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Marquette preseason primer: Wings

Can Jamil Wilson make the jump from contributor to star? (USA Today Sports)

Can Jamil Wilson make the jump from contributor to star? (USA Today Sports)

Marquette is officially in game week, which means we’ll  be previewing this year’s roster and schedule throughout the week up until Friday night’s game against Southern. Today we look at Marquette’s wings, followed by its forwards and finally the non-conference schedule. On Friday we’ll make our predictions for the 2013-14 Golden Eagles.

Monday: Guards
Tuesday: Wings
Wednesday: Forwards/centers
Thursday: Non-conference schedule
Friday: Predictions

A year ago Marquette was led by its guards, namely Junior Cadougan, Vander Blue and Trent Lockett. And this season the frontcourt, led by Jamil Wilson, Chris Otule and Davante Gardner, will anchor both sides of the ball in hopes of leading the Golden Eagles to their ninth straight NCAA Tournament appearance.

Still, there’s always a special place in Buzz Williams’ heart for “switchables,” those wings who can guard multiple positions and may or may not play multiple positions on offense. And in 2013-14, Williams has three “generations” of wings, if you will, with which he will hope to get something out of in different respects.

At the head of the switchable list is the oldest generation Golden Eagle, redshirt senior Jamil Wilson. The little birdies that flew around the Al McGuire Center three seasons ago became Wilson’s biggest enemy when they began reporting that he was the best player in Marquette’s practices, and that included Jimmy Butler, Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom.

Of all the unfair expectations thrown on incoming recruits and transfers, Wilson’s may have been the worst. Before he even put on a Marquette uniform he was expected to be as good, if not better, than would-be NBA starters (Butler) and Big East Players of the Year (Crowder) and leading scorers (Johnson-Odom).

So when one looks at Wilson’s stats through two seasons — 8.4 points on 44.6 percent shooting and 4.5 rebounds in 24.7 minutes per game — it may seem underwhelming, but that’s not necessarily the case. Two years ago he was playing center alongside de facto power forward Jae Crowder, and last year he played power forward as senior Trent Lockett manned the position for 26.6 minutes per game. Wilson only saw time when Otule and Gardner played together, and he played well.

The “OxTule” lineup will show its face more in 2013-14, meaning Wilson will see time at small forward more than he has the last two seasons. As we documented in May, Wilson was lights out from the top of the arc last season and he should see even more 3-point attempts as a senior.

So what should we expect from Marquette’s most talented player? Plenty, especially from beyond the arc. Though his 3-point percentage only increased from 34.5 percent as a sophomore to 36 percent as a junior, he attempted 100 3-pointers as a junior, compared to just 29 as a sophomore. To increase his percentage while attempting 71 more shots says something, so don’t be surprised when he leads Marquette in 3-point makes this season.

Someone who may also see some time on the perimeter is Juan Anderson, the “middle child” of the switchable family tree. His two seasons at Marquette have been underwhelming — shoulder injuries have really hurt his progression — but there’s plenty to like about the 6-foot-6 wing from Oakland.

The Buzz Williams Progression Plan has Anderson in line to see some serious improvement in Year 3. He’s reportedly being moved to the perimeter, though his ability to defend both the “2” and “3” makes him a switchable — another offseason in the weight room has bulked him up some, but he won’t be defending anyone in the paint anytime soon. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Anderson in the starting lineup once again, and with the departure of Jameel McKay he’ll be asked to play even more.

We can pretty much tell what kind of player Anderson will be. That’s not the case for freshman Deonte Burton, the new guy in the family tree. When asked at media day what position he was, Burton smiled and said, “undefined.” Even Chris Otule told PT he didn’t know what position he was. He’s a bowling ball of an athlete, has sneaky length and has a killer mid-range jumper that he admits is currently the best part of his game.

Where he fits in Year 1 is another question. Again, McKay leaving will boost his minutes some, but until Williams figures out where Burton will play he may be in a position to see spot duty. The non-conference schedule will be crucial in terms of Burton finding his true role on the team; it may be as a Wesley Matthews-type who guards a position above him (a “3” guarding “4s” or it may be as a shooting guard in Marquette’s big lineups — we’ll see plenty of those this season.

The wing position is certainly a strong suit for Williams this season. Wilson is going to be Marquette’s best player, and he’ll need to be more consistent in his shot attempts, interior defense and overall leadership. Anderson will again play an x-factor role — Todd Mayo remains the team’s biggest x-factor. If he can succeed on the perimeter and find a way to guard “2s,” it would do wonders for Marquette. Burton is house money but can be a plug-and-play until Williams molds him as he sees fit.

PROJECTED LINEUP

PG: Derrick Wilson, Duane Wilson, Todd Mayo, John Dawson
SG: Jajuan Johnson, Todd Mayo, Jake Thomas, Juan Anderson
SF: Juan Anderson, Jamil Wilson, Deonte Burton
PF: Jamil Wilson

STAT TO KNOW

Jamil Wilson’s last 8 games: 13.1 points, 11.0 FGA’s, 3.9 FTA’s

At the start of the year one of the things we wanted to see most was aggressiveness from Wilson. The last 11 games of the year we got it. Wilson’s season averages were 9.7 points, 7.7 field-goal attempts and 2.5 free-throw attempts. He exploded past those averages beginning with a home win over Notre Dame. No one will enter next season with more momentum than Wilson.

BIGGEST QUESTION MARK

Will Jamil Wilson become Marquette’s go-to guy? Wilson needs to be “the guy” this season, despite the Golden Eagles having a surplus of individual talent at multiple spots on the floor. When there’s four minutes left in a tie game at Georgetown, Marquette must feel confident giving the ball to Wilson at the elbow, knowing he’ll make a basket and then haul in a key rebound on the other end. If Wilson is simply a 10-point, six-rebound per game player, Marquette’s ceiling will be capped.

ONE WORD, ONE SENTENCE

Jamil Wilson: Star — The redshirt senior finally has his time to shine; now he has to make good on it.

Juan Anderson: Versatile — If he can make the jump to a perimeter-oriented contributor, it will help.

Deonte Burton: Athlete — It’s too much fun watching the 6-foot-5 freak play; let’s see if he can mold into a basketball player instead of just being a beast of an athlete

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