What does OMax’ decision to stay in the NBA Draft mean for Marquette?

Photo by Ryan Messier/Paint Touches

With Olivier-Maxence Prosper’s draft stock at an all-time high, it was simply a matter of when, not if, he would announce that he would not be returning to Marquette for his senior year. Which leads to the question I’ve gotten most for over a week now, what does this mean for Marquette’s projections next season?


We should backtrack and acknowledge that while it stinks that Marquette won’t be able to bring back the 99% of minutes from last season (and in the process become the first Big East team to do so post-reformation) this isn’t a bad thing for the program. In fact, I’d argue this is a fantastic development for the future.

OMax wasn’t exactly an unheralded prospect when he announced he’d be transferring in to Marquette the summer of 2021, having been ranked as the 90th best recruit per 247Sports when he landed in Clemson. But he wasn’t considered nationally to be a top prospect once he transferred. CBS’s list of top 85 transfers did not include him (or Tyler Kolek, while we’re at it). Stadium’s top-100 transfers that year also did not include OMax in there. Heck, ESPN’s list of the top-100 transfers even had 19 additional honorable mentions, but still no OMax.

This isn’t to shame them for not believing in someone who showed very little as a freshman at Clemson, but rather to highlight once more Shaka and the staff’s incredible ability to elevate talent where it’s not exactly evident to the masses.

Tyler Kolek was the A10 Rookie of The Year but also didn’t crack any top-50 transfer lists. The fact he has become an All-American at the point guard position, and one of Marquette’s best passers ever is still unfathomable.

Sure, Justin Lewis was highly ranked and was seen as a potential star down the road, but he wasn’t on any preseason Big East teams before the 2022 season and finished as the most improved player, per the conference.

OMax didn’t quite get the same level of individual praise, but by most advanced statistical measures, had a much better season offensively than Lewis when he declared, without even starting to discuss his game-changing defense.

You could say they are outliers, but the more examples Shaka will have in his bag when he goes recruiting, the easier it will be to get buy in, not only to commit to Marquette but to commit to the role the staff has laid out for you.

That may mean getting pulled from the starting lineup midseason, or sacrificing a big scoring role, or exerting extreme energy on crashing the offensive glass. But if you are patient, pour into others and give everything in becoming a star that role, not only will you help the team win, you can still advance your individual professional interest.

From a long term perspective, there are few better outcomes for a program than to consistently send players into the league.

Lower floor, similar ceiling

OK that’s great, you say, but I’m not worried about 2027, what about this winter, where Marquette had a chance to be a top-5 team and a national title contender, is that all out the window now?

We don’t have to just ask this hypothetically, we can use some public models that will help us place Marquette in the context of the rest of the conference and the country.

On Barttorvik.com, OMax’ departure drops Marquette from the 4th best team in the country to the 11th, and from the best Big East team to the 3rd best. Again, these are not infallible and shouldn’t be etched in stone, as there will be roster movement on other teams as well, but still shows that despite no longer being a contender for the preseason No. 1 spot, the team will still have plenty to work with.

And if you don’t think highly of TRank and want a 2nd opinion, Hoop-Explorer’s projection for Marquette sans OMax still has them right around the top-10, coming it at 11th at the moment, 3rd best in the Big East and well within the top-tier of the conference.

Which is all to say, even though it would have been awesome to see Marquette being talked about in a way it hasn’t been since the late 70s going into the season, the end goals probably won’t change much.

The way I think about it, the floor of this team is lower without OMax, of that I don’t have any doubts. With him, there were very few scenarios where the team needed to rely on unproven players to make a jump in order to hit their peak. Without him, the team is much thinner, won’t have the same defensive size and versatility, and will have to rely on growth from others to hit lofty expectations.

But I don’t think it alters the ceiling. With OMax, I expected Marquette to contend for the Big East crown, be a top-3 seed in the NCAA Tournament and have legitimate Final 4 aspirations, depending on how the bracket shook out.

Without him, I expect Marquette to contend for the Big East crown, be a top-3 seed in the Tourney and have legitimate Final 4 aspirations, depending on how the bracket shakes out.

Opportunities abound

Why am I still so bullish, as opposed to the previous 2 seasons where I was on the lower end of the expectation spectrum? Despite no one player being able to replicate some of the qualities OMax brought to the table, particularly being able to guard 1-5 well and blanketing potential lottery picks on a nightly basis, I believe there is enough talent already on the squad to fill in through other means.

David Joplin will probably get the nod in the initial round of starters talk, as he was already a common direct sub for OMax, has the size to play the 4 and won the Big East’s 6th man of the Year award. Shaka has repeatedly said Joplin could lead the Big East in scoring one year, and it was his defense that would ultimately get him and keep him on the court. Now there’s a big hole and it’s up to Jop to make the most of it.

You also have Ben Gold chomping at the bit. The 6’11” Kiwi mostly played the 5 in his limited minutes, and without another addition to the roster, via portal or otherwise, will still be Oso’s primary replacement. But he’s not a 5 and if you follow the team on Instagram you know that Gold’s teammates usually respond to his highlights by calling him a big wing. And that’s what he would be at the next level. Of course, he doesn’t have anywhere near the foot speed or athleticism OMax had, and you’ll probably never see him at the top of a press, but with 30 minutes a night now gone, I think there’s a big opportunity for the Golden Bear (Gold/Oso) lineups that Shaka tinkered with at times. He’ll need to solidify his shot and work on perimeter defense, but I would not discount Gold taking one of the biggest leaps next season.

And then there’s Chase Ross. I still have the audio of Shaka calling him a “dude” after the 2nd game of the season last year. If you know ball, that’s one of the biggest compliments you can pay a player. And Shaka’s effusive praise is spot on. Ross has maybe the highest ceiling on the team and was able to carve out a significant role as a true freshman, something only Kam Jones has done with Shaka at the helm at Marquette. Ross doesn’t have quite the length that OMax has, and probably projects to be a shooting guard at the next level rather than a wing, but his combination of strength and athleticism make it possible to envision plenty of 4-guard lineup next year, with Stevie and Chase taking turns battling the bigs and wings. More importantly, Ross’ game isn’t going to be as 2-dimensional as OMax’ role was at MU (spot ups and cuts). Ross had 13 P&R ball handler possessions compared to only 3 for OMax, despite playing significantly fewer minutes. He also doubled OMax’ assist rate in his time on the court.

So even though none of the 3 players mentioned above will be able to match OMax’ contributions individually, Joplin’s shooting, Gold’s interior presence and Ross tantalizing athleticism and ball handling ability could combine to not just come close to mitigating the damage, but even potentially add a new dimension.


Once more, none of this is meant to downplay the impact that OMax had on last season’s magical run to a double Big East title. I would have loved to have him back for another campaign.

But it shouldn’t diminish next season’s excitement. There may be fewer wins in November and lower ranks throughout the year, but the pieces in place, and those waiting for a chance to break through are more than enough.

So what does OMax staying in the draft mean for Marquette?

That it’s a tremendous sign of a healthy program to have multi-year, non 5-star players be coveted by the NBA while still keeping lofty expectations in place. This is great for OMax and great for Marquette.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Categories: Analysis


Subscribe to our RSS feed and social profiles to receive updates.

One Comment on “What does OMax’ decision to stay in the NBA Draft mean for Marquette?”

  1. Thomas Bourgeois
    May 27, 2023 at 8:56 pm #

    As usual, Andrei, you are spot on. MU does not defeat the 2023 National Champs – TWICE, without Omax’s stellar defense. UCONN’s Hawkins must have had nightmares of Omax jumping picks. Omax deserves this shot at the NBA and he has the chops to do it like Jimmy Butler! God speed, Omax and remember your friends at Marquette.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: