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2022-23 Marquette Men’s Basketball Player Preview: #1 Kam Jones

Is it Kam Jones Time in Milwaukee?

St. John’s v Marquette Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

The 2022-23 college basketball season is right around the corner, so let’s dive into the Marquette Golden Eagles men’s 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 one of the guys who could make the biggest possible jump for the Golden Eagles this season……

Kam Jones

Sophomore - #1 - Guard - 6’4” - 195 pounds - Memphis, Tennessee

Kam Jones had what is, by any estimation, a fantastic freshman season in 2021-22. He missed just one of Marquette’s 32 games, started seven times, and averaged 7.4 points, 1.4 rebounds, and 1.2 assists while shooting 39% from long range. All of this for a guy who came out of high school ranked as the #165 prospect in the country in the 247 Sports Composite. Even better, he was a guy who was recruited to Marquette by the previous coaching staff because one of the assistants knew his high school coach from way back when. Jones elected to stick with MU even after that assistant took his first ever head coaching job AND after the administration pulled the trigger on changing the head coach as well. No one would have faulted Jones if he decided on a different path, and no one would have been surprised if Shaka Smart’s game plan wouldn’t have been a good fit for Jones either.

Instead, things worked out wonderfully for his freshman year, and now the table is set for Jones to take off in Year 2.

Reasonable Expectations

That table setting is where we get into trouble with figuring out what’s reasonable for Jones as a sophomore. With Darryl Morsell’s lone year at Marquette completed, it would seem like Jones is the logical man to step into the job as the starting backcourt parter to Tyler Kolek. After all, last year, when Jones started for seven games, he was actually replacing Olivier-Maxence Prosper in the lineup and playing with Morsell for five games. Just slide Jones into Morsell’s spot next to Prosper, and off we go, right?

With that in mind, you could easily argue that Jones should get the stat bump that goes along with being a starter and playing another 10-ish minutes a game: 11 points, 2.1 rebounds, and 1.8 assists a night. That’s right about in line with what T-Rank projects: 10.6 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 1.9 assists while playing just under 27 minutes a night.

Here’s the thing, though: Someone on this team has to score. Justin Lewis and Darryl Morsell are both gone now, and they combined for 30.2 of MU’s 74.0 points per game last season. Believe it or not, Jones’ 7.4 points per game were the third best scoring average on the roster a year ago, and yes, that makes him the best returning scorer on the squad now. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s going to instantly become the leading scorer on the team this season.... but he’s obviously a leading candidate.

T-Rank projects him at #3 on the team behind Prosper at 13.6 points and Kolek at 11.9 per game. I don’t know if I agree with all of this, particularly since that would mean more than doubling O-Max’s production from a year ago and nearly doubling Kolek’s. Possible, sure, but I feel like both of those guys have different roles to play on this team than “big scoring guy.”

Kam Jones, based on the kind of instinctive confidence he showed with the ball in his hands a year ago, feels very much like he can be “big scoring guy.” Maybe that’s not leading the team, maybe that’s being one of a trio of guys north of 10 points a game. Put it another way: Is there another guy on the roster that you could see going off for 30 points in a game this season?

Why You Should Get Excited

Without looking it up, can you tell me how many free throws Kam Jones shot last year, both overall and in Marquette’s 19 Big East games?

To point you in the right direction, I’ll pass along some facts.

  • Jones attempted 195 total field goals last season, but 143 of them were three-point attempts. In Big East play, those numbers are 106 total attempts and 81 long range attempts.
  • Villanova’s Eric Dixon ranked #480 in the country in free throw rate at 32.4%, which means that his number of free throw attempts was 32.4% of his field goal attempts. With that in mind, anything north of 30% would be very good, and anything north of 25% would be a quality contributor in that department.
  • 30% of Jones’ 195 overall attempts would be 59, and 25% would be 49. In league play, that’s 32 and 26.

Okay, got a pair of numbers in your head?

Here we go!

Kam Jones shot 18 total free throws all season long and not a single solitary one of them came in Marquette’s 19 Big East games. Goose egg. In fact, the last free throw he attempted all of last year came against Kansas State on December 8th. Yep, that’s right, no free throws attempted against either Creighton or North Carolina in either of MU’s two postseason games for a grand total of 22 straight games to end the season without a single free throw attempted.

This is my point: Jones finished last season ranked #15 amongst Big East players in league action in KenPom’s Offensive Rating metric at 113.3. He was one of the 15 most efficient players in the league..... and he didn’t attempt a single free throw. Not a single point scored while the clock was stopped, not even an attempt to do so.

What’s his efficiency ceiling if he just adds a few free throw attempts per game to his repertoire? Heck, what’s Marquette’s ceiling if Jones adds free throws to his bag of tricks? The Golden Eagles were one of the worst teams in the country at getting to the line last season, ranking #292 in the country in that department and dead last in the Big East in league play. There were only nine high major teams — 10 if you count Saint Mary’s? — that were worse at this than Marquette. Justin Lewis led the team at 3.7 attempts per game in 2021-22. How much better can Marquette be if Jones is getting to the line just four times a game?

Potential Pitfalls

How comfortable are you with Kam Jones turning the ball over?

Last year, Jones was actually one of the most surehanded players in the country, posting a turnover rate of 12.5% per KenPom. That ranked him #281 in the country, and even when that number elevated to 13.1% in Big East play, that had him at #16 in the league. Part of this is because Jones’ role on the squad last year was “if we throw it to you, it’s because you are open and thus you should shoot it immediately.” That’s how you end up with 73% of your attempts coming from behind the arc.

If Jones is going to be a multi-dimensional scorer for the Golden Eagles this season — namely, is he going to be handling it a lot more because he’s going to be driving it a lot more — how many more turnovers will be the result? It’s going to be more than the less than one per game he had a year ago, that’s almost a guarantee if he’s going to be starting and playing at least 20-25 minutes a game if not more than that. It may come down to a rate issue. The turnovers are definitely going up, but if Jones starts shooting it — and making it, by the way — a lot more, that’s going to balance out in terms of what percentage of his usage goes towards turnovers.

The other notable issue is what if Jones is a fantastic sparkplug third/bench option, but not a reliable every night scoring option? A giant jump in turnovers might be a sign that this is the case, by the way. Marquette has options, so I don’t think Jones not rising to the challenge of being a scoring leader would be a team problem for sure. It might not be a role that fits him though, and if he starts trying to force it to happen, that could lead to a lot of ugliness.