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2015-16 Marquette Basketball Player Preview: #25 Haanif Cheatham

Next up on the list is the most mysterious of the five freshmen.

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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 move on to the third of the five freshmen....

Haanif Cheatham

Freshman - #25 - Guard - 6'5" - 180 lb.

He hasn't even stepped onto the court for an official minute of play, but Haanif Cheatham has already been involved in two bits of drama.

First, when the freshmen were starting to arrive on campus for summer school, we were treated to a picture of Cheatham's locker adorned with jersey number 24.  That number, of course, was worn by Marquette legend George Thompson, and is rightfully retired.  This led to the kerfuffle you'd expect it to lead to, and two days later, head coach Steve Wojciechowski was forced to announce that yes, #24 is retired and Cheatham will wear #25 instead.  I'm still kind of disappointed that this didn't mark an official change in MU's view on retired jerseys, as, uh, we're kind of running out of numbers, honestly.

The second foray into DramaTown came right before Marquette was ready to leave for their 10 day trip to Europe in August.  Wojo announced that the NCAA had not cleared Cheatham to play yet, and since the four games in Europe count as official exhibitions, Marquette was prevented from using ineligible players.  This turned out to merely be a formality and possibly something we wouldn't have even known about if the Europe trip wasn't happening, as MU got the word that Cheatham was good to go literally as the final game was going on.  A more conspiracy minded person would wonder if Wojo intentionally yanked Cheatham from the lineup just to mess with the team, but that's silly.

Hailing from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and playing his prep ball at Pembroke Pines Charter School, Cheatham finished his senior year averaging 24 points, five rebounds, and three assists.  That was a downgrade from his junior year production of 26 points, eight rebounds, five assists, and three steals.  Those junior year numbers had four triple-doubles built into it, and Cheatham was named the Class 6A Player of the Year.  He finished up as a consensus top 100 recruit: #76 by 247 Sports Composite, #68 by 247 Sports' internal ranking, #85 through ESPN, #76 by the nice people at Rivals, and #96 from Scout.

What I Think We'll See

If you count Wally Ellenson, Marquette has six newly eligible players on the roster this season.  Haanif Cheatham is the only one that we don't have a gauge for this season.  He didn't play in Europe, so we have no idea where he fits into Wojciechowski's rotation at this point.  Marquette Madness gave us our first look at Cheatham out on the floor with his teammates, and I didn't see much from him.

We can draw one conclusion from Marquette Madness, though.  With Luke Fischer sidelined after an elbow to the head a day before, Wojo went with Traci Carter, Duane Wilson, Sandy Cohen, and both Ellenson boys on one side of the first scrimmage.  With Wally Ellenson replacing Fischer, that's the exact same lineup that started all four games in Europe.  The word coming out of practices leading into the trip to Europe was that Carter and Cheatham were spending time at point guard.  We don't know who was winning that battle, but we do know that Wojo had to go with Carter at the 1 in Europe, and he definitely stuck with him as the starting 1 at Marquette Madness.

So combine Carter appearing to have the advantage on the starting spot at the position that he and Cheatham share with Cheatham not showing all that much exciting stuff at the Madness scrimmages.... and I don't know what to make of Cheatham.  He's arguably the second best recruit on the team after Henry Ellenson, so you'd think that he'd be mostly ready to contribute.  Let's just leave it at that: We'll see a guy who can contribute to the team with minutes off the bench without looking overwhelmed.

What I Want To See

If we can't rightfully expect a lot from Cheatham based on what little we've seen, then the sky's pretty much the limit on what I want to see from him.  I want to see the guy that Wojo targeted as one of his primary targets from Day 1 at Marquette.  It took just slightly longer than five months for Wojciechowski to go from the day he was hired to the day that Cheatham committed.  There's something about his game that Wojo likes, and I want to see that guy poke his head out of the bench.  Maybe it means pushing Carter for minutes, maybe it means pushing Duane Wilson or Sandy Cohen for time, maybe it just means being a reliable option for 10 minutes off the bench.  There are going to be days when Marquette's freshmen are going to look very much like the freshmen that they are.  They can't all look like freshman at the same time, though, so perhaps that will be Cheatham's time to shine.

What I Don't Want To See

I'm slightly concerned about the disappearing act at Marquette Madness.  A guy with Cheatham's size shouldn't have that much difficulty dealing with the defensive combination of Traci Carter and Duane Wilson.  What if it takes him a bit longer than expected to adjust to college ball?  What if not playing on the Europe trip ends up stunting his growth ever so slightly?

The chance for minutes will be there at the guard and wing positions, as Wojo looks to replace the 65 minutes per game that Matt Carlino and Derrick Wilson combined to provide a year ago.  Some of those need to come from Cheatham for Marquette to be successful this season.  With just four returning players, there's more than enough space for Cheatham to etch out a role for himself.  He just needs to find a way to do it.