Ighodaro brings to the table for the Golden Eagles this season, so I think it’s a safe bet to think that his minutes are going up with Kur Kuath’s time in Milwaukee now over.
If Ighodaro is going to play 25 minutes a night, can Itejere play the other 15? If it’s 30 for Oso, can Itejere cover the other 10? I’ll say this much: T-Rank doesn’t seem to think so. Itejere doesn’t register as a top 10 contributor for Marquette, not until you pull Emarion Ellis and his stress fracture out of the picture. With that said, we’re not talking about asking for much from Itejere. We’re talking about being a functional replacement level big man for a few minutes at a time to let Ighodaro catch his breath on the bench. Can he defend the other bigs and rebound his position? Yeah, I think he can. It’s a low bar to clear, but relative to what this team needs, that’s all Itejere has to be able to do.
Why You Should Get Excited
Man, I can’t pretend to try to trick you here. It’s a guy who was a project in the first place coming off his redshirt year. Either he’s to the point where he can contribute to the team or he’s not. If he is, then I point you to the same video that I plugged into last year’s Get Excited department:
There are signs of a dynamic player here. If the strength and conditioning program has him up to speed for the Big East, then the ceiling of what’s possible are tantalizing.
There’s the possibility that this just isn’t working out, not even after a full year of strength and conditioning with Todd Smith. If Itejere is not prepared to contribute to this team, Marquette has options. Ben Gold is the biggest guy on the roster, and if his play in the World Cup qualifiers is a sign of what he can do in college, then he needs minutes. We don’t know for sure what role the coaching staff sees for Zach Wrightsil, but he appears to have been playing a lot of a small-ball 5 at Loyola-New Orleans. If he can do that for a few possessions or minutes at a time in the Big East, then that’s a big boost for the Golden Eagles. Both of those guys might be perfectly respectable options in the middle for Marquette, and if both of them show way more benefit to the team on the floor than Itejere, then there’s going to be a logjam there and I don’t know how Itejere gets minutes.