As of last week, Marquette had filled its roster with a whole bunch of new talent, taking the roster to a full 13 scholarship players for the 2016-2017 year. They added Markus Howard (a consensus four-star point guard out of Findlay Prep) and Katin Reinhardt (a 6'6 wing transfer from USC). Here in Milwaukee we loved it, with one glaring exception: who are they going to play in the post?
The Golden Eagles have returning starting center Luke Fischer, coming off a season in which he averaged 12.1 PPG/6.2 RPG while shooting 61% from the floor and seems primed to have a fantastic senior season. They have Matt Heldt, underused as a freshman, but standing at 6'10 and having a full year of Marquette strength training and working in Wojo's system under his belt.
But that's it. The next tallest person on the roster? A tie between Reinhardt,Wally Ellenson, and Sandy Cohen III, at 6'6.
That's a bit worrisome. Granted, they've added Howard and Reinhardt, both prolific shooters on their respective teams last year, and they are adding Andrew Rousey, the UNC-Asheville transfer (a 38% 3-point shooter in his last season before transferring) and Sam Hauser, an incoming freshman from Stevens Point, Wisconsin, who shot 42% from 3 in his senior year of high school. Perhaps Marquette is looking to turn into Villanova North, and out-shoot larger teams.
Offense is only one half of the game, unfortunately. How will the Golden Eagles match up against the larger teams in the Big East? Wally Ellenson and Sandy Cohen both had to play up against larger opponents when Wojo went small this past season, so maybe they can handle it, and Katin Reinhardt mentioned in his commitment that he and Wojo had talked about him having to guard multiple positions. I tried to convince myself that it would be fine and we'd make it work; believe in Wojo and the system (and I can't deny that the prospect of MU shooting the lights out and playing a 4 guard/wing lineup with Wojo at the helm drawing up plays is tantalizing).
But news started to trickle out from various sources that Marquette wasn't done. They're still recruiting. Big man Kalif Young, a power forward prospect (6'9) out of Canada, has announced that he will be visiting Marquette from April 28-30. While not highly rated nationally, it still struck a chord with the Marquette faithful.
Furthermore, Duquesne transfer LJ Gill, a 6'8 transfer who averaged over 10 points per game, has mentioned Marquette amongst the schools who have shown interest, and will be visiting April 29th.
This seems to beg the question: what is happening up here in Milwaukee? Have we forgotten how to count to 13? Are these just rumors and speculation?
Well, these rumors might just hold some merit, and Marquette fans have been speculating as to which current roster player might be the one leaving the program to open up his scholarship, should one leave at all. However, with the signs that forwards are coming to visit, one has to wonder if Wojo has been telling these two guys (Gill and Young) that a spot will be open on the team. The candidates for leaving? Wally Ellenson, Sandy Cohen III, and Sacar Anim.
Why Wally Ellenson Will Transfer
He's an Olympic-level high jumper and his little brother just left for the NBA. He'll take his time to qualify for the Olympics and, in the process, probably take some of the money for the Olympics that the US National Team offers, which may disqualify him from basketball/end collegiate sport eligibility. He might be done with collegiate athletics or want to focus on the high jump after Rio in August.
Why Wally Will Stay
He left Minnesota because he wants to high jump AND play basketball, which neither coach (Tubby Smith and Richard Pitino) really gave him time in during his two years as a Gopher. Giving up his basketball scholarship would mean having to split the 12 scholarships Marquette gives out to the track and field/cross country team, and should he go to the Olympics he can't come back for his senior year. He's a fan favorite and everyone on campus loves him, and he receives the most support when on the court. He's definitely a glue guy and is important to the fanbase and his teammates. Plus, I still see him on campus, and if he had decided to go, I'm not sure that would still be the case.
Why Sandy Cohen III Will Transfer
MU is getting a whole bunch of players that do what he does, but better. Sandy started last season strong but faded quickly once conference season arrived, going 6-28 from 3 during the conference season while seeing less and less of the floor. With two seasons of eligibility left and with Rousey, Howard, Cheatham, Hauser, and Reinhardt all coming in as better shooters, he's far down in the pecking order for who Marquette wants on the floor. He's a good perimeter defender at times, but Marquette wouldn't suffer on the floor should he leave. There's also the question of his one game suspension last year; no one outside of the team/administration knows why he was suspended. It shouldn't be an issue going forward, as he returned and saw floor time later in the season, but it does make a fan wonder what caused it and if there are other things underneath the surface we don't know.
Why Sandy Will Stay
When Wojo first came in, he lost all of Buzz Williams' former recruits except for one: Cohen, who said he committed to the program and wanted to be a Golden Eagle no matter what. He's shown to be a competitor and that he wants to be at Marquette, and is definitely not untalented. His sister, Natisha Hiedeman, is a star on the women's team here at Marquette. As far as I'm aware, he's still on campus and is still training with the team.
Why Sacar Anim Will Transfer
Sacar saw only 83 minutes of floor time (4.9 minutes per game) and attempted only 17 field goals the entire year. Coming in he projected to play as much as he did, but he might be unhappy with his minutes and will look to more consistent playing time to show off his talents, especially considering that, should he not redshirt, he'll only have two years left of eligibility and will still be buried behind others at his position for this year (and maybe next).
Why Sacar Will Stay
He won the Workout Award this season as the hardest worker in the gym and at practice. The coaching staff selects who wins that award, and that has to be a signal to him that he's a valued member of the team even if he's not seeing it translate to the floor just yet. He was a project coming in, and will continue to be one, but he has tremendous upside and showed bits and pieces on the floor last season in limited minutes. He has to feel valued and knows that his time is coming, and maybe his development is right on schedule with what the coaching staff wants.
I'm at a loss as to which one (if any of them) are leaving, but here's my "Most Likely To Not Be Horrendously Wrong" scenario.
Wally Ellenson leaves to focus on making the Olympic team and qualifies for Rio 2016, effectively ending his college career. Marquette, with his open scholarship, brings Kalif Young on board. Young is raw but has the physical tools and defensive presence to contribute if not demand a place in the lineup day in and day out, and, because I believe in Coach Wojo, I would rather get another player to develop than have another one to come in as a stopgap for one year at a position that Marquette needs a player at for the future.