Grading Marquette players to date: Wings

The 2021 season has had a little bit of everything for Marquette, and while we did touch on some of the defensive issues at length in Monday’s post, I thought it would be good to get more granular and focus on each individual player’s performance to date.

We’ll start with the guards and go to wings before finishing with bigs.

As a preliminary caveat, grades are always subjective, and I personally do grade on a curve, where expectations coming into the season do affect the overall assessment.

Jamal Cain: A

Key Stat: TO Rate 10.6%

Rationale: I have a lot to say about Jamal so far this season, almost all of it good (hence the grade), but I wanted to start with the Turnover Rate numbers because I think it best encapsulates how much he has grown this season.

Jamal has spent a majority of his MU career afraid of the hook. More than any player in the Wojo era, he would get directly and immediately punished for making mistakes, particularly turnovers. Despite posting better all-around metrics than Brendan Bailey last season, Jamal never quite got the benefit of the doubt.

And to be fair, turnovers have been a huge issue. Jamal had never finished a season with a TO Rate under 20%, meaning he was coughing it up almost once every 5 times the down the floor when he was involved in the play. You don’t want high TO Rates from anyone, but they are intolerable from role players who don’t have ball handling responsibility.

Which makes his current number, put in context with his career ones, that much more impressive.

Cain is still the 4th option on offense and has a relatively low usage at 17.2%, but that’s still a career high for him. He’s also playing a career high in minutes. So add up the increase in usage and minutes, and it makes the decrease in turnovers even more impressive. This isn’t him simply sticking to a corner and not dribbling (which is what I had advocated last season), he’s now mixing in a bit of a dribble drive to his game, including a really nice fadeaway in the paint.

Over 60% of Jamal’s offensive possessions came via spot-up or transition last season and he filled his role admirably with a .945 PPP. But this season, only 42% of his offensive possessions are coming via spot-up or transition (and scoring over 1.2 PPP for both). He added an additional element to his game, increased his usage, decreased his mistakes and is still at a career high in efficiency, with a 118.5 ORtg.

Did I mention he’s 10th in the Big East for spot-up shots at 1.28 PPP, minimum 20 possessions?

He’s made that 3 position his for good, and has played almost 80% of available minutes there in conference play. Considering almost no one had him playing even 50% going into the season, it’s safe to say he has exceeded all expectations and morphed from a role player to a core piece.

Best Moment: Although there isn’t 1 play that stands out, his 1st half against Villanova gave us a glimpse of the level-up he still has in him.

Oso Ighodaro: B-

Key Stat: 7 min vs UCLA

Rationale: It’s tough to assign a grade to a player who’s only played in 4 games and 28 minutes the entire season, but those 7 minutes against UCLA are everything you want out of an end-of-the-bench player thrown into the deep end in an emergency. With all of the bigs in foul trouble against a top-40 opponent, he played solid defense, didn’t turn it over, and helped keep the deficit manageable to end the first half.

You might be asking how that’s enough to merit a B-, but I didn’t think he’d play anything other than blowout minutes in competitive games this season, and that still seems to be the case going forward. If he can play passable defense in spot situations, that’s more than enough for a year that’s a de facto redshirt year.

Best Moment: We already mentioned UCLA a bunch, so I’ll add the only video of him I could find.

Dexter Akanno: D

Key Stat: 36.7% TO Rate

Rationale: This is a really harsh grade, I’ll be the first to admit. Just because I thought he could crack the back end of the rotation, doesn’t mean he should be measured against unreasonable expectations. Add to that the fact he missed an entire month of practice time, and 2 cupcakes, leading to the start of his first real season of college basketball, and I’d be the first to blast this grade if I saw someone else make it.

So why did I stick to the D grade? I’ll blame Wojo here. Unlike Oso (and Jose below) Dex wasn’t reserved for spot cleanup minutes. His first game the doctor’s cleared him post COVID, he was thrown directly to the wolves within the first 10 minutes of the Oklahoma State game.

With Marquette up 15-7, Dex was subbed in at the 13:57 mark of the first half. It started out fine, and MU pushed the lead to 19-8. TO, Miss 3, TO later it was 19-15 and Dex didn’t see the floor the rest of the game. Again, don’t get this wrong, I am not implying that the Ok St. debacle was somehow his fault. There was plenty of poor play to follow.

What I am saying is that, whether he was actually ready or not, Wojo believed in him enough to put him in early not just against OSU with little preparation, but again the following game against Wisconsin. Something the staff saw in practice or over the summer made them think he could contribute during meaningful minutes in meaningful games. That’s not just a stupid blogger fawning over an Instagram mixtape.

He didn’t play in the first 3 Big East games, but did post 9, mostly blowout minutes, against Nova. But even here, Wojo put Dex in a tough situation subbing him in with Symir early in the first half and watching a lead diminish quickly.

I still believe Dexter can be a spot player this season, like Oso, but to date, he’s been a net negative in his minutes and is visibly pressing. He needs to play within himself.

Best Moment: Almost dunking on Wisconsin. You can see a bit of what is to come in the future here.

Jose Perez: N/A

Rationale: He’s eligible, but I don’t expect to see him any. This is still a redshirt year for him. There’s just not enough here to justify a grade.

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Categories: Analysis, Player Review

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