With Selection Sunday now 24 hours away, content will be heavily-focused, if not entirely focused on Marquette’s opponent and results for the next month. After that we’ll have end-of-the-season reports and a look-ahead to next year’s team, so it will be a while until the recruiting trail heats up.
With that in mind, we wanted to look at both the players Marquette is heavily pursuing for the 2014 class and which players make the most sense for the Golden Eagles. With five players signed in the 2013 class–junior college power forward Jameel McKay and high school seniors Duane Wilson, Jajuan Johnson, Deonte Burton and John Dawson–Marquette is likely done in that class. Marquette still needs to knock one scholarship off its current total (14) after Jake Thomas reverts back to walk-on status.
On Jan. 22 (and updated on Feb. 4) we wrote a complete round-up of the players Marquette is pursuing hardest in the class. Jamil Wilson, Davante Gardner and Vander Blue are all set to finish their respective eligibility after the 2013-’14 season, so it was no surprise that most of the names were shooting guards and small forwards.
But who fits best? We had 14 names on the initial list, but have narrowed it down to three names we believe Buzz Williams could plug in and have both immediate and future success. We also took into account the realistic chances Marquette has to gain a commitment from each player.
Best interior defender: Goodluck Okonoboh, 6-foot-9 center (Mass.)
Plenty of schools are still in on one of the best shot-blocking centers left in the 2014 class, and it’s good Marquette is one of those squads. Once known as a defensive specialist, Okonoboh has put his recruitment in the back seat in favor of working on his offensive game. He’s seen improvement in that area and, currently the No. 71 recruit in his class, should see a boost when Rivals.com’s next rankings come out.
It’s easy to see why he’d be a fit at Marquette. The Golden Eagles will lose Gardner and Wilson, and if Chris Otule doesn’t leave this year then he’ll also be done with eligibility when the 2014 class arrives. That’s nearly 68 percent of Marquette’s blocked shots this season gone, and while McKay, Steve Taylor and Juan Anderson all should see improvement inside, Okonoboh could be both a project for Williams and, at the very least, a successful shot blocker inside his freshman season. (Okonoboh highlight reel)
Best outside shooter: Ahmed Hill, 6-foot-4 shooting guard (Ga.)
This year’s Marquette team has been one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the country, and while help is on the way with incoming shooting guard Jajuan Johnson and point guard Duane Wilson, losing Wilson and Blue–who have accounted for exactly half of Marquette’s 3-pointers (66-of-132)–will be a massive blow to the Golden Eagles’ outside shooting.
That’s where Hill comes in. He spent last summer improving his outside jumper, and according to reports it has paid off in this his junior season. He plays bigger than his listed size and, as of Feb. 21, was averaging 32.1 points, 13.7 rebounds, 44 percent from beyond the arc and 88 percent from the charity stripe. He’s a top-25 player in the 2014 class and, when Gardner’s, Wilson’s and Blue’s points leave after next year, a scorer like Hill could be a replacement who sees minutes right away. (Hill highlight reel)
Best switchable: Paul White, 6-foot-8 forward (Ill.)
When Jamil Wilson’s time at Marquette is done he may go down as Marquette’s most talented “switchable,” but White is the type of player with the type of upside who could challenge for that title. It’s hard to pinpoint what the top-60 recruit in the 2014 class does so well because he does a bit of everything. He dribbles, can attack the basket, is a tough rebounder, shoots from the perimeter and can guard any position on the court. He’s long been considered a perfect fit for Williams’ system, and this author feels comfortable throwing out Otto Porter comparisons in terms of size and skill set.
With Wilson set to graduate following next season and Gardner and Otule out, Marquette will need a solid interior rebounder who won’t slow the pace down. Looking forward even another year, McKay and Anderson will have graduated, leaving a hole on the interior White could fill. (White highlight reel)
Bonus: Sam Cassell Jr., 6-foot-4 shooting guard (Chipola Junior College)
Marquette has inquired on Sam Cassell Jr., a 6-foot-4 shooting guard who was ruled academically ineligible after committing to Maryland as a high school senior. He opted for junior college instead of attending Division I as a partial qualifier, and he will play one season at Chipola (he’s redshirting this year) before becoming eligible for the 2014-’15 season.
A long, athletic wing who can handle the ball, Cassell Jr. also touts impressive defensive ability and would help fill the void left by Blue. Cassell played with Todd Mayo at Notre Dame Prep, and was a top-150 recruit in the 2012 class.
(Cassell highlight reel)