Marquette’s season officially ended Sunday night around 7:45, when the Golden Eagles were not one of the 19 teams selected for an at-large bid to the National Invitation Tournament. And while we’ll do plenty of analysis, review and opinion on this year’s 17-15 season, odds are most readers already are looking forward to next season.
That includes an impressive incoming freshman class ranked in the top-20 by most recruiting services. The five-man group (six if you include Luke Fischer, and seven if you include Duane Wilson) features diverse skill sets, athleticism, a pair of Buzz Williams “switchables” and three top-100 prospects.
Here’s a look at each player and where he will help Marquette, both as freshmen this season and down the line.
You won’t find another player in this year’s class that Williams and the coaching staff are as excited about than Cohen. He’s listed at 6-foot-6, but he’ll be playing the majority of his minutes on the perimeter as a steady ball handler and slasher to the hoop. He played his fair share of minutes at the point, though it’s unclear how that may translate at the collegiate level.
At 180 pounds, he may be in a Juan Anderson-type situation where he spends the majority of his freshman season bulking up while figuring out his true niche in the Marquette offense — Anderson was injured most of his freshman year, but he didn’t project to play many minutes, either. That’s not to say he’ll necessarily ride the pine in Year 1; his ability to handle the ball may play well in a Marquette offense and earn him extra minutes. If he projects as a wing, he’ll likely be behind Deonte Burton and Anderson on the depth chart.
Harris isn’t officially on board in Milwaukee, but is expected to sign with Marquette in the spring. If and when he joins, he’ll bring an impressive 6-foot-7 frame to a Golden Eagles frontcourt decimated by senior departures this offseason. Like most athletic high school players, he spent much of his time on the wing with the ball, but it’s this author’s opinion that he’ll find his niche on the interior, in a Jimmy Butler-type role.
That analogy stems mostly from his ability to defend at such a high level. He’s a high-energy player who worked as a junior to become more versatile on the perimeter, but such a player is going to do the majority of his work inside. That should work in his favor, as should his ability to play with his back to the basket. He doesn’t project for a ton of minutes as a freshman, but that non-stop motor is certain to play well with Williams.
Pardon the incredibly unfair comparison, but it’s hard not to see a little bit of Darius Johnson-Odom in the way Hill plays. He’s a high flyer, can stop on a dime, isn’t afraid to shoot the mid-range and runs the court well. At 6-foot-4, Hill is Marquette’s top-ranked recruit in the class and easily the most skilled.
If Marquette is going to get back to run-and-gun basketball (they’ll have to, at least somewhat, with its roster) Hill is the exact player who can make things happen in that area. Many will point to Jajuan Johnson’s 11 DNP’s as cause for hesitation on expectations for Hill, but this is a new season. He’ll likely compete with Johnson for minutes behind Todd Mayo, which should bode well for Marquette as a team. If Hill works hard early and can keep up defensively, he has a real shot to earn significant minutes with Jake Thomas out of the picture.
Little is known of Satchel Paige-Pierce (his father was a fan of the Hall of Fame pitcher), but it’s not difficult to realize that he’s 7 feet tall. Marquette’s tallest returning player is Steve Taylor, at least until Luke Fischer gains eligibility for the second semester. That means Pierce is destined for early minutes, so long as he can keep up with the Division I pace.
The summer will be crucial to his development, as it is with all freshman bigs, as he’s listed at 250 pounds and, according to ESPN.com, “will need to play close attention to his conditioning.” If he takes Todd Smith’s workouts seriously, he’ll have an early role. Once Fischer enters the fold Pierce will have to compete for minutes, but it never hurts having a 7-footer on board.
This was an impressive pull for Williams, picking up his first Canadian prospect since Junior Cadougan. Shayok is exactly what Williams is looking for in a switchable, as he’s got power forward tendencies and weight (205 pounds) with an improving small forward skill set on offense.
We learned this year how important defense in freshmen is to Williams, and that’s exactly what Shayok brings to the table. Like Pierce, Marquette’s personnel at the position may mean Shayok sees an increase in minutes from the get-go, and Williams did note on signing day that he expects the 6-foot-6 wing to have “an impact from the start.” That could just be coach-speak, but his skill set fits what Marquette is looking for.