Last night I went the Al McGuire center expecting to see some pretty athletic stuff and lots of gimmicks hyping up the Marquette Golden Eagles men's and women's basketball teams. I can say that I was not disappointed on either front. Especially when the hyping up activities and athletic feats intersected as men’s Head Coach Steve Wojciechowski rode an ATV around the court culminating in him nearly running over his entire staff, getting both wheels on the left side of the ATV in the air, nearly flipping it, and jumping off the moving vehicle landing a summersault without breaking a sweat.
Aside from Wojo nearly killing his entire staff, there were some others things going on last night. Women’s head coach Carolyn Kieger was pretty electric as she showed off her new Big East Championship ring and the team unveiled their banner.
The women's scrimmage was reasonably competitive with both teams at least pretending to play real defense. Point guard Natisha Hiedeman was exceptionally entertaining in the scrimmage with her dribbling prowess and after the scrimmage with her dance moves going up against the Golden Eagle.
(Aside: Why yes, that is the official Anonymous Eagle Instagram. It’s still pretty new, but you should go follow it for sure.)
Redshirt freshman Lauren Van Kleunen was probably the performer that jumped out the most, as the 6’2” Ohio native got her first real chance to show the Marquette faithful what she can do on the court. After sitting out in the 2016-17 season, Van Kleunen showed that she can run the break and isn’t afraid to drive the lane nor shoot the three. She’s one of the more physically imposing players on the team, and that kind of multi-dimensional play could be a big lift for MU this season.
Isabelle Spingola had a big night, too, hitting multiple three-pointers for the white team. The sophomore from Chicago can carve out a major role for herself on this team as the deadeye shooter following the graduation of McKayla Yentz, so let’s hope she can keep that up in live action in November.
Two minor disappointments from the women’s scrimmage: Danielle King sat out completely, although she was in uniform, and Tori McCoy had almost zero impact on the action. King wasn’t wearing any sort of injury related apparatus, but she also didn’t take part in any warmups nor any of the scrimmage. She also didn’t sit down during the scrimmage, which was interesting. McCoy, a top 10 Class of 2016 recruit, sat out for the first five minutes of play, got a little bit of run in the second half of the scrimmage, but didn’t do anything of note. She won’t play at all this season as a transfer, so that’s not that big of a deal. However, it was a bummer to not see anything from the 6’4” Illinois native.
It was pretty clear that the men’s team was not as interested in playing anything resembling competitive basketball and their defense made the NBA All-Star game look like a defensive showdown. This was under instruction from Wojo, though, so it is what it is. This, however, made for some pretty entertaining dunks, especially from the newcomers along with redshirt sophomore Sacar Anim. The highlight was probably Markus Howard and Matt Heldt drawing up a play, and by “play,” I mean Heldt gave Howard a boost so he could dunk, too.
To attempt to determine anything about the competitive makeup of the team this year from watching 10 minutes of jogging and dunking would be folly, however, there were some things I did take away from watching. The most obvious thing was the camaraderie between the guys. Even the new guys seemed to fit in really well and the family environment that players and recruits always talk about was very apparent. The other thing that one could observe was the athleticism and size of the new guys. There’s an obvious physical difference in the team with the additions of Ike Eke and Theo John, and seeing Ed Morrow for the first time amongst his teammates was slightly reminiscent of seeing Jae Crowder. I’m still worried that he may have permanently damaged the hoops at the McGuire Center with his powerful jams. Watching these guys dunk with little to no defense does not say anything about how well they will play this year, but it did show how these guys could theoretically add another dimension to the team, both immediately this season with the freshman and then again next year when Morrow finishes his transfer redshirt season.
The dunk contest was not nearly as exciting as anticipated with headliner Jamal Cain missing all six of his dunk attempts. To his credit Cain did really try to bring the house down with an off the side of the backboard windmill alley-oop, a dunk he has completed before in the Mitten Classic dunk contest. Other contestants Ike Eke, Ed Morrow, and eventual champion Greg Elliott all did make a dunk and they ranged from pretty nice with Ike Eke throwing down an off the side of the backboard ally-oop (No attempted windmill like Cain though), to Ed Morrow dunking over two people and Greg Elliott winning the contest with a smooth 360 self alley-oop off the bounce.
These were the main takeaways from Marquette Madness some smaller takeaways include:
- Scholarship players Haanif Cheatham and Andrew Rowsey both sat out last night, Cheatham with a shoulder injury and Rowsey for “Disciplinary reasons” according to the Marquette Basketball twitter page. Rowsey will continue to sit out through this year’s closed scrimmage (against Northwestern at the Bradley Center on October 28th) and this year’s exhibition game against Lindenwood. The season has not even started and Wojo has already needed to suspend someone. FUN.
- A bunch of recruits were in town to watch the festivities, and hopefully they got more out of their visits than what they saw in the scrimmage. A full list with a little breakdown can be found here.
- The DJ/MC made a pretty off color comment about how he could give the women’s players massages after the game, and made it clear the offer was not for the men’s team. I'm pretty sure the entire arena was cringing during this poorly thought out comment.
- Foxconn executives made an appearance along with Marquette President Michael Lovell and gave a 50 inch flat screen TV to the student who won the 3-point contest.
Overall, Marquette Madness was a pretty successful event to start the season. The hype up stuff was sufficiently cheesy and we got to see both basketball teams in action a little. The event was pulled together by Wojo’s spill off his ATV. The debate over whether it was intentional or not could rage for centuries. Personally I think Wojo intended to do something cool with the ATV as he pulled past the assistant coaches but lost control and nearly killed them and himself. Either way it was an awesome (and dangerous) stunt and I hope Wojo never reveals if it was intentional or not.