We all know that Shaka Smart and his staff have been hard at work to add at least one new player to the Marquette men’s basketball roster for the 2022-23 season. There’s not one but four article on this here website talking about the 16 different guys that there has been at least contact with since March, so it was clear that someone was going to be joining the team.
We got clarity on exactly who that might be on Sunday morning when 2021-22 NAIA Player of the Year Zach Wrightsil announced that he will be transferring to Marquette.
As we talked about when we found out MU was looking at Wrightsil, he’s a 6’7”, 205 pound forward hailing from Texas. He has spent the last four seasons at Loyola-New Orleans, which is a NAIA school in — wait for it — New Orleans, Louisiana. As you can see from his Loyola bio page, he’s been a leader on the Wolf Pack roster from day one. Through his time there, he has ascended to become Loyola’s all time leader in points, rebounds, and assists, and he got into the top five in steals and blocks as well. After averaging 18.7 points, 8.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 2.2 steals per game this season, Wrightsil was named NAIA Player of the Year, and to cap the whole thing off, Loyola won the NAIA National Championship, too, beating Talladega College 71-56 in the title game. Wrightsil finished that game with 19 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, and five steals.
Wrightsil’s credentials as a basketball player are beyond reproach. But, we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t immediately say “okay, yeah, but can he jump from NAIA to the Big East and make an impact?” Ben Steele of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel got a chance to ask Wrightsil about that already, and here’s what he said:
“Honestly, that’s probably the last thing I’m worried about is how my game will translate to the Big East,” Wrightsil said. ”I know it seems like a big jump to many from the NAIA to the Big East. But for me, I’ve always felt this way from the beginning, and that is that I never felt that I belonged in the NAIA in the first place. So, for me, it’s basically I’m going to be playing at one of the highest levels of college basketball this year and I know without a doubt that this is where I belong and where I’ve always belonged.”
Can’t beat his confidence, that’s for sure. How about what Shaka Smart is looking for from Wrightsil?
“The word I kept hearing throughout the entire recruiting process and my visit was versatile,” Wrightsil said. “They want me to be the most versatile player on the floor. They want me to play basically every single position, one through five. They want me to handle the ball. They want me to shoot, pass. Play defense. That’s probably the biggest thing, play defense. They love how I can guard multiple spots on the floor and affect the game on every single level. That’s why they feel I’ll have a lot of success here.”
I think it’s safe to say “they want me to play the 5” is the biggest thing that jumps out there. With Oso Ighodaro and Keeyan Itejere on the roster, I’m going to guess that’s more of a “we’re going to need you to switch there sometimes, that’s life” thing as opposed to a “have fun being Adama Sanogo’s primary defender for 40 minutes” thing. We’ll have to wait and see how that all works out in practical application, but it’s nice to get an insight as to what the coaching staff is thinking.
New scholarship chart time!
As you can see from the far left column, Marquette does not currently have a scholarship available if Justin Lewis returns to Marquette instead of staying in the NBA Draft. If I had to pick a direction for the Baltimore native, I would guess that he’s staying in the draft, but that’s up to what the NBA front offices tell him about their draft plans. If we get some roster news between now and when the Draft Combine takes place in May, then we will clearly need to see some movement to make that work under the scholarship limit.