A ‘Switchable’ dilemma: Wilson, Jones, Anderson each bring versatility

Marquette Tribune File Photo

“Switchables.”

If you don’t know what those are, well, you should. They are Buzz Williams’ favorite type of player and the size/skill set he has based his coaching philosophy around. Switchables are usually in the 6-foot-5 to 6-foot-8 range and have a multi-faceted skill set and can guard multiple positions on the court. Think a small forward with either the ability to shoot outside, guard the post or better yet, both.

Lucky for Williams and the Golden Eagles, three players are capable of playing the switchable role at the forward position in 2011. Sophomores Jamil Wilson and Jamail Jones and freshman Juan Anderson will all be used interchangeably at the three and four positions and there’s a possibility all three could see the court at the same time.

Jimmy Butler’s departure opened up over 34 minutes, 16 points and six rebounds that will need to be filled by one (or more) of these three switchables.

So who fills the role? Wilson already has the hype and athleticism, Anderson has the skill set and length, and Jones has the Big East body and experience. All three are classified as switchables but also have particular skill sets that will allow Williams to rotate them based on the flow of the game. Here’s what that could look like.

*Note* Jae Crowder was not included. He will play primarily at the four, extending out on offense but never playing a true three role.

Jamil Wilson

If Wilson scored a point for everyone who has dubbed him the next Jimmy Butler, he probably would set the NCAA scoring record before the Big East conference began.

Marquette Tribune file photo

And maybe the hype surrounding the Oregon transfer is warranted. After all, he was a top-30 recruit coming out of high school in Racine, Wis., and has had over a year to solely focus on improving his game, hitting the weight room and watching countless hours of film.

He already has an NBA body  (he is listed at 6-foot-7, 220 pounds, same as Butler) and, from the limited action we have seen in practices and at Marquette Madness, he is the most athletic player on Marquette’s roster. Whether athleticism and looking the part will translate into success is yet to be seen, but it sure is a good start.

He has the ability to extend defenses out to the three point line, much like senior Jae Crowder does and Lazar Hayward did, but he’s more versatile than both, being able to go into traffic or post up on the block. Wilson will score in a variety of ways and seems to have the confidence (and green light) to take the ball to the hole, drawing contact or scoring in the paint.

Wilson foresees himself playing both forward positions, but also said he is capable of guarding either back court position.

Of the three switchables, Wilson is the only player capable of moving to the four spot, which would be a major asset. This would allow Marquette to go very small with a three-guard lineup and Crowder or Davante Gardner at the five.

Jamail Jones

It’s extremely tough to determine what Jones’ impact will be in 2011. Buzz Williams has never had a freshman stay healthy all year and then play his sophomore season (Liam McMorrow, Chris Otule, Yous Mbao, Jeronne Maymon, Junior Cadougan). The only player who would fall under that category is Erik Williams, but even he showed small improvements before his eventual transfer, which could have also affected his progression.

Marquette Tribune File Photo

Jones’ freshman season was admittedly lackluster, but in his defense, he was playing behind Butler at small forward and Darius Johnson-Odom, Dwight Buycks and Vander Blue at shooting guard. Realistically, there weren’t many minutes for Jones.

While it’s still too early to know, Jones’ natural position seems to be at the two-guard. With solid depth in the front court, Jones’ game will yield the most success on the perimeter, and potentially into the paint as he gains confidence. He is the best perimeter shooter of the three switchables and showed flashes of athleticism at times during the year, but consistency will be key for the sophomore. Jones admitted that last season he underestimated how hard he had to work each play, resulting in a lack of playing time.

Much of that consistent effort will happen on the defensive end, where any player in Williams’ system will need to succeed. Jones has a special combination of agility and size, which could make him an excellent stopper on the perimeter. It remains to be seen if he has the physicality to play defense inside 15 feet, which would keep him from playing the three. That being said, the potential is certainly there. Jones was a top-60 recruit just a year ago.

Juan Anderson

The description of Marquette’s highest-ranked freshman has been beaten to death (especially by this author), but it remains true: Juan Anderson is the perfect Buzz Williams recruit.

Marquette Tribune File Photo

Maybe more important than anything, Anderson has a head for the game. From the limited action we have seen, Anderson’s basketball IQ is outstanding, as seen by his passing and decision-making. He rarely forces passes and knows how to use his length on the defensive end. Having a smart player is just as good as having a great athlete, and Anderson very well may be both.

It’s hard to believe that he weighs the 210 pounds he is listed at, but either way he will need to add weight if he wants to be switchable to the four, along with his natural position at the three. Anderson himself has admitted this.

On the other side of the interchangeable spectrum, Anderson comes in with a raw jump shot that still needs some fine tuning, as most freshmen do. That could keep him from playing on the perimeter, where he said he could eventually see himself playing. That means that Anderson’s only real position in 2011 will be the three, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he won’t be playing.

He has the tall task of trying to earn playing time from Buzz Williams as a freshman, but his length on defense and high basketball IQ may be too long and too high to keep him off the court. The fact that the 6-foot-6 forward can handle the ball when needed is an added bonus to his game.

Much like Jones a year ago, Anderson’s talent speaks for itself, but whether it translates to minutes right away is another story.

So who plays?

Like many questions regarding Marquette’s starting unit and rotation, these are all good questions to have. Wondering which one of the three top-100 6-foot-6 forwards will see the most playing time was a pipe dream four years ago.

Early indications are that Wilson will start. He’s the oldest of the three and his athleticism/build are perfect for what Marquette needs in a bruising three who can play 25+ minutes a night.

Anderson and Jones are still unknowns at this point, but the latter has the year of experience and a Big East-ready body, giving him the upper hand for now. At the same time, one can’t underestimate Anderson’s versatile skill set and defensive length when figuring if he fits into the rotation.

But the best part?

All questions will begin to be answered in 17 days, when the Golden Eagles take the floor for the first time.

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