Quick Observations from 1st Annual Blue vs. Gold Scrimmage

(Photo by Ryan Messier/Paint Touches)

Marquette Madness is dead and birthed from its ashes is a new tradition that certainly has less flair but a lot more focus on basketball. The Blue vs. Gold scrimmage was short, sweet, and to the point which might disappoint some but basketball nerds (and face it if you are reading this you are one) will appreciate the more extended preview of the men’s squad. The event was decently attended though the crowd was at least 90% alumni and their families. Things kicked off with some words from Shaka about each of the players. Nothing earth shattering was said but it was a nice way to get introduced to every member of the team. Most of Shaka’s tidbits were things we’ve been hearing all summer, including such hits as: “Oso will handle the ball more than any other 6’10” guy in the country”, “Sean Jones is the fastest guy I’ve ever coached”, “Joplin and Kam have never met a shot that they didn’t like”, and “Fans are really going to like how much Tyler has grown”. After these short tidbits, fans were introduced to the Blue and Gold teams:

The Blue Team (coached by Associate Head Coach DeAndre Haynes)

Tyler Kolek

Jonah Lucas

Kam Jones

Zach Wrightsil

Oso Ighodaro

The Gold Team (co-coached by Coach Hatt and Coach Barry)

Sean Jones

Stevie Mitchell

O-Max Prosper

Keeyan Itejere

Ben Gold

You’ll notice that David Joplin, Chase Ross, and Emarion Ellis were missing from the combined rosters. Ellis was not surprise, he had a knee issue corrected this summer and is still sporting the hardware to prove it. Shaka’s comments seemed to hint at a possible redshirt for the rising sophomore. Joplin and Ross were surprise scratches but coach assured fans that both were just slightly banged up and would be back at practice within a week. No sense risking injury in a scrimmage. Jonah Lucas stepped in to fill the 10th spot. In case you forgot, Mr. Lucas is a new preferred walk-on from Lafayette, IN.

The scrimmage was divided into two 12 minute halves. The scrimmage quickly became a laugher with the Blue team jumping out to a 25-4 lead only eight or so minutes into the game. The Gold team had a strong close to the half cutting it to a 28-18 halftime deficit which included a buzzer beating deep floater from Mitchell. The second half started as a more even back and forth affair before Kam Jones woke up late and pushed the lead out to 20+ again. A pair of late threes from Sean Jones made the final score a little more respectable but Blue still walked away with a 65-46 victory in only 24 minutes of play.

From the cheap seats there seemed to be two main separators between the two squads which caused the rout. The first was the quality of floor generals for each squad. Shaka has repeatedly made it clear that Kolek is going to be the starting PG and Kolek gave fans a preview of why. He ran Blue’s offense with precision and poise leading to a scorching 76.1 team eFG%. To be clear, this doesn’t mean that the dual PG look of Stevie and Sean Jones was bad (more on them later) just that Kolek was running a masterclass. The second difference was some scorching hot shooting from the Blue team while the Gold team was freezing cold most of the game. The Blue team sank two additional threes despite six less attempts than the Gold team.

Some thoughts on each of the individual players, keeping in mind that this observations from a single 24 minute scrimmage.

#1 Kam Jones

20 points, 6 rebounds (1 offensive), 1 assist, 1 steal, 0 blocks, 0 turnovers, 8/12 FG, 4/5 3P, 0/0 FT

The stat that stands out the most for Kam is his 4/5 shooting from beyond the arc. His shooting stroke looked as smooth and confident as ever. The thing that impressed the most however was his increased ability to penetrate and finish at the hoop. He had a couple of crafty finishes through traffic using skills that weren’t in his arsenal last season. He also demonstrated some increased energy on defense.

#4 Stevie Mitchell

16 points, 3 rebounds (2 offensive), 3 assists, 2 steals, 0 blocks, 1 turnover, 7/14 FG, 2/4 3P, 0/0 FT

Stevie was the best performer for the losing side. He’s the same defensive pest he was last season but even better. Last season he would sell out a little too much for deflections and could be caught out of position. Today he was equally disruptive while staying in correct defensive position. He racked up 2 steals in 24 minutes but had several more deflections. He brings the same energy plays as well. There was an offensive rebound where he outmuscled three Blue shirts (including Wrightsil and Ighodaro) for the ball. The most exciting thing about his performance was the offense. Stevie bravely penetrated in a way that he couldn’t last season and finished as many as he missed. He also shot 50% from three and looked confident doing it. Mitchell also clearly picked up some moves from Kolke as he displayed some pocket passing ability that he had not shown to this point. Mitchell emerging as an effective offensive option would be be a huge development.

#10 Zach Wrightsil

13 points, 2 rebounds (1 offensive), 5 assists, 1 steal, 0 blocks, 3 turnovers, 6/8 FG, 0/0 3P, 1/3 FT

This was fans first look at the reigning NAIA player of the year. He is certainly strong and athletic and his defense appears to be Big East ready. Wrightsil didn’t need to switch off anybody and appeared to effectively guard everyone on Gold team whether they were 5’10” Sean Jones or 6’11” Ben Gold. Jury is out on how he will handle the bruisers in the Big East since MU is lacking them this season. Offensively most of his work was done around the rim. He is a more confident ball handler than I expected. The best thing about his game today was his quick decisions when passing the ball which led to him racking 5 assists. You can never have enough big athletes who can pass effectively.

#11 Tyler Kolek

16 points, 4 rebounds (0 offensive), 6 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, 2 turnovers, 7/12 FG, 2/5 3P, 0/0 FT

Kolek looked every bit the confident game manager that he was at the height of Marquette’s big run last season. He still makes the seemingly impossible passes with even more precision than he did before. He simply made all of his teammates better on offense finding them for open threes or easy dunks. He had his fair share of hockey assists as well, starting a chain of passes that led to an easy score. Kolek showed more confidence driving to the hoop and finished more than he missed which was a huge concern last season. I was hoping to see him develop a floater this offseason but if he did, he didn’t show it this time out. Possibly most importantly, it appears his shot is fixed. He’s getting a lore more arc on his shots and it translated to making 2 of out 5 from deep.

#12 O-Max Prosper

11 points, 8 rebounds (1 offensive), 2 assists, 0 steals, 0 blocks, 2 turnovers, 3/8, 1/5 3P, 4/5 FT

Prosper had one of the more disappointing showings of the scrimmage. Not that he was bad but more that he looked like largely the same player he was a season ago. He opened the game by missing a wide open 10-footer and continued by going a mediocre 1/5 from beyond the arc. He showed some ability to penetrate but he wasn’t finishing well though he did get to the charity stripe more than anyone else. He is still the versatile defender who can guard at least 4 positions, which means he will play big minutes, but I had hoped to see more offensive improvement. He did lead all rebounders with 9 which will be a much needed skill.

#13 Oso Ighodaro

10 points, 7 rebounds (2 offensive), 4 assists, 0 steals, 4 blocks, 1 turnover, 5/7 FG, 0/0 3P, 0/1 FT.

For all of Shaka’s talk about Ighodaro being a primary ball handler, it didn’t seem to happen often today. Oso’s first drive of the day bounced off his foot and out of bounds which didn’t inspire much confidence. However, Oso has grown and it absolutely showed. He is stronger, more sure of his dribble (despite the previously mentioned turn), and will be a problem for opposing guards. Oso held his own on the boards, racking up the second most of any player in the scrimmage. He also swatted 4 shots and altered a ton more as the Gold team struggled to get anything going in the paint. He also had the most thunderous dunk of the day putting it on poor Ben Gold’s head. It’s clear that Oso will be a huge part of the team’s success. It would have been nice to see Oso take one of the open 15 footers that he was given.

#21 Ben Gold

2 points, 2 rebound (1 offensive), 0 assists, 0 steals, 1 block, 1/7 FG, 0/3 3P, 0/0 FT

Ben Gold easily had the roughest outing of anyone today. He wasn’t a factor on the boards. He didn’t have any luck going against Oso or Wrightsil, and was 0 for everything beyond the arc. On the plus side, he wasn’t as bad on defense as I anticipated him being. He’s deceptively quick and stayed in front of Oso fairly well and even stuffed him once. The shooting form looked good and his release is very quick. Hopefully, this was just a bad shooting night that he’ll be able to shake off.

#22 Sean Jones

13 points, 2 rebounds (0 offensive), 3 assists, 1 steal, 0 blocks, 2 turnovers, 5/10 FG, 3/7 3P, 0/0 FT.

Sean Jones is going to be a fan favorite before the season is done. He is built like a Big East PG and plays with speed that few opponents will be able to match. Sean’s first points were from a pretty stop and pop from about 18 feet out. He also had a nice reverse layup around a defender (I think it was Wrightsil) for two points. The shot didn’t really turn up until the end when he nailed two threes in the later minutes of the second half with the scrimmage in hand. But it showed an ability to create his own shot which is sorely needed for this team. His passing was solid but he’s still not quite hitting his teammates right in the shooting pocket. Sean also had two brutal turnovers. The first was Sean literally taking his eye off an inbounds pass and losing it out of bounds. The second was a miscommunication with Mitchell resulting in Jones throwing the ball to where he was, not where he was heading.

#40 Keeyan Itejere

4 points, 2 rebounds (0 offensive), 2 assists, 0 steals, 1 block, 2 turnovers, 2/2 FG, 0/0 3P, 0/0 FT

Defensively, Itejere looks ready. He can probably be swtiched to defend any position and be successful, which means there’s a role for him. Unfortunately, he is offense is as limited as his defense is versatile. He hit both of his shots but they were the result of him camping around the hoop waiting for an opportune pass.

#41 Jonah Lucas

6 points, 2 rebounds (0 offensive), 1 assist, 0 steals, 0 blocks, 1 turnover, 2/3 FG, 2/3 3P, 0/0 FT

I have to say that the walk on held his own out there. He benefitted from the Gold team barely defending him, but how many times have we seen a walk on biff a wide open look? Mr. Lucas was ready and responded by nailing two (out of three) uncontested threes. Jonah was also on the business end of a loud O-Max dunk attempt that left Jonah sprawled on the floor. However, his body’s sacrifice threw off O-Max enough that it resulted in only 2 shots instead of 1.

After the final whistle sounded, the event wrapped up with a free autograph session with the whole team which was a fun opportunity for the fans. All in all, it was a fun replacement for madness (though not for Haunted Hoops) and it gave us an enticing look at the new squad. I came away encouraged by what I saw. There seems to be significant improvement by almost all of the returners and Jones and Wrightsil are both ready to contribute. It wouldn’t take much prayer to get this team an NCAAT berth.

Now for some individual awards:

MVP of the Scrimmage: Tyler Kolek

MVP Honorable Mentions: Kam Jones, Stevie Mitchell

Most Improved: Stevie Mitchell

Most Improved Honorable Mentions: Oso Ighodaro, Kam Jones

Best Newcomer: Sean Jones

Best Newcomer Honorable Mention: Zach Wrightsil

Tags: , , , ,

Categories: Analysis, Offseason

Author:Ryan Jackson

Texas A&M Professional, Marquette Fantatic


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One Comment on “Quick Observations from 1st Annual Blue vs. Gold Scrimmage”

  1. Tom Bourgeois
    October 14, 2022 at 2:53 pm #

    Great Analysis.
    Very much enjoyed the open scrimmage and agree with much of your assessment. In my mind, Itejere looked a lot like Oso as a freshman (very athletic with raw talent) . There certainly is a lot of room for shot development for Keeyan…free throws look to be an adventure and he could use another 20 pounds to mix it up under the rim in the Big East. That being said, right now at 6′ 9″, he can leap, rebound and make layups. Though Ben Gold is taller, it appeared likely he spells the 4 (whoever that ends up being) and based on what we saw at the scrimmage expect to see Itejere off the bench to get Iso.

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