If you follow recruiting for a non-blue blood school, missing on a prospect is never a surprise. The fact of the matter is most of the targets will go elsewhere. Schools like MU, while clearly in the top-50 or so in terms of prestige, just don’t carry the weight to be selective with offers. They will cast a net of about 7-8 main prospects, and then 8-10 backup prospects, hoping to net 2 or 3 a year.
So when Marquette target Kalif Young, a 6-9 power forward from Canada, chose Providence over Marquette, it wasn’t some giant whiff by Wojo and company. It was a relative late-bloomer who hadn’t cracked the top-300 on most recruiting sites yet. In general terms, this was the type of recruiting failure that is a natural part of the process. You win some, you lose some, you get on to the next one.
But this particular miss is not your run-of-the-mill rejection.
For starters, it’s already May 18, fairly late in the calendar to start a new process. Summer school starts in a month in a half, and by now, almost all of the worthwhile high school recruits have signed to their respective schools.
Not to worry, you say, there are still endless possibilities in the transfer market, with close to 550 names on the list this year. True, but even there, the cream has been cropped. Marquette was a finalist for LG Gill, a grad transfer that would have slid into the empty PF spot rather nicely, but lost out there to Maryland. There are plenty of names, but filling a scholarship just for the heck of it is a good way to create locker room problems. You have to make sure the personalities match, playing time is expressly communicated and talent is a fit for your needs.
And that’t the biggest thing. Marquette has a gaping hole at the 4 for this year and beyond. Luke Fischer and Matt Heldt are strictly 5s, and there isn’t much size on the rest of the roster. That’s not to say playing 4 guard sets can’t be successful, heck Villanova just won a title doing just that, but it severely limits the style of play. You will have to be better than good from long distance, limit turnovers on the offensive end, and have players able to defend pretty much anyone on the other end as opponents look to create mismatches at all times.
Again, that is not to say Marquette can’t do it, simply that they will be forced to. Think back to the 2009-’10 season. Hayward and a bunch of midgets put up the 3rd best offense and defense of the last 8 years (using KenPom’s efficiency numbers). They made the tournament as a 6 seed and are generally considered the best coached team in the Buzz Williams era. But there was no margin for error. It took the 5th best 3-point shooting team in the country to do that.
Oh, and as high as I may be on Luke, he’s no Zar. Lazar as a senior was ahead of his time. The Draymond before Draymond was a thing. He could guard all 5 positions, play anywhere from point to center, handle the rock in transition, and hit treys at a 35% clip. Marquette will have to mimic this year’s Nova with Ochefu as the anchor, rather than any previous Marquette team.
But even taking all of this into account, the real reason this decision puts Marquette into such a bind is due to the Wally Ellenson situation. (Here are a couple recaps if you need a refresher.) Basically, it seems as if Wally was pushed out to make room for another, “better” player to be named later. Well, two other, “better” players have now passed on Marquette. Without Young or Gill in the fold and with options rather limited, it wouldn’t surprise me if Wally ended up on the roster, come fall.
We hadn’t heard much outside of Young and Gill, so I’m not sure what the next move is. It may be for a traditional transfer, who won’t provide assistance now but will be vital come next year when Fisch leaves the pond. It may be taking a flyer on a prospect like Kostas, who won’t make an impact for at least two or three years. It may be picking the best grad transfer now just for depth, and hoping a 2017 recruit like Theo John sees all of that playing time open up next year and sees himself jumping right in.
I don’t know. I don’t have any knowledge. I don’t claim otherwise. But from 500 miles away, repairing that bridge to Rice Lake and welcoming back a player the team knows and is comfortable with, someone who knows the system and won’t take time to adjust makes sense. Particularly when you are looking for a low possessions, high rebounding rate type player. You could do worse than nabbing an Olympic hopeful. You wouldn’t even need to change the media guide.
No matter what transpires, this is a setback both in the near and long term. Marquette will be fine in any case, but don’t think this one doesn’t hurt more than most.