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Top 50 Players in the Big East: #40-31

2017 Marquette Madness

Photo by Ryan Messier/ Paint Touches

For the second year in a row, Paint Touches is taking a look at the top 50 players in the Big East. Instead of doing a true top 50, we took the five best players from each team and ordered them one to fifty. We did it this way because if we didn’t, poor Georgetown wouldn’t be represented. Important to note, these are the five best players, not necessarily the five starters from each team. This list is the product of a lot of analysis and debate and will hopefully inspire some reaction and discussion. Love our picks? Vehemently disagree? Put them in the comments below.

The top 50 is being broken down in to five ten team segments. You can find our past segments here: #50-41

40. Haanif Cheatham of Marquette
6-5 195 lb JR SG
25.4 mpg, 8.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.2 apg, 0.7 spg, 0.1 bpg, 1.6 tpg, 49.0 eFG%

When we wrote this list last season, Marquette fans scoffed at our assertion that Haanif Cheatham was only the fifth best player on the team, claiming he should be above the likes of Katin Reinhardt, Andrew Rowsey, and even Jajuan Johnson. This season, they will likely scoff at the idea that Cheatham is even in the top five at all, let alone in fourth place. As a freshman, Cheatham average nearly 12 points a game, beating opponents with his deceptive quickness and ability to finish in traffic. His scoring was strong enough that many Marquette fans were speculating on if he would break the career scoring record in Milwaukee. After a non-conference season of munching on high fat cupcakes, that talk quickly changed. Haanif’s scoring dropped dramatically in conference play and eventually his minutes disappeared. For the last six games of the season he didn’t score above three points or break the 15-minute mark.

At first glance, it seems like Cheatham went through a season long slump as a sophomore. However, he actually improved the totality of his game from his freshman to sophomore seasons. While his scoring and shooting took a significant hit, he improved significantly in rebounding, distributing, and defending, all while dropping his turnovers dramatically. He did get his minutes cut at the end of the season, but that seemed to be due to a shift in team strategy as Wojo abandoned any semblance of defense and committed the team to maximizing its high-powered offense. Cheatham’s rebounding, passing, and defensive ability should allow him to make a significant impact for the Golden Eagles this season. However, he will have to fight off eager young newcomers such as Jamal Cain, Greg Elliott, and Theo John for minutes. None of the freshmen were highly ranked coming out of high school but some have pegged them as three-star gems who might be readier than their rankings indicate.

39. Myles Cale of Seton Hall
6-5 200 lb FR SG
4-star SG, ranked #91 overall by 247 Composite

Pirate fans have been waiting a long time for Myles Cale who committed all the way back in March 2016. His home state of Delaware is not exactly known for its history of top basketball recruits, but after averaging over 26 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals a game, Cale has more than proven that he is high major worthy. Cale is known for his scoring and his athleticism. He brings a level of explosiveness that will only make Seton Hall all the more potent. He is at his best in transition when he is allowed to use his athleticism to its full potential and abuse seemingly flat-footed defenders. His defense and shot need some development but he comes in with the ability to make an immediate impact.

Seton Hall features a roster with a very obvious top four and an open spot for a fifth player. Michael Nzei and Ish Sanogo could bring some size and rebounding to the lineup but Cale’s scoring ability makes him a much more intriguing option. He likely comes off the bench as freshman but he will provide a nice jolt of energy and scoring from the bench and making sure there is no drop off when Carrington or Rodriguez need to rest for a spell. Cale will be a nice compliment to fellow Pirate and Myles, Myles Powell. Powell’s shooting and Cale’s slashing ability will make a great one two offensive punch in future seasons.

38. Marvin Clark Jr of St. John’s
6-7 230 lb RSJR SF
9.7 mpg, 3.9 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 0.3 apg, 0.3 spg, 0.4 bpg, 0.6 tpg, 60.8 eFG% (15-16 stats for Michigan State)

Marvin Clark Jr wasn’t as highly ranked a recruit as you would expect for an immediate role player at Michigan State. The Kansas City native was ranked closer to 200 than 100 and was expected to be a project for Tom Izzo to develop. Instead, he immediately carved out a role on the bench, earning about 10 minutes a game with his efficiency and his rebounding. Despite the value he brought, his playing time was unlikely to grow with studs like Josh Langford and Miles Bridges on the way in 2017. Seeking a greater role, Clark transferred out east, joining Chris Mullin’s Red Storm.

Clark joins an ultra-athletic if not always patient St. John’s roster. He has the athleticism to keep up with their speed but brings a level of efficiency that is somewhat new to the Red Storm. His eFG% in his last season with the Spartans was 60.8 which is in the top 10 on this list. His go to move is a very accurate spot up jumper but where he truly shines is in transition. In 19 transition opportunities in 15-16, he scored 35 points. Now, 35 points might not seem like a lot but that rate of 1.842 points per possession puts him in elite company. That number is in the 100th percentile of all division 1 players. And that will fit right in at St. John’s who loves to force transition. Defensively Clark is more of a liability. He has good length to challenge jump shots but showed no ability to stay in front of his man on the perimeter.

37. Marcus Derrickson of Georgetown
6-7 250 lb JR PF
23.8 mpg, 8.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 1.4 apg, 0.4 spg, 0.6 bpg, 1.3 tpg, 52.3 eFG%

Standing at 6-7 and weighing in at 250 lbs, Marcus Derrickson doesn’t look like your typical stretch four, but that’s the role is been playing in the nation’s capital for the past two seasons. He showed great promise as a freshman, scoring 7.1 points a game and corralling 4.5 rebounds. Derrickson has dealt with a series of minor injuries in his college career, including one that kept him out of last year’s Maui Invitational. Its hard to speculate how much these injuries affected him but if he’s fully healthy this season its reasonable to assume that he could be better than expected. As a sophomore, Derrieckson’s season was a bit of a bell curve with some low scoring in the beginning of the season, a stretch in late December and early January with 6 consecutive double-digit games, and then a long stretch of single-digit outings. The peak of the bell curve was a 26-point explosion in a loss to Providence, his season high by 11 points. This game shows the scoring potential is there but he has yet to develop the necessary consistency to perform at that level.

Most Big East polls predict nothing but doom and gloom for the Hoyas this season. Some even have them finishing below DePaul. If Georgetown is going to find success, it will be because of their talented frontcourt. Derrickson teams up with Govan to form a big bodied duo with some nice shooting ability from the outside. Last season, Derrickson shot less shots at a lower percentage from beyond the arc. A return to freshman year shooting form will be key and give other players like Dickerson and Govan room to operate. Focusing more on threes doesn’t mean abandoning the low post game. Derrickson was surprisingly efficient when backing opponents down. If he is healthy, he could be one of the better inside out threats in the Big East. Defensively, Derrickson struggled to close out on jumpshooters and gave up way too many points on open looks. Keeping him closer to the post will prevent him from being exposed on the perimeter.

36. Jacob Epperson of Creighton
6-11 210 lb FR C
4-star C, ranked #76 overall by 247 Composite

Jacob Epperson is Australian by birth (which will be brought up in every Creighton broadcast this season) but spent the past season at basketball powerhouse La Lumiere. He’s a tall string bean of a center, much like Justino Patton was when he arrived in Omaha. Their skillsets aren’t too different either. Epperson can run the floor extremely well, throws down in transition, has some nifty footwork around the rim, and can step out and shoot from the outside. He is the finesse type center that is becoming oh so popular in today’s game and should help him fit right in with the Jays. His biggest obstacle to immediate playing time is his physicality. His body needs a lot of work before it is ready to handle the Angel Delgados of the world.

Epperson presents a bit of a challenge for Coach McDermott. His immediate need to build up muscle makes him the perfect candidate for a redshirt. After all, the redshirt season was vital to the success of Patton, currently a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves. However, Creighton’s roster has a huge hole in the middle due to the departure of the aforementioned Patton. Toby Hegner has the size but not the strength to bang with other Big East centers. Manny Suarez has the size and the strength but the Big East is a huge step up from the Division 2 ranks. Martin Krampelj has some promising advanced stats but lacks the size to act as a true center. This lack of a true center may force Epperson into action a little early. While he will struggle to defend and rebound against other bigs, his skillset could bring a valuable dimension to the Jay’s high-powered offense. If he can hit outside shots with any level of consistency, the Jays may once again be the most dangerous outside shooting teams in the Big East.

35. JaMarko Pickett of Georgetown
6-7 190 lb FR SF
4-star SF, ranked #75 overall by 247 Composte

Things were looking very bleak for Georgetown in the middle of this summer. Their coach had been fired, their two star players were gone, and the recruiting class was lacking big names after the decommitment of Tremont Waters. Then came a blessing, a top 75 recruit decommitted from Ole Miss and Coach Ewing was able to jump in and land his first career four-star commitment. Beating out local rival Maryland for his services was just gravy. JaMarko Pickett brings some great talent to Georgetown, enough to overlook the way he left Ole Miss. Nothing unethical, but Pickett simply stopped talking to Ole Miss after assistant coach Bill Armstrong left for another job. Weeks went by without Pickett taking any of Ole Miss’s calls. Eventually Ole Miss received a request from the National Letter of Intent Office without a word from Pickett. An odd situation but Ole Miss’s loss is Georgetown’s much needed gain.

Pickett is a long and lean wing with eye popping athleticism and some shooting touch. With Rodney Pryor graduated, there is a huge hole on the wing that Pickett can step right into. His biggest challenge will be adding muscle and getting his body Big East ready. Judging by his measurements in high school and his weight on the official Georgetown roster he has already put on some good weight. Neither Trey Dickerson nor Jagan Mosely are known scorers so Pickett may be called upon early to fulfill some of that role. He will get maximum opportunities to put up some numbers and that could make him a dark horse candidate for the Big East Freshman of the Year.

34. Tre’Darius McCallum of DePaul
6-7 220 lb SR PF
31.0 mpg, 9.7 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.3 apg, 1.5 spg, 0.8 bpg, 1.6 tpg, 48.2 eFG%

Tre’Darius McCallum spent his first two seasons playing for JUCO powerhouse Indian Hills Community College. He, along with current Providence Friar Emmitt Holt, made up a talented frontcourt for the Warriors and both were able to translate their performances into Big East scholarship offers. He spent last season serving as the de facto starting center for DePaul due to their lack of size in the post. He was a solid contributor in the scoring column and on the boards, the latter of which he led the team with 6.8 rebounds a game. His best performance almost translated into the biggest Big East win in DePaul history. He turned in a stat line of 19 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, and 2 blocks which was almost enough for the Blue Demons to knock off #1 Villanova in their gym. DePaul ended up losing by three but McCallum’s dominance of Darryl Reynolds gave the Wildcats a true scare.

No one is more excited about DePaul’s successful recruitment of Marin Maric more than McCallum. The addition of an actual center to DePaul’s roster will allow McCallum to slide over to the power forward position, the one he is truly built to play. His accuracy from deep was low last season, but McCallum is a stretch 4. The addition of weapons like Maric, Max Strus, and Austin Grandstaff should take some defensive pressure off McCallum and allow him to hit a higher percentage. DePaul’s starting lineup is going to feature several 6-5 to 6-7 type players who can defend multiple positions. McCallum uses his length well on that side of the ball and led the team in both steals and blocks a season ago. With the better supporting cast, McCallum’s offensive and defensive numbers should improve.

33. Quentin Goodin of Xavier
6-4 194 lb SO PG
24.1 mpg, 5.1 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 3.4 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.2 bpg, 1.9 tpg, 38.3 eFG%

It was obvious to just about everyone that Xavier’s plan last season was to bring Quentin Goodin along slowly as Edmond Sumner’s backup, preparing him to take the car keys once Sumner inevitably departed for the NBA. They say when you make plans, God laughs, but I doubt many X fans were laughing when Sumner went down with an injury with 11 games remaining in conference play. Goodin was thrown into the deep end of the pool and he responded well given the circumstances. Over the last 18 games that X played including the postseason, Goodin averaged 7.7 points and 5.1 assists a game. Most teams would love those stats from a starting PG. What they might not like is the volume of shots it took to get him to those 7.7 points. Goodin’s 38.7 eFG% ranks dead last on this top 50 list. He had some dreadful shooting performances including 5-17 against Creighton, 0-7 against Marquette, and 1-14 at home versus Villanova.

Goodin is season older, a season more experienced, and the time he spent running Xavier’s offense will benefit him greatly going into the 17-18 campaign. Goodin will fight to keep his starting job at the point. X brings in a very talented guard in Paul Scruggs who happens to be the highest ranked recruit in the Big East’s class of 2017 (not counting the redshirted Omari Spellman). Fortunately, there is room on the court for both of them and their strengths should play well off of each other. Goodin already brings strong distribution skills and he is the best returning perimeter defender that the Musketeers have. If he has developed some patience and accuracy on the offensive end, he could be a very deadly weapon for his squad.

32. Myles Powell of Seton Hall
6-2 195 lb SG
23.8 mpg, 10.7 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 0.9 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.2 bpg, 1.0 tpg, 50.5 eFG%

Myles Powell is the second Pirate by that name on our list. Similar to the first one, he was a top 100 recruit from the East Coast with high expectations for immediate impact. Powell did not disappoint. While not nearly as good as the trio from the class of 2014, Powell filled the role of fourth scoring option excellently, averaging double digit points and bringing a valuable ability to space out the opposing defense. Powell is not what you would call consistent. He had the tendency to go off from deep (5-7 3P at Iowa, 7-10 vs Columbia, 6-12 at Xavier) or be ice cold (0-6 3P vs Stanford, 0-6 at Providence, 1-9 vs & at Villanova, 0-8 vs Georgetown). The one constant is that he will keep firing up shots no matter what his temperature that night. He shot 4 or less three pointers in only 6 out 33 appearances….and in three of those he played 16 minutes or less.

Powell is a threat to shoot from deep no matter where he is on the court. That will be invaluable for Seton Hall as their trio of Angel Delgado, Desi Rodriguez, and Khadeen Carrington all rely on having open space in the lane to operate. In order to take his game to the next level, Powell needs to develop better shot selection and some consistency in his shooting performance. He led the Pirates in 3PMs but only shot about 33% from deep. Even raising that percentage by 2% would have resulted in 15 more points for Seton Hall last season. Powell isn’t limited to a three-point specialist. He scores well in transition (often on the trailing three) and attacks out of screen plays extremely well. He was the weakest defender in the Hall’s starting lineup last season but puts up decent numbers for a fourth or fifth option on defense.

31. Naji Marshall of Xavier
6-7 218 lb FR SF
4-star SF, ranked #57 overall by 247 Composite

The last week of July in 2016 was great week for the Musketeers, as they landed not one but two of their top targets for the class of 2017. The gem of that pair (and the 2nd highest ranked recruit in Xavier’s class) was Naji Marshall, a top 75 wing coming out of Atlanta. Coach Mack secured the commitment over the likes of Maryland, Pitt, and the Fighting Buzzes of Virginia Tech. The first thing you notice about Marshall is his body. As a high school senior, he already looked the part of a Big East wing. If that is his baseline, one can only imagine what Xavier’s strength and conditioning coaches will do once they get a hold of him.

Marshall brings strength and athleticism to the wing and likely can play the PF for the Musketeers. He will have some stiff competition for minutes as junior Kaiser Gates, sophomore Tyrique Jones, senior Sean O’Mara, and grad transfer Karem Kanter are going to be clamoring for minutes. Where Marshall can separate himself is with his defense. He is a rare freshman that is known for his defense and Gates, Jones, and Kanter were all poor defenders last season. If Marshall can bring some defensive intensity, he could add a dimension that Xavier desperately needs. What could hold him back is his limited range. He is not known as a shooter and that is a huge part of Xavier’s identity as a team. The most likely player to keep him out of the starting lineup is Sean O’Mara. He brings a truly big body, solid interior defense, and scored 6 points a game in only 14 minutes due to his efficient offense.

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Categories: Analysis, Home, Offseason

Author:Ryan Jackson

Texas A&M Professional, Marquette Fantatic

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