Player Breakdown: Junior Cadougan

Marquette Tribune Photo

This is part of  Paint Touches’ series breaking down each players’s 2011-2012 campaign and looking forward to next year. A big thank you to assistant coach Aki Collins, who provided exclusive, in-depth analysis on each player.

What he did well: Junior Cadougan was the key that made Marquette’s high octane engine hum on offense when all was going well this year. His presence, court vision and decision making were unparalleled and completely changed the way Marquette played on the offensive end.

He recorded the highest assist percentage on the team, assisting 32.4 percent of made field goals when he was on the court. As a comparison, the next closest Golden Eagle was Vander Blue, almost 14 percentage points lower than Junior at 18.5  percent. Cadougan increased his assists per game by over two, going from 3.2 last year when sharing the point duties with Dwight Buycks to 5.4 this year.

Defensively, Cadougan made strides as the season went on, culminating in a great defensive performance against Murray State’s Isaiah Canaan. He is by no means a lock down defender, but he is no longer a liability on the defensive end. Cadougan also improved his conditioning, allowing him to go longer stretches of time without needing a breather.

What he could have done better: As important as Cadougan was to the offense, his coring abilities still need to improve. Granted, he was in a position to facilitate Crowder and Darius this season without having to create much on his own, but his shot is still inconsistent. His field goal percentage shrunk to 38.4 percent from 42.2 percent last year while his 3 point percentage, while it did rise, was still only a meager 23.7 percent.

Cadougan is quite good at getting to the basket, but when teams can constantly sag off him and dare him to take open threes and long jumpers, it mitigates his ability to attack the hole. As a result, he did not drive the paint nearly enough, getting to the line only six more times than last year, while playing 260 more minutes.

Cadougan also struggled to keep his turnovers down at times, coughing it up 2.6 times a game this season. His dribble still seems unnaturally high, and he tends to become lackadaisical with his passing during stretches of halves. He will have to tighten that up for next year.

Aki’s analysis: “It shows you just how important he was to our team, and if you watch the Florida game, you saw when he got in foul trouble it disrupted everybody. I don’t think there’s been a game this season that Darius and Jae have struggled for the entire game. Sometimes one of them will be doing well, then the second half the other one will pick it up so they have really good numbers at the end of the day, and that’s a direct result of Junior and what he does to make sure he gets the ball to guys where they need to get the ball in rhythm and just controls our team,” Collins said.”

Marquette Tribune Photo

“He should have missed his entire freshman year, but he’s such a gamer and such a tough kid and he loves his teammates so much, that he wanted to come back and make sure that those guys, Lazar and (David Cubillan) and (Mo Acker) had a chance to continue to keep playing and go to the NCAA Tournament,” Collins said. “So he forgoes a year of eligibility so those guys could live out their dream, so I think him being in shape and being such a competitor, he knew (defense) was an area he needed to work on. So he got after it and made sure that he focused on his defense just as much as he focused on his offense.”

“I remember it like it was yesterday. He was cleared to practice for the first time, late January. And we’re in practice in Kasten, and Mo stole the ball from him. It was a turnover at half court. And Mo goes in for a layup and Junior chases him down and pins it against the back board, so everybody in the gym kind of stopped and said, “OK…” Well then he does it again,” Collins said. “So practice ends and Buzz calls all the coaches into the main gym to talk about the play. So Tony says, ‘Well yeah, there’s something else. Junior says he wants to play.’ And we were like, “No. No.”

And so next practice we look at him a little differently, and so we kept watching him and he said, ‘I want to play. I want to play.’ And Buzz was saying, ‘I don’t think it’s right. I don’t think it’s right.’ And so Junior’s mom called Tony, and his AAU coach called Tony. It just started getting a little whirlwind behind it, and so we get to Syracuse and we finally said, ‘Have at it.’ And the kid came back,” Collins said.

“And for our program, at the time, it was the right thing. Long-term, you can question the decision but you can never question the decision the kid made. He was healthy enough to play, obviously he stayed healthy, he helped us win, he helped his teammates,” Collins said. “The kid absolutely wanted to do it for all the right reasons. So it’s worked out, but it kind of shows you the kind of kid he is.”

Best performance: Mar. 17 vs. Murray State (8 points, 4 assists, 37 minutes)

While Cadougan may have had more statistically impressive performances this season, his best and most complete game came in a clutch situation in the NCAA Tournament. Cadougan ran the offense efficiently, committing only one turnover and attacking the bucket in some crucial spots while playing a season high 37 minutes. More importantly though, he played 37 minutes of hellish defense on All-American Isaiah Canaan, forcing into a 4-of-17 shooting night and never letting him get going. Cadougan was coming off back to back shaky performances, making this one all the more memorable and important.

Worst performance: Mar. 8 vs. Lousiville (9 points, 8 turnovers, 36% FG)

With Marquette primed for a run to a Big East Championship Title, Junior Cadougan dropped the ball. Over. And over. And over again. Louisville’s zone as well as Peyton Siva’s quickness forced Cadougan into a nightmarish performance at Madison Square Garden. Junior could not get anything going and turned the ball over a career high eight times, at a moment where his handle and smart passing was needed more than ever. To make matters worse he couldn’t stay in front of Siva if his life depended on it, allowing the speedy guard to attack the basket at will.

2012 Outlook: As one of two seniors on next year’s squad, there is no doubt whose team this will be. Cadougan will once again see a majority of the point guard minutes with Derrick Wilson only filling in for spot minutes here and there. With the loss of DJO and Jae, Junior will lose 61% of targets. He fed the senior tandem the more than anyone else last season and will now have to find different recipients for his dishes. Look for Davante Gardner and Jamil Wilson to get the majority of the Canadian’s dimes next season with new shooters like Jake Thomas and T.J. Taylor familiarizing themselves with Junior’s passing prowess.

The biggest difference will come in the way he attacks the basket next season. While he could defer to the seniors most of the time this year, Cadougan will have to carry a heavier scoring burden. He will have to shoot the open threes more often and, most importantly, make them at a higher clip. He will get a chance to “get his” as he said earlier this season, the only question is if he will be able capitalize on the opportunities. Realistically, Junior should average around 10 points and 6.5 assists, but until we see how his shot develops and the team gels, all guesses are unsubstantiated.

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