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The Rise of Sacar Anim

Give this man the praise he deserves.

Sacar Anim has always been known for his great defense. While he hasn’t won Big East Defensive Player of the Year, he’s been Marquette’s best perimeter defender for the past few seasons, often guarding the other team’s best player. This season, Anim has become more than a defensive anchor, he’s become a dynamic scoring threat.

I’ve been planning to write an article titled: “Who is/Who Should be Marquette’s Second Scoring Option.” There were three clear front runners: Brendan Bailey, Koby McEwen, and Sacar Anim. Many probably expected Koby to fill the role as the second option to Markus Howard. While he’s shown he has dynamic playmaking ability and has proven to come up big in the clutch, his scoring hasn’t yet translated, being far too inconsistent and unreliable. Brendan, who clearly has the most potential, is not aggressive enough yet. Rarely is Brendan seen creating shots for himself. As the season has gone along, Anim has stepped up and become the clear second scoring option.

Progression

Coming out of high school, Sacar Anim was not a top prospect. He was a 3-star prospect, ranking #191 nationally on 247sports.com. Anim was the lowest ranking recruit in Marquette’s class that included Henry Ellenson (9), Haanif Cheatham (75), Traci Carter (127), and the legendary Matt Heldt (136). Expectations were not high for Anim at Marquette. During his freshman year, Sacar was barely a factor. He appeared in 17 games, averaging 4.9 MPG. Just before his sophomore season was set to begin, Anim would decide to redshirt.

Anim would emerge as a starter in his redshirt sophomore season. Even while playing the fourth most minutes on the team at 27 MPG, he would not be relied on as a scoring option. With Markus Howard, Andrew Rowsey, and Sam Hauser leading the team, Anim’s offensive game centered around slashes to the rim. He would shine in this role shooting 52.7% in 2-point field goal attempts. While shining as a slasher, Anim would struggle as a 3-point shooter finishing the season at 23.5% from 3. These shooting struggles would contribute to his reluctance to shoot the 3, averaging 1 3-point attempt per game.

Heading into his junior season, Anim would again not be relied on for scoring. Markus and Sam would return and top recruit Joey Hauser would be expected to be the third scoring option. As the season went on, Anim emerged as a prominent scoring option largely due to his improved shooting. He must’ve worked hard in the offseason because he unveiled a reliable jumper from the elbow and became a lethal spot-up shooter. Sporting a 39.1 3-point shooting percentage, Anim became the NBA-desired 3-and-D player that great teams have.

Anim would again be under-estimated heading into his final season at Marquette. While Sam and Joey would transfer, Koby McEwen would be the favorite to be the second scoring option with many expecting a promising Brendan Bailey to establish himself as the third. Anim was just expected to provide what he had shown already in his career: slashing and spot-up shooting. But these two offensive skills he had relied on others. In his senior season, Anim has elevated his offensive game again by developing the ability to create offense for himself.

In the past, Anim would bring the ball up the floor to lessen the load for others, but when in the half-court he wouldn’t have any responsibility. This season, Anim is relied on to be the second scoring option. While the second option to Markus Howard is more like being third or fourth option to another team, his development has been impressive and has been crucial to this team’s success. Anim is now a player who is dangerous in the pick-and-roll. I’ve seen Anim come of the screen to pull-up and shoot, taking advantage of his 42.3% (6th in BE) 3-point shooting stroke, while at other times he attacks, penetrating the lane with ease. He’s now a player that you can also rely on to win a one-on-one battle. In Marquette’s most recent game against Butler, one play in particular puts this skill on display. Being guarded by Kamar Baldwin, a known great defender, Anim took him one-on-one. He drove into the paint, spun, and finished with ease. The player Anim was in years past couldn’t create offense for himself, and now he does regularly with confidence.

Importance

Anim is obviously incredibly important to this year’s team. If/When Marquette makes the tournament, (hot take alert) he will be as important as any other player to that success. But his development means more than the success of this team, it shows the development of Marquette’s program.

Two years ago, I wrote about how Wojo’s 2017 recruiting class was his most important. Jamal Cain, Greg Elliott and Theo John were all outside the top-100 in their class, but all showed promise in their freshman season. I mentioned how (to that point in his coaching career) Wojo had failed to develop or even retain players, with Sandy Cohen and Haanif Cheatham being primary examples. I pointed to Villanova as being the prime example of how important player development is to becoming a top program. This was highlighted by the dramatic improvements Josh Hart and Mikal Bridges made in their time at Villanova. The 2017 class will continue to be crucial to Marquette’s success, especially as they will lead the post-Markus Howard era, and all three players can look up to Anim’s development. I don’t get to watch Marquette’s practices and I don’t get to observe workouts, but Anim has clearly worked incredibly hard on his game and it shows every time he plays. In an era where many players transfer, especially from Marquette, Anim never quit on the program he committed to, even after his first two seasons may have not gone as well as he hoped. Anim is the golden example of development in the Wojo era and gives hope to how the program can develop players in the future.