The 2023-24 college basketball season is right around the corner, so let’s dive into the Marquette 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 — we’re skipping Caedin Hamilton because he will be redshirting this season — and then moving on to 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, we turn our attention today to the sophomore guard who was unexpectedly hampered midway through his freshman year.....
Sophomore - #22 - Guard - 5’10” - 185 pounds - Columbus, Ohio
It’s hard for us to get a handle on exactly what to take away from Sean Jones’ first year in blue and gold. On one hand, he was a regular contributor from the get go, but the Golden Eagles weren’t relying on him to carry a notable workload. On the other hand, Jones spent the last two months of the season playing with one hand, as he suffered a wrist injury that got worse, caused him to miss three games, and then ultimately resulted in offseason surgery. Unsurprisingly, Jones wasn’t as reliable after those missed games, and seeing as that mostly lined up with Tyler Kolek going nuclear on his path to winning Big East Player of the Year, the coaching staff leaned away from giving Jones the same kind of minutes that he was getting for the first two months of the season. Maybe that means the big full picture of Jones’ first year in Milwaukee is slightly on the disappointing side, but then again, Marquette was never thinking that they were going to need Jones to perform in a big way last year, either.
But now it’s Year Two for the guard from Ohio, and as Al McGuire always said, the best thing about freshmen is that they become sophomores.
While optimism can abound for Jones and his development as a collegiate player, the fact of the matter is that the collection of guys looking to play backcourt minutes for Marquette in 2023-24 is actually bigger in number than it was last season. Not only does Jones have to contend with his backcourt mates from last season — and it’s hard to pry those Big East Championship starters off the court — now there’s also two freshmen in the form of Tre Norman and Zaide Lowery looking to get some action as the Golden Eagles chase back-to-back Big East titles.
What I’m trying to say is that if you’re putting more expectations on Sean Jones than “will make use of his speed to be a literal change of pace option in the backcourt for Marquette,” then you’re probably just setting yourself up to be disappointed in his season for no reason other than you decided it’s a thing you want to do to yourself. Jones’ pre-injury averages from last season of 4.5 points and 1.2 assists per game in 13 minutes of action might be right about where we could expect him to land. The BartTorvik.com algorithm projects Jones at just 36% of MU’s minutes, which is 14.4 per night. Not that far from last year’s 13, is it? 4.5 points, just under a rebound, just over an assist is the statline projection from the fancy T-Rank computers, and yep, like I said, that’s about what he was doing last year.
But again: Tyler Kolek, Kam Jones, and Stevie Mitchell are all still out there for Marquette, so there’s nowhere for Jones to ascend by way of an open spot in the rotation. If Jones is getting back to last year’s pre-injury numbers with Norman and Lowery potentially nipping at his heels in terms of playing time, then that’s pretty good.
Why You Should Get Excited
I alluded to Sean Jones’ footspeed a moment ago. Jones figuring out how to use that speed at the Division 1 level was always going to be the biggest part of his jump from the Ohio high school scene and the club circuit to the Big East. A year ago, Shaka Smart was lauding praise on his freshman guard for being lightning quick, but this year, the coach is going in a different direction. Not a change, but an improvement.
"We want him to utilize his speed, his pace on the floor, his quickness, but then also when to utilize changing speeds, slowing down and playing with poise. Through eight practice days, he's made a real step in that area compared to last year." - Shaka Smart on Sean Jones. #mubb pic.twitter.com/REePTEGKPm— Marquette Wire Sports (@MUWireSports) October 7, 2023
If Jones has figured that aspect of his game out, if he’s making big steps, then that adds dimensions to what the coaching staff is trying to do with this year’s version of the roster. If they can trust Jones for one extra minute per game, that’s one extra minute per game that Tyler Kolek gets to rest. That’s one extra minute per game off of Kolek’s workload as the season goes along, one extra minute of reserve energy in the All-American’s legs when the already bright spotlights get a little bit brighter in March.
Jones won’t be asked to carry a heavy load for Marquette this year, but if he is making the development that Smart says he is and can carry a heavier load than last year, that’s going to make everything flow a little bit easier for everyone.
Shaka Smart said Jones has “made a real step” in adjusting how he makes use of his speed since last year. I don’t know about you guys, but Shaka Smart strikes me as a gentleman who makes careful choices about the words he uses, and he deploys them on purpose.
Which means it’s a little bit interesting that Smart said that Jones has made one singular step forward from last year. Not plural steps, not a leap, not a jump, just a step. Maybe that’s just me reading way too much into things. But if Smart needs his sophomore guard to take a leap forward to give him more responsibility on the floor, then maybe Jones isn’t quite there yet.
The other thing that we have to be worried about relative to what we see from Sean Jones this year is the mere existence of Tre Norman and Zaide Lowery. My general sense of those guys is that they can’t do what Jones can do when it comes to speed on the court. However, that’s not the only thing that matters on the court. What if the things that Norman and Lowery excel at turn out to be things that Marquette needs more than Jones’ speed and quickness? It’s the coaching staff’s job to figure out how to use all the ingredients at their disposal to create the best meal possible. If the best possible version of Marquette is less Jones and more Norman and/or Lowery, then that’s the direction that they have to go.