With the 2015-2016 season now in the books, we take a moment to look back at the performance that 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 roster in order of total minutes played (lowest to highest), which means today we move on to the freshman center from Neenah.....
#12 - Freshman - 6'10" - 250 lb.
What I Think We'll See
By nature of how the alphabetical ordering went, we started the freshmen previews with Sacar Anim, a guy who comes to Marquette with very little expectations on him for his freshman campaign. In a nice touch of symmetry, we wrap up the freshmen previews with Heldt, who's in the same situation. While Henry Ellenson and Matt Heldt are the same height, Heldt is much more of a traditional center. As luck would have it, Marquette already has a very good traditional center on the team in Luke Fischer. With Fischer healthy after offseason shoulder surgery and coming off a season where he played nearly 30 minutes a game, Heldt is not going to be asked to do all that much. All Heldt really needs to do this season is fill in those 10-ish minutes that Fischer's not going to play because he needs a breather/has a slight bit of foul trouble, look like he belongs on the court while he's out there, and absorb all the strength and conditioning training that Todd Smith can throw at him. That's all.
What I Want To See
The one thing I've noticed about Heldt from watching a few of his high school games on TV, and then his (admittedly limited) time on the court in Europe and at Marquette Madness is that he is going to GO AT YOU. If Matt Heldt is on the court to play some ball, you're getting everything Matt Heldt can throw at you. He's hustling his gigantic, lanky frame up and down the court with abandon, and if you give him an inch to make a post move on you, he's going straight at the rim with intent that Marquette fans remember seeing in Davante Gardner.
He also might be better than you think defensively. Luke Fischer had to sit out Marquette Madness because he caught an elbow to the head the day before. This meant that Heldt and Henry Ellenson were set on separate teams the entire night. Ellenson essentially disappeared. If he was on the perimeter or on the break, Ellenson looked like the guy that we saw in Europe, including hitting a snazzy step back long two-pointer. If he was inside, in the post, with Heldt putting a body on him? Disappeared. It takes some pretty good skills and a bit of determination to essentially wipe Henry Ellenson from the equation, and in a scrimmage amongst teammates, it sure looked like Heldt did that.
The point I'm getting at is maybe there's more than 10 minutes a game in Heldt. What if - and this is just a whacky hypothetical here - but what if Wojciechowski decides he can trust his big men together for stretches? Fischer surprised me by being able to run the floor a bit in Europe. What if Wojo figures out a way to play Ellenson at the three, Fischer at the four, and Heldt at the five? Or, heck, because Heldt showed a little ability to step out and shoot threes in high school, flip those last two with Heldt at the four. Three 6'10" dudes all playing at once for Marquette, along with whatever backcourt you want to throw out there with them. Again, totally hypothetical, but it sounds pretty flipping sweet, doesn't it?
What I Don't Want To See
Maybe it was just Heldt being familiar with Ellenson through years of seeing him at various grassroots events and then in scrimmages in the Al McGuire Center, but Heldt doing a number on Ellenson on defense at Madness made me concerned about MU's ability to run a lineup out there with Ellenson at center. Bigger, stronger, more experienced college players might have just as easy of a time wiping Ellenson out on the interior as Heldt did. If that's the case, then it's important for Heldt to be able to vacuum up those minutes when Fischer's not on the floor. If he can't, for whatever reason - not strong enough, not fast enough, not acclimating to college level hoops, not getting what Wojo needs him to do on defense, that "i" word that I refuse to actually type out - then it's going to cause some dysfunction for Marquette. The Golden Eagles might not be counting on much from Matt Heldt to be successful this season, but he may end up needing to play a key role as the season goes on.
I find myself legitimately and seriously disappointed that Matt Heldt sprained his knee towards the end of the season and thus missed the final six games.
We're talking about a guy who didn't play at all in Marquette's first two games of the season. He got minutes against Iowa because that thing was OVAH early, and barely made a dent in Brooklyn in the Legends Classic. Heldt had five DNPs in 13 games before the first of the year, and four more of his appearances were for either one or two minutes.
It looked for a while there that Heldt was just going to be that usual high school big man who just needed time in the weight room to get strong enough to hold his own at this level/big man who needed a little bit more time to get used to using a body of that size to its full capacity....... and then head coach Steve Wojciechowski started giving him regular time off the bench to give Luke Fischer a breather. Not A LOT of time, just 4.2 minutes per games after the first of the year if you include his 2 DNPs as zeros. But still, it was obvious that Wojo was trusting Heldt just a wee bit more with each and every passing game and practice.
And then he got hurt and missed the last six games.
It's hard to really draw a connection here, but it can't be a complete coincidence that Marquette's defensive effective field goal percentage went completely to hell in the final five games of the season: 4 outings of allowing opponents to shoot over 60% and one that was at 59.7%. It's a specious connection at best, but hey: maybe Luke Fischer and Henry Ellenson just got a little bit more and more tired and beaten down from splitting all of the minutes at the 5 between the two of them, not to mention the minutes that they played together. Maybe they got a step slower on rotations and rim protecting leading to opponents shooting it a bit better. Maybe Heldt getting in the lineup for 3,4,5,6 minutes a game in Big East action helped out a whole bunch just in letting Fischer and Ellenson rest a little bit, and then that margin disappeared for the final two weeks.
Or maybe everyone was just tired after starting the season kind of technically in July because of the trip to Europe like Wojo said after there was no NIT bid forthcoming and that explains the defensive drop off. Either way, it would have been nice to see Heldt get after it a bit just to eliminate that possibility. Alas.
Best Game: Well, there's really only two candidates. We can either go with Heldt's 10 minute performance against Grambling, where he scored a season high four points, or we can go with his 13 minute performance at home against DePaul where he didn't even attempt a shot, but grabbed a rebound and blocked a shot. I guess we could also pick the Maine game, where Heldt wrapped up a season high four rebounds. No, these aren't fabulous options, but I didn't expect anything good to really jump out at me here. I'm going to go with the DePaul game, just because it was his season high in minutes which is extra important because it came in Big East play. We'll just ignore that Marquette lost the game.
It's probably a bad sign that the options led me to pick the home loss to DePaul as the best games for both Heldt and Sacar Anim, isn't it?
Season Grade, on a scale of 1-10: Matt Heldt's playing time woes weren't a result of anything else but Wojciechowski wanting to put both Heldt and Marquette in the best position to succeed this season. Ultimately, MU was going to be better off with Henry Ellenson and Luke Fischer trading off minutes at the five for the most part, even if that put Ellenson at a bit of a disadvantage on a regular basis. The important thing, though, is that Heldt was earning his way into the rotation by the time he got hurt in late February. Yeah, the injury kind of sucks, maybe even sucks a whole lot, but everything up til then was a positive experience, generally speaking.
Heldt never really got the point where he was absorbing 10 minutes a game, but he seemed to be on the right track. We definitely got all of Heldt's effort in the few minutes per game that he did play, and that has to be acknowledged and respected. He never really had Wojo's full trust, it seemed, although maybe that has more to do with averaging seven fouls per 40 minutes played, as well as being one of the worst offenders when it came to Marquette's offensive foul problem this season. On one side: probably played a little less than we would have liked. On the other side: probably played the exact right amount based on what he was accomplishing on the floor. I'll give Heldt a 4 for this season, with a note at the bottom that says that I liked what I saw and I hope that a full season in the weight room does him a world of good for next season.