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2023-24 Marquette Men’s Basketball Player Preview: #1 Kam Jones

What’s the ceiling for a guy who led the Big East champion in scoring as a sophomore?

Connecticutt v Marquette Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

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 to the guy who led the 2023 Big East Double Champions in scoring......

Kam Jones

Junior - #1 - Guard - 6’5” - 200 lbs. - Memphis, Tennessee

At this time last year, it was very easy to see how Kam Jones could end up being Marquette’s leading scorer in 2022-23. Someone had to take the scoring reigns, and Jones felt like the player most likely to suddenly explode for 30 points in any given game. As such, it’s easy to see him being the top scorer.

I don’t think anyone really expected Jones to end up as the top scorer on a team that ended up winning a Big East regular season championship and earning a #2 seed in the NCAA tournament. But that did happen, and now we have to recalibrate our minds and our hearts to realize the kinds of things that may be possible going forward. Heck, not just possible, but what’s expected from Gary Parrish’s li’l homie from Memphis.

Reasonable Expectations

I’m not going to say that we should expect Kam Jones to lead Marquette in scoring again in 2023-24, because that’s setting him up for failure if he doesn’t. Given the talent around him — hello, Mr. Big East Player of the Year Tyler Kolek — it’s entirely possible that Marquette is just as successful as they were last year if someone else ends up atop the scoring chart at the end of the year.

However, it does feel like another 15 points per game season is well within Jones’ reach. Whether that’s good enough to lead the Golden Eagles in scoring, that’s up to everyone else. Same for 3.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 1.4 steals per game. That was last year’s output from Jones, and those aren’t wild numbers by any stretch of the imagination. It was what was necessary to win a Big East title last year, it feels like it’s going to be necessary again this year to win that title again.

With that said: There’s a version of this season where Jones is a little bit less than he was a year ago and Marquette is still just as great. It’s hard to ignore the fact that the T-Rank algorithm is projecting him at 11.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game. It’s also projecting his minutes to go down, falling from the 73.4% he played last season to just 69% this year. If Marquette can get a little bit more from Sean Jones and Chase Ross, if Marquette gets worthy contributions from freshmen Tre Norman and Zaide Lowery..... well, then that’s less playing time and thus less output from Jones. It’s not a problem if Marquette’s winning, it’s just a different way to get to the result that the team as a whole wants.

Why You Should Get Excited

Do you realize that there’s a non-zero chance that Kam Jones is the 2024 Big East Player of the Year?

I’m going to let that set in. Read it again, if you want.

We’ll talk about it in a bit of detail when we get to Tyler Kolek’s preview, but history says it’s unlikely that Tyler Kolek wins a second straight POY trophy. Therefore, obviously: That means someone else is going to be POY in this league this season. There are worse choices for POY than a guy who leads a team ranked in the top 10 all season in scoring. There are worse choices for Player of the Year than the guy who leads the regular season champion in scoring. There are worse choices for Big East Player of the Year than the guy who leads the regular season champions and the entire league in scoring. Yeah. That’s on the table for Jones, after finishing at 15.1 points per game last year, 2.1 behind UConn’s Adama Sanogo.

It won’t be easy for Jones to take a run at the league’s scoring title this season. Of the nine men who averaged more points per game than him last year, four of them return for this season. Two of them — Creighton’s Ryan Kalkbrenner and Providence’s Bryce Hopkins — are early season candidates for Player of the Year already, largely because both men have a little bit more impact on the floor than Jones does.... although there’s a very real case that Jones is underrated outside of his scoring abilities.

Does this mean that Marquette’s success as a team is almost as important to Jones’ case for POY in March as his individual performance, if not more so? Yeah, almost assuredly that’s the case. But don’t think for one second that Shaka Smart hasn’t said all of this to Jones already. After all, this is the guy who challenged Tyler Kolek to lead the country in assists last season. He’s not afraid of challenging his players with big individual stuff while showing them how it could benefit the team at the same time.

One last thing: How terrifying of a scorer is a Kam Jones that 1) gets to the line more and 2) hits 70% or 75% of his free throws when he’s there? He didn’t get to the line all that much last year relative to how many two-point attempts he shot, and when he got there, Jones only connected on 66% of his freebies. That feels an awful lot like free points being left on the table for the Golden Eagles and for Jones on an individual level.

Potential Pitfalls

The book is out on Kam Jones.

Don’t get me wrong, he’s a hell of a talent and it very much seemed that if the book existed, Vermont didn’t get a look at it before the NCAA tournament started. But the guy taking people a little bit by surprise by going from 7.4 points per game as a freshman to 15.1/game as a sophomore doesn’t exist any more.

With that in mind, the question stands whether or not Jones is going to be able to perform at the level that he did last season. Let me use this as an example:

In 2023-24, according to Sports Reference, there were 34 guards in the country who shot .640 or better on two-point attempts, and Jones was one of them at .643.

Only three of those 34 played for a high major team, with Duke’s Ryan Young and West Virginia’s Kobe Johnson joining Jones on that list.

Only three of those 34 averaged more than 10 points per game, with Campbell’s Jay Pal at 12.3 and Northwestern State’s Jalen Hampton at 10.2 joining Jones on that list.

In other words: It feels like it’s not likely that Jones does that again. Maybe it’s just because he doesn’t get favorable bounces on the rim, maybe it’s because teams figure out a way to slow him down on the way to the rack after a year of seeing him burn people over and over with his scoop shot. What does that mean for Jones and for Marquette in general if he’s not able to be so effective going downhill any more? Is he going to be trying to force the issue? Is the rest of the team going to be able to function as well on offense if they’re not getting that kind of production from Jones?