Welcome to the first ever Saturday mailbag, where we’re taking your questions from Twitter, Facebook and email and answering them. If you’d like to submit a question, tweet @PaintTouches, write it on our Facebook wall or send an email to PaintTouches@gmail.com. On to the mailbag:
1. What is real story on Jake Thomas? (@mikeobs)
I’m not sure where the conspiracy theorists have come from regarding Thomas’ decision early last week to transfer from Marquette. After two successful seasons at South Dakota, Thomas had the opportunity to try his skills at a high-major Division I program that was also close to his hometown of Racine. He took that chance, earning a scholarship both seasons and ultimately a diploma from Marquette University.
It did, however, prove to be too much on the basketball court. Thomas was clearly over-matched at the Big East level, averaging 9.0 minutes, 1.8 points and shooting 27.8 percent from beyond the arc in 23 games. He proved vital in the absence of Todd Mayo during the first semester and was rumored to have beenthe second coming of Ray Allen in practice. That had to have been important on scout teams.
But Thomas was moving back to walk-on status in his fifth and final season. Not only that, with the incoming and returning guards on Marquette’s roster there was no room for him in the rotation. He would have sat on the bench all year and, whether it was important or not, paid his own way.
With his decision to transfer, Thomas will be able to earn a scholarship for his graduate studies and contribute at a mid-major program (UWM, Green Bay, UIC and South Alabama are rumored to be interested). From everything I saw he was happy at Marquette, but it was in his best interests to leave and find a program where he can play right away. It all makes sense.
2. Starting five and first three off the bench next year? (@schmize24)
We’re still waaaaaaaaay far away from needing to address this, but it’s always fun to look ahead, so I’ll bit. Vander Blue and Jamil Wilson are almost assured to be starters next year, and I’ve heard rumors that the latter will move to small forward next season–he dominated the perimeter the final month of the season.
Past that, Derrick Wilson’s experience gives him the nod past Duane Wilson–Jamil’s cousin–but Duane is part of the rotation as Derrick’s spell. Jameel McKay is coming in as seasoned junior who will help Marquette on the glass in the wake of losing Trent Lockett. Chris Otule will start if he returns (see below), with Davante Gardner spelling him or, if Otule leaves, potentially starting.
The last two in the rotation are toss-ups and are indicative of just how talented next year’s team will be. I think Steve Taylor makes a huge jump on the defensive end and becomes a Gardner-like player, while Jajuan Johnson’s outside shooting will be tough to keep off the court. These aren’t set in stone by any means, but this is what I think Marquette’s core rotation will look like.
PG: Derrick Wilson
SG: Vander Blue
SF: Jamil Wilson
PF: Jameel McKay
C: Chris Otule/Davante Gardner
6: Steve Taylor Jr.
7: Jajuan Johnson
8: Duane Wilson
3. Does Chris Otule return? What’s his situation?
Otule was granted a redshirt after breaking his foot his sophomore season, and the NCAA allowed him a second after tearing his ACL two seasons ago. Buzz Williams also said Otule has a spot on the team if he wants to, and with this season over the decision is now the center’s to make. If he wants back for a sixth season, by all accounts it will happen.
Now, he clearly has some factors to weigh. He’s been playing for five seasons now and, subsequently, been going to school for five years. That’s enough for most people. I don’t have the facts on his grades/transcripts/the degrees he has, but he already has his undergrad degree and that could be enough for him.
He also likely has a pro career awaiting him somewhere in Europe. After an impressive last half of his fifth season he has shown his conditioning is there and his surgically repaired left knee is healthy. Rumors circulated that early in the season Otule was all but gone, but his strong finish may have changed that. We’ll likely know in the next few weeks, but my gut says Chris has played his last game at Marquette.
4. What do the added teams in the new Big East look like? (@MLennon66)
Butler: Like Marquette a year ago, the Bulldogs will lose their two best players but bring back almost all of their core pieces. Seniors Rotnei Clarke and Andrew Smith are gone, but leading the way will be junior Roosevelt Jones, senior Khyle Marshall and sophomore sharpshooter Kellen Dunham. With that frontline core, expect the Bulldogs to impress once again under Brad Stevens.
Creighton: The biggest offseason storyline for the Blue Jays–and one of the biggest in the country–is what Doug McDermott will do. After averaging 23.2 points and 7.7 rebounds as a junior, he has a decision to make on whether or not to test the NBA waters. If he leaves, Creighton will be without their three leading scorers from a year ago–Gregory Echenique and Grant Gibbs were seniors. If Dougie McBuckets comes back for a senior season, the Blue Jays will contend for a conference championship. If he doesn’t, it could get ugly in Omaha.
Xavier: The Muskateers lost five of their last eight to finish the season in what was considered a rebuilding year. Guards Mark Lyons and Tu Holloway were gone and freshman stud Dez Wells transferred to Maryland. But there were positives that came from the 17-14 season. Freshman Semaj Christon led the team in scoring (15.2 ppg) and was named the A-10 Rookie of the Year and to the All-Atlantic 10 second team. Senior Travis Taylor was second on the team in scoring and first in rebounding, but the A-10’s Most Improved Player will graduate. Role players Brad Redford and Jeff Robinson are gone, but everyone else is set to be back in what should be an improved team.
5. Which future state of WI prospects does Marquette have the best chance of landing in 2014/2015? (@Cohete009)
I’ll assume you are referring to the two gems over the next two years: Kevon Looney and Diamond Stone. Looney has previously said he will seriously start looking at schools this spring, and it appears Marquette is in the thick of things. Yet looking into articles where Looney is quoted, he says location will not be a factor in his decision, and he also speaks highly of the top schools on his list. Almost all the blueblood schools are inquiring, and my gut says he will not choose Marquette in the end.
Diamond Stone may be another story. The top-5 prospect in the 2015 class attended numerous Marquette games this year with his Dominican H.S. teammates and, while he is still incredibly early in the recruiting process, seems to list Marquette every time he is asked about his offers and top schools.
Also working in Marquette’s favor is incoming point guard Duane Wilson. A former teammate, Wilson said he is always with Stone, whether it’s in study hall, playing video games or working out at the gym. He considers Stone a “little brother,” and the two appear to have a very positive and strong relationship. If Stone wants to follow his friend to Marquette, Buzz Williams would be waiting with open arms. Again, it’s early but I like Marquette to have a hat on the table when Stone makes his decision in a year or so.