With the 2022-23 season long since in the books, let’s take a few moments to look back at the performance of each member of YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles this year. While we’re at it, we’ll also take a look back at our player previews and see how our preseason prognostications stack up with how things actually played out. We’ll run through the roster in order of total minutes played going from lowest to highest, and today we’ll take a look at MU’s freshman guard from Ohio.....
Freshman - #22 - Guard - 5’10” - 175 pounds - Gahanna, Ohio
Sean Jones Traditional Stats
Sean Jones Fancy Stats
WHAT WE SAID:
Part of figuring out what qualifies as a reasonable baseline for Jones is figuring out where he can get minutes in the Marquette backcourt. Tyler Kolek is presumably going to play as much as he wants/foul trouble allows him. As long as his defense is up to par, Kam Jones is going to be afforded the same privileges. Stevie Mitchell was showing signs of being a bulldog on defense as last year went along as well as an ability to hit the outside shot, and if he can mix in bringing down the turnovers like you’d expect a sophomore to do, he provides a nice option at either backcourt spot, or perhaps even as part of a three guard set with Kolek and Kam Jones.
Where does that leave Sean Jones? Well, it’s a safe bet that Marquette needs a fourth guard in the rotation, especially if that three-guard idea comes to fruition. If Smart and his staff are going to crank up the tempo as has been indicated, then that might lead to a bit more of a constant churn of subs coming into the game as well as MU’s starters needing to take a breather once in a while. That could be where Sean comes in: A change of pace to Kolek, Kam, and Mitchell.
The increased tempo and pace may play a part in Jones’ ability to get on the floor. Smart has said out loud in public that Jones is the fastest player with the ball in his hands that he’s ever seen. That’s good news, as long as that’s under control. If Jones is capable of pushing Marquette’s tempo even faster than Kolek can, then that’s a good route for minutes.
At the end of the day though, we’re talking about a sub-six-foot freshman guard. It’s reasonable to think that maybe it’s going to take a minute for Jones to get his feet under him and figure out exactly how to make use of his gifts at this level. T-Rank projects him at about 12 minutes a game, along with 3.7 points and 1.6 assists. I don’t know if I agree with going that high on minutes, but I think I tend to expect a little bit better in terms of assists.
Why You Should Get Excited
The kid’s got hops.
An extremely loud shoutout to proud mom Sherrie Griffin here for sharing that with us. Ah, yes, but what about with a ball in his hands?
The older types out there (hi, I’m one of you, we’re old, I’m talking about things that happened 17 years ago) will probably be able to tell you what they were thinking the first time that they got to see Dominic James dunk in a Marquette game. Jones has potential to be the kind of game changing guard that James was immediately upon arriving at Marquette.
Now, the difference here is that Jones has Tyler Kolek in front of him in the point guard depth chart, and until Kolek suddenly forgets how to pass, that’s not going to change.
But what if Jones’ athleticism — remember what I mentioned about Smart’s opinion about his speed? — can not be denied playing time? It’s not impossible to see a way for the coaches to figure out how to play Jones and Kolek at the same time to give MU two point guards on the floor at the same time. What if the combination of killer mindset from Kolek and killer speed from Jones unlocks Marquette’s potential on both ends of the floor?
I’ll put it to a much simpler idea: Of Marquette’s three freshmen on the roster this season, I think Jones is the one who has the best chance of landing on the Big East’s All-Freshman team in March.... and if things go really well? I mean, REALLY well? I could see him ending up as Freshman of the Year.
Marquette didn’t have a turnover problem as a team last season. The Golden Eagles came in at #95 in the country in turnover rate according to KenPom.com. That was the best national ranking that MU put up since a #86 in 2016-17 and just the second top 100 finish for the squad since Buzz Williams’ second Sweet 16 team posted a #76. In short, I’m not looking a gift dramatic improvement in the mouth.
However, Marquette did have a turnover problem with their guards. The team only turned it over on 17.2% of possessions.... but Tyler Kolek was way up there at 24.6% and Stevie Mitchell’s 21.4% was also not good at all. We can get into finicky details about this kind of thing if you want, but it’s safe to say that these kinds of numbers can not be repeated in 2022-23.
You know who’s potentially at risk to commit a lot of turnovers? Undersized freshman guards who are still acclimating themselves to the speed of high major college basketball! Guess what Sean Jones is?
If he’s not going to be able to be part of Marquette improving this particular department this season, then that’s going to lead to Jones spending long stretches on the bench. He’s also going to need to hit threes, because Shaka Smart has said that anyone who plays at the 1 through 4 positions for him has to be able to shoot threes well. Can Jones do that? We’ll have to see.
Oh, and he has to be able to defend. Has to has to has to. If he can’t for whatever reason, and as a freshman, there’s a lot of possible reasons why that might be the case, he’s not going to play for Smart.
Well, if we’re looking at full season statistics, shouts to the T-Rank algorithm for nearly perfectly predicting where Sean Jones would land as a freshman. 3.6 points and 1.1 assists in 12.2 minutes per game after a projection of 12 minutes, 3.7 points, and 1.6 assists? That’s some impressive computer work there.
With that said, we do have to take Jones’ mid-season injury into account when we’re taking a look at how his year went. The Ohio native was actually doing a bit better than that projection before he missed a few games with a wrist injury. Up until sitting out against DePaul on January 28th and then missing the next two as well, Jones going for 4.5 points and 1.2 assists in 13 minutes per game, and he was a more than competent three-point shooter at 33% from long range. After that, Jones’ numbers went on a skid — 2.1 points and less than an assist per game and shooting just 25% from long range — although there was a little bit of a skid already happening in Big East play. It is hard to say how much of that was “Big East play is hard” and “the injury was affecting him,” as head coach Shaka Smart did say that Jones was dealing with a little bit of soreness in the wrist before having to miss three games and ultimately needing offseason surgery.
It is worth noting that the post-injury numbers may be a little inflated, too. Shaka Smart gave him 19 and 20 minutes of action in the first two games back, but Jones would play double digit minutes in just three games the rest of the way. Two of the three were in home games against DePaul and St. John’s, and the third was the NCAA tournament win over Vermont. It certainly seems that the coaching staff went out of their way to limit Jones’ minutes after his injury, either out of protection for his wrist or because they just elected to pour the minutes into the starting trio of Tyler Kolek, Kam Jones, and Stevie Mitchell as the Golden Eagles started hammering the final nails into a Big East regular season title and tournament title as well.
There’s nothing wrong with either situation there, that’s what happens when you’re a freshman, and especially when you’re a freshman that suffers a pretty notable injury at about the two-thirds pole of the season. The important thing for Jones is that he had played in every game up until his injury kept him out, and that he still got more playing time after the MU medical staff gave him the all clear to keep playing after the tendon rupture. Don’t focus on the slide he had, which might have just been hitting a freshman wall more than anything else, focus on the fact that the coaching staff kept trusting him to give the starters some rest, even if it wasn’t for long stretches.
Part of the reason why the coaching staff might have wanted to lean towards Kolek and Mitchell in particular? Those two guys figured out their turnover problem from a year ago. We’ll talk more about them for their own reviews, but the fact of the matter is that you don’t have to go looking for answers when guys get better. That works against Jones, particularly when his turnover rate was north of 20% for the season and that’s because it was nearly 23% in the 17 regular season Big East games where he saw action. It’s not a secret that Marquette’s elite offensive efficiency this season was built on 1) making a ton of shots and 2) making sure the possession usually ended in a shot and not a turnover. When you’re a freshman and you’re not helping that turnover thing, as was the case with Jones in league play, it’s going to lead to the coaches hedging their bets with the guys who aren’t turning it over. Jones ended up shooting 35% from long range in his 17 Big East games, but it was clear he wasn’t comfortable shooting it after his injury, attempting just eight triples from February 7th onwards and connecting only twice, both in one game. As we mentioned in his preview, you have to be able to shoot it to play for Shaka Smart, and if you’re not comfortable shooting it, then that’s not going to help your playing time.
All in all, I have to say it was a good freshman season for Jones. Upsides and downsides to say the least, but that’s what happens when you’re a freshman coming in to a roster with some pretty established guards.
The first things that jump off the page for a winner here are a season high in scoring, so that gives us a pair of 11 point outings for Jones. One was in his first game back from injury, but that was the 87-72 loss on the road against UConn, and I don’t know if we want to honor that. The other one was MU’s consolation game in the Fort Myers tournament, as Jones went 3-for-5 from the field in the 84-60 win over Georgia Tech. He also added three rebounds and an assist in that one, so that’s a pretty good candidate. The GT game was also his season high in minutes played at 23, so I think maybe we have to go with that one, huh?
It feels like Jones was easily clearing the bar on his reasonable expectations before his injury hampered him down the stretch, so I think we have to give him a little bit of the benefit of the doubt in that regard. He had a little bit of a turnover problem, but really it was only a problem relative to how great the rest of Marquette’s backcourt was, and well within reason for a freshman trying to figure out how to use his speed to his advantage at the high major level. I think I want to give him a 7 here because he was doing exactly what was needed from him, and only the injury slowed him down from the pretty solid pace he was putting up before that.