There is a ton of publicity surrounding the incoming freshman class at Marquette, and understandably for good reason.
The toast of the town is Wisconsin native Henry Ellenson, who is listed as high as the fifth player in the nation by ESPN.com. But while the bright lights focus on the mountainous near 7-footer, it may be the Golden Eagles' other ESPN Top 100 recruit who will push them not only back into contention in the Big East, but also send them dancing in the month of March.
Meet Haanif Cheatham.
The boy. pic.twitter.com/6Uxmh8OCcT— Haanif Cheatham (@H25_Cheatham) May 17, 2015
On the day Cheatham committed to Marquette back in September, his decision was understood to pole vault a 13-19 Golden Eagles team from 2014-15, into the consensus top-10 for new head man Steve Wojciechowski's very first recruiting class.
Listed by ESPN.com as the 85th best player in the country, Cheatham is one of the four Marquette four-star players to join Ellenson, the crown jewel of arguably the best recruiting class in the Big East .
And oh, by the way, Drake—like, THE Drake—gave him an Instagram shout out back in September during his commitment. What does this mean? No one's exactly sure. But, dude, Drake.
Standing at 6-foot-5, weighing in at a wiry 175 pounds, Cheatham and his left-handed stroke will look to send Marquette back to the dance for the first time since 2012-13, when former head coach Buzz Williams took them to the Elite Eight on the back of a 26-9 record.
Cheatham is described as, "a combination guard that is more of a wing player now but has the IQ and tools to develop into a lead guard with great size and feel. He will need to continue to hone his skills but he has excellent upside," according to ESPN's scouting report. On a roster that sees only sophomore guard Duane Wilson returning in the backcourt from last season, Cheatham will have the opportunity to make a splash landing up north before the weather even begins to cool down.
Where his biggest adjustment may come in isn't on the hardwood, but rather once he steps out into the frigid Milwaukee nights. The states of Wisconsin and Florida couldn't be more of polar opposites in the wind chill department, as the Ft. Lauderdale product from Pembroke Pines HS will attempt to adjust not only to the talent level of the Big East, but having to wear a parka and sweatpants after the game, not shorts and flip flops.
Cheatham played for Nike Team Florida in 2014, averagig 16.9 points per game while shooting 52.2 percent from the floor. He shot a modest 34 percent from three-point range, but had only three games where he made multiple threes.
Cheatham showed the ability to fill up the scoring column, pouring in over 20 points on six separate occasions in 2014 (including a season-high 28-point effort that saw him knock home five threes).
At the time of his commitment, Cheatham was coming in as the lone guard of the Golden Eagles recruiting class. Since then, Wojciechowski has been able to ink four-star guards Sacar Anim and Traci Carter, who while not as heralded as Cheatham, will be looking to crack into what now may appear to be a crowded Marquette backcourt heading into the fall.
In a September 2014 interview with SLAM Magazine, Cheatham described himself as "A versatile point guard, a combo guard."
There has been a considerable amount of noise coming from the program in terms of what jersey number Cheatham will wear. Initially, he was assigned #24; the only issue is that was worn by Marquette legend George Thompson, whose number had already been retired.
But this has happened before: according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, this happened in 2006 as well, when standout Lazar Hayward donned the number for three contests. Bizarrely, this wasn't done with any kind of blessing—it was done on a whim. Rumor has it; Thompson wasn't exactly pleased with the decision and the program's lack of consultation of his opinion.
Despite jersey confusion, concerns about what position he'll play, and even the change of climate, Cheatham will look to become an impact player his first year on campus at Marquette.
Doing so will almost certainly lead to more Instagram shout outs, and more importantly, plenty of Big East wins.