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Marquette Basketball Gets Busy Recruiting In The Transfer Portal

It’s the nature of the business, either you’re recruiting in the portal or you’re losing.

Utah Valley v New Mexico State
Is Fardaws Aimaq (#11 in white) a future Golden Eagle?
Photo by Joe Buglewicz/Getty Images

DID YOU KNOW? The Marquette men’s basketball coaching staff has already been hard at work recruiting players who have entered the transfer portal?

It’s true! Heck, they’ve been at it even before the NCAA Tournament bracket was announced on March 13th. Right now, there are four guys in the portal that we know that Marquette has reached out to already. Are there more? Probably! Will there be more? Almost definitely!

Before we get into any details of the potential future Golden Eagles, let’s take a peek at the Marquette scholarship situation.

This is a first time appearance for this version of the chart. I’ve removed Greg Elliott’s possible COVID bonus season from 2022-23, as he made reference to playing in Fiserv Forum for the final time on Senior Night and Shaka Smart made reference to Elliott’s time at Marquette coming to an end in his postgame press conference after the loss to North Carolina. There’s been no official announcement, but I think things are officially leaning more than 50% away from Elliott returning for one more season at MU.

I also still have Justin Lewis on the chart as there has, for now, been no announcement about whether or not the sophomore forward is or is not at least testing the waters of the NBA Draft. As we talk about any and all transfer options, please keep in mind that Marquette could just as easily have two spots open next fall if Lewis opts for the NBA Draft instead of the one spot that the chart shows.

Let’s see what we know about the four guys already involved. We’ll go in chronological order.

Jaylan Gainey

Because the Ivy League did not play at all in 2020-21, Gainey spent four years at Brown but only played for three seasons. Graduate students are not allowed in the Ivy League, so Gainey is headed elsewhere for the extra year of eligibility he has remaining.

After a year as a spot player as a freshman, the 6’9”, 220 pound North Carolina native turned into a part-time starter in the 2019-20 season for the Bears and averaged 5.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks per game. This past season, Gainey started all 29 of Brown’s games and chipped in 9.3 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks a night.

It’s probably safe to say that Gainey is a traditional big man. That is to say, he has never attempted a three-point shot in his 65 game Brown career. I suspect that if head coach Mike Martin knew he could shoot some threes, he probably would have let him and/or asked him to do it. Brown shot just 31.7% from long distance this past season while going 5-9 in the Ivy League, so you can see how he could have been helpful if he could shoot.

With that said, he’s incredibly effective at what he can do with the ball. Gainey was #7 in the country in two-point shooting percentage at a massively impressive 71.5%, and without a single three-pointer to help him, that ranks him at #2 in the country in effective field goal percentage according to KenPom.com. He was an awful free throw shooter this season, but he did hit 71% of his freebies back in 2019-20.

The key component here for what Marquette would be really looking for is his ability to rebound the ball. Gainey was a top 250 rebounder on both ends of the court this past season, ranking #222 on the offensive glass and #100 on defense in terms of rate by KenPom.com. Both rates were improvements on his 2019-20 numbers, when he was “only” top 350 in the country in both.

If you’re interested in such things, Gainey picked up six KenPom game MVP awards this past season. Four of them came in the final six games of the season, which kind of implies that Gainey was playing his best basketball as his time in Providence was drawing to a close.

Kendall Coleman

If you’re wondering why the list for Coleman is so long right out of the gate, it’s pretty easy to explain: He’s a 6’8”, 220 pound Louisiana native who just finished his second season of eligibility with Northwestern State. Because of COVID, he has at least two, maybe three seasons of eligibility remaining. A multi-year guy is always going to draw a little bit more attention than a one year guy.

Coleman was a quality sub for NSU in the Southland Conference in his first season of college hoops. He averaged 17.1 minutes per game and chipped in 6.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per game. He started in all 30 of the games that he appeared in during the 2021-22 season, missing two of Northwestern State’s games along the way, and one of them was a 22 point win over a non-Division 1 squad. As you can see from Borzello’s tweet, Coleman went for 15.4 points and 10.1 rebounds per game, but it doesn’t mention his 1.0 steals and 1.3 blocks per game.

Just like Gainey, Marquette is clearly going after Coleman because he can rebound. After a top 40 ranking on KenPom in both offensive and defensive rebounding rates in his first season of college hoops, he followed that up with finishing top 20 in defensive rebounding rate for a second straight year in 2021-22. Seems good. He was “only” #260 in the country in offensive rebounding rate this season, but that’s still better than any single player on MU’s roster in Shaka Smart’s first campaign.

I think it’s worth asking how much Coleman is willing to give up in order to play high major hoops. He led Northwestern State in shots per game this season, and was top 250 in the country in terms of what percentage of the team’s shots went his way. All due respect to him, but I don’t think a 6’8”, 220 pound guy with two total three-point attempts in his collegiate career is going to be the dominant shooter on a Big East roster. If he’s interested in being a quality option on the floor as well as a guy who busts his ass to gobble up rebounds, then he’s definitely going to work out on a Marquette roster.

Fardaws Aimaq

Aimaq started his collegiate experience at Mercer, where he averaged 5.0 points and 5.3 rebounds mostly coming off the bench for the Bears in 2019. After sitting out for a year back when there were still transfer restrictions, he’s been an every night starter at Utah Valley. In 54 games with the Wolverines under head coach Mark Madsen, the 6’11”, 245 pound Aimaq has averaged 16.9 points, 14.2 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 1.4 blocks.

Now, it’s reasonable to ask the question whether or not this is just a gigantic dude tearing it up against WAC opponents who are woefully underprepared to deal with a guy of Aimac’s size. Just this past season:

  • 15 points, 5 rebounds on the road against a Boise State team that would end up in the NCAA tournament
  • 24 points, 22 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks, 5 steals in a home win over BYU
  • 14 points, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks in a road loss to a Wyoming team headed to the NCAA tournament.
  • 15 points, 15 rebounds in a road win over Washington
  • 23 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals in a home win over the New Mexico State team that just beat Connecticut in the NCAA tournament
  • 8 points, 9 rebounds in the return bout at NMSU, which turned into a 16 point loss

Now, yes, I’m not taking anything into consideration here other than the name value of the opponent. But those are big performances against notable teams this year, and even that below-average outing against the Aggies is still a near double-double and it will be a cold day in hell before I turn down 8&9 from the starting center on my team.

I don’t think I’m overstating it when I say that Aimaq is exactly what Marquette needs for next season, and considering the roster situation in general, possibly for the year after that as well.

Cam Hayes

You can see the theme of what the coaching staff sees as their biggest need this offseason in the first three guys: Rebounding The Basketball. That doesn’t apply here.

Cam Hayes is a 6’3”, 180 pound guard who has spent his first two years of college hoops at North Carolina State. He’s appeared in all but two of the Wolfpack’s games in that time, and has started in 27 of his 55 appearances. He’s averaging 7.3 points, 2.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.0 steals across both seasons.

I think it’s reasonable to think that Hayes believes he can do better than he has at NC State to this point, or at the very least, he’d like to be a part of something more successful than the Pack. NC State has gone just 25-32 in the last two seasons with an ACC record of 13-24 after going 4-16 in the league this past year. This is after he came into college as a top 80 prospect according to 247 Sports.

I think it’s also curious to see Marquette express an interest in him. Without getting too deep in the weeds of a “MY CONFERENCE COULD BEAT UP YOUR CONFERENCE” debate, there’s really not much different between the Big East and the ACC. Hayes has been a perfectly reasonable option at guard on a high major team.... and Marquette heads into next season with three known quantities at guard in Tyler Kolek, Kam Jones, and Stevie Mitchell. They also have Emarion Ellis floating around after not playing much as a freshman this year as well as Chase Ross and Sean Jones coming in as freshman next year. That’s a lot of guys who generally speaking do what Hayes does already.

This isn’t to say that there isn’t a spot for him. Having lots of options as ballhandlers is never a bad thing. However, Hayes shot just 25% from long range this past season, well down from his 36% as a freshman. He’s never been a great shooter inside the arc either, connecting on essentially 40% in each of his two seasons. If the staff sees something between what Hayes brings to the table or what next year’s team would need him to do, then so be it. I just don’t immediately see it right now.