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2015-16 Marquette Basketball Player Preview: #21 Traci Carter

We start our first full week of Player Previews with "The Engine."

Traci Carter, aka "The Engine."
Traci Carter, aka "The Engine."

The 2015-16 college basketball season is right around the corner, so let's get into the Marquette basketball roster and take a look at what to expect from each player this season. We'll be going through the players one by one, starting with the freshmen, moving on to the lone available transfer, and then wrapping up with the four returning players, going in order of average minutes played per game last season.

Last year, we made a slight adjustment as to how we look at the players' upcoming season, and it seemed to work better, so we'll stick with the same three category headings this year:

What I Think We'll See
What I Want To See
What I Don't Want To See

With that out of the way, let's get started with our second freshman....

Traci Carter

Freshman - #21 - Guard - 6'0" - 175 lb.

Carter comes to Milwaukee from South Philly, by way of the Life Center Academy in Burlington, New Jersey.  Coached by Louisville legend Pervis Ellison, Carter helped lead Life Center to 40 wins in his two seasons with the team.  He averaged 16 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds, and four steals as a senior, which helped him earn a spot as a McDonald's All-American nominee as well as being named to the first team all-independent school team in New Jersey.

Carter finished his high school career with a four star rating in the 247 Sports Composite system, where he was ranked #126 in the country and #22 amongst point guards.  Rivals ranked him at #90 in the country, while both ESPN and Scout marked him as a four star prospect.  If you're wondering what's up with that kind of disparity in rankings, remember that Carter injured his knee in between his junior and senior year.  That injury kept him out of the AAU circuit for the summer, which is the primary time when the recruiting services get a chance to see players for their senior year rankings.

What I Think We'll See

Show of hands: Out of those of you who watched any and/or all of the Europe games in August, how many of you thought that Traci Carter looked like a kid who suffered two knee injuries in high school?  Not asking who knew that it happened to Carter, just if he looked like it.

Because I didn't see it.

What I saw was the player that prompted play by play man Thomas Bilde to dub Carter "The Engine."  Carter was a starter for all four games in Europe, and he exemplified the up-tempo game that head coach Steve Wojciechowski has said that he wants to play.  If Carter wasn't grabbing the rebound and taking off, he was running and looking for the outlet pass from whichever one of his teammates was ripping down the rebound, darting and dashing into the frontcourt with his eye on the rim if he could get there or looking for an open teammate to dish to if the defense was closing off his lanes.

Hell, forget whether or not Carter looked like a guy with two knee injuries.  If you showed video of those European games and asked a random stranger on the street to identify the two freshmen in Marquette's starting lineup, it'd be damn hard for them to figure it out.

As evidenced by the same starters for all four games in Europe, plus four of them staying together for the first scrimmage at Marquette Madness, Wojo has apparently given Carter the keys to the car this season.  Carter averaged 14 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists on the Europe trip.  Knock that back by 25% because of pace of play and level of competition: 10/4/4 from a freshman point guard?  Oh, baby, I'll take that all day.  If Carter figures out a way to shoot 50% from three point range like we saw in Europe, too?  WATCH OUT.

What I Want To See

I'll be fine with that 10/4/4 that I just mentioned.  That's REALLY good.  To give you an idea of context here: No one did that for ANYONE in the Big East last season other than Kris Dunn, and he was all the way up at 16/6/8.  Honestly, it'd be like imagining Derrick Wilson with a jumper, as DW had 3.9 rebounds and 4.7 assists last year to go along with 5.6 points.  Who's not signing up for that immediately?  We're probably not going to get it, but getting close will be more than fine.

The key for Carter is turnovers.  He had an assist to turnover ratio of 1.3 in Europe.  That's no good, and it was largely masked by the pace of play and the low level of competition in the final three games.  In fact, as memory recalls, Marquette's first game against Haukar was close in some part due to turnovers from Carter.  He's got to clean that up.  Via KenPom, Marquette was quietly one of the best teams at finding the open man in the country last year, ranking sixth in the country with an assist on over 64% of their made field goals.  If they did that while being lousy, you know that Wojo's going to want to see that if they're going to be better.

What I Don't Want To See

The X factor on Carter's playing time is Haanif Cheatham.  We didn't see the freshman from Florida at all in Europe due to the NCAA dragging their feet on his transcripts.  Cheatham provides a bit more size to the point guard spot, but probably doesn't have the physical body type that Carter has at this point in his development.  It's conceivable that Carter will end up ceding some minutes at the point to Cheatham across the width and breadth of the season, and it's in fact likely to happen.

Carter looks like he should be able to handle himself just fine on the court so, without taking anything away from Cheatham, I don't want to see the minutes tip entirely towards Cheatham.  Looking at the long term development of the Marquette program under Wojo, the faster that Carter becomes a perfectly reliable Division 1 point guard, the better off everything is going to be.

There's also the turnover issue that I bumped up against already, and of course, the "i" word that I'm not going to type out.