"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Marquette Player Previews

As Marquette prepares to open its season with an exhibition game on Thursday night, our blog takes a look at the current roster and breaks down potential contributions and expectations for each player. In a year when MU welcomes seven newcomers to the roster, we'd expect this initial analysis to look quite different by the start of conference play.

Likely starting lineup to open the season:
PG: Dominic James
SG: Joe Chapman
SF: Steve Novak
PF: Ryan Amoroso
C: Ousmane Barro

Steve Novak: 6’10, forward, Brown Deer, WI, starter… It is sometimes unbelievable how fast time flies. It seems like only yesterday that Novak was a skinny freshman, having his breakout game against DePaul at the AllState Arena in Chicago. Now Novak is a not-quite-as-skinny senior, and is expected to be the leading scorer and perhaps more importantly, the leader on a very inexperienced Golden Eagles’ squad. Novak should certainly benefit from the influx in athleticism at Marquette, as last year, after Diener went down, he was forced to do things outside his comfort zone. This year, Novak will the beneficiary of outlet passes from driving athletes like Dominic James, Jerel McNeal, Wes Matthews and Dan Fizgerald, and should put up big scoring numbers. Coach Crean has also mentioned that it is imperative that Steve gets to the free throw stripe a number of times each game—Novak is a 90%+ FT shooter—so expect to see Novak post up or dribble drive into the lane more this year as well. Novak should go down as the all-time leading 3-point shooter at Marquette, and should have a very productive season in his second year as a full-time starter.

Joe Chapman: 6’4, guard, Chicago Heights, IL, likely starter… One of the most frustrating sights for Marquette fans last year was watching Chapman, who is clearly not a point guard, have to handle point guard duties for Marquette last year after Travis Diener's injury. Chapman will be allowed to return to his natural SG/SF duties this year with the addition of point guard James and backup Fitzgerald, and should thrive doing so. Without a doubt, Chapman will be pushed for minutes by Matthews, McNeal and Fitzgerald, but his three years in Crean’s system should gain him the immediate starter’s role. We would not be surprised to see McNeal or Matthews end up as a starter this season, but Chapman is certainly a capable, if unspectacular, player there.

Chris Grimm: 6’10” center, Brighton, MI, reserve… Grimm has never really lived up to expectations at Marquette, but he has always worked very hard. This year, Grimm is trying to return from elbow surgery, and appears to be ready to play a role in the lineup. Chris’ role this year should involve mentoring the younger players and playing as a reserve at center, picking up charges and rebounds and setting screens (having no “moving screen violations” should be a goal, Chris!), and making his putbacks. We do not anticipate Grimm starting, but he certainly will play somewhere between 5-15 minutes at the center position this season.

Mike Kinsella: 7’0” center, Rochester, MN, reserve… Kinsella’s experience at Marquette has been a very disappointing one so far due to no fault of his own. First it was feet problems. Then it was knee problems. After missing a good portion of last year to injury, Mike was ready to go and excited about the season, and had even added 15 pounds in the offseason before the knee problems started. To Mike’s credit, his timetable for return went from questionable for the year to mid to late December to early December. If healthy, Mike can provide Marquette with a unique option at the 5 spot. Kinsella is easily the best shooter among the big men, and has a sweet looking long range jumper. Mike’s defense is suspect, but with the added weight, the hope is that he will be able to add to the center by committee rotation when he returns.

Jamil Lott: 6’7”, forward, St. Paul, MN, main reserve/potential starter… Jamil Lott was a big late junior college addition to the Marquette squad this past spring. He was highly recruited by a number of DI programs, and Marquette's hope was to have him come in and fill the void left by the graduated Marcus Jackson. Early opinions of Lott have been mixed. Lott appears to have a nice offensive game (an improvement over Jackson’s lack of offensive ability), but he also appears lost at times on the court. Lott definitely has a great deal of athleticism and will be used as a low post presence, but time will tell whether he will be a legitimate offensive option in the post while at Marquette. At this point, we project Lott to start the season on the bench, but he may push for the starting power forward position, depending on how quickly he adjusts to Crean’s system.

Ryan Amoroso: 6’8” forward, Burnsville, MN, possible starter/main reserve… Amo comes off a season that certainly showed the typical ups and downs of a freshman. In some games, Amo was terrific, showing Mike Wilkinson-like potential on the boards and offensively. In others, Amo would miss dunks, draw a costly technical foul at the free throw line, or make other freshman mistakes. Amo has bulked up even more over the summer, and it will be interesting to watch him with a year's experience. We expect marked improvement this year. His potential is tremendous, as he can hit the long range shot and score from the post. If he can stay consistent, we expect Amo to start at the power forward position… at least as long as he plays better than Lott in practice.

Ousmane Barro: 6’10 center, Dakar, Senegal, possible starter/main reserve… Perhaps a better nickname has never been had by a player at Marquette. A native of Senegal and a recent convert to the game of basketball, Ooze literally “oozes” with potential. With his extremely long frame and natural athleticism, Ousmane could be a force to be reckoned with down the road. This year, look for Ooze to improve in many aspects of his game, but still be a raw talent who can’t be trusted with more than 15-20 minutes per game. The good news: at the Marquette Madness event, Ooze scored 10 points in 15 minutes when paired with the terrific driving and passing of Dominic James. He also appeared to have substantially bulked up over the summer. The bad news: at the same event, Ooze also made some of the same silly fouls and did not appear to yet have the instincts of a great player. The likely scenario this year is to pencil Ooze into the starting position, and realize that he, Grimm, Kinsella and Dwight Burke will likely split minutes in the pivot.

Dan Fitzgerald: 6’9” guard/forward, St. Paul, MN, supersub… We finally get the chance to watch in games what everyone has been quietly talking about for the past year... the terrific versatility and overall solid play of Dan Fitzgerald. Fitz came to Marquette as an underhyped transfer from Tulane, and from all accounts, is a true jack-of-all-trades type of player. He has already solidified the duty of backing up Dominic James at the point. He also will undoubtedly see minutes at both the off guard and small forward position. At times, we may even see Dan playing a few minutes at power forward. Fitz can shoot the long ball, has a great handle for a man his size, is a good passer and has already been noted as an excellent defender. So, the bottom line is that even though Fitzgerald might not start this season, he will play starter’s minutes, and will fill a number of important roles for the team.

Dominic James: 5’10, guard, Richmond, IN, starter… Get ready for the incredible Mr. James. Perhaps never in the history of Marquette basketball has a point guard come in as highly heralded. James is a physical freak (his nickname is even Freak Nique), as witnessed by his trampoline-like dunks at Marquette Madness. Dominic is excellent on both ends of the floor, but as he says himself, the strongest part of his game is probably his passing. Repeatedly at Madness, James was seen breaking down defenders on the perimeter, driving to the lane and making incredible passes to wide open teammates (Steve Novak has to be salivating) or finishing around the rim like a pro. One area Dominic must work at is his long-range shooting. Nique certainly isn’t bad in this capacity, but he is no Diener… yet. Watch out for the little man with the big heart and game for many years to come.

Jerel McNeal: 6’3” guard, Country Club Hills, IL, main reserve… If any player can properly be labeled as “underrated” on this team, it is probably Jerel McNeal. McNeal is (yes, we'll say it) a Dwyane Wade-like defender, even though he is a couple inches shorter than Wade. At a recent scrimmage, Jerel had 27 deflections, which obviously, is an incredible number. Jerel is no Wade on the offensive side of the ball, but who is? McNeal is going to immediately push for minutes, and may very well replace Chapman in the starting lineup just by virtue of his extreme athleticism and work ethic. McNeal still has kind of a corkscrew-looking jumper, but that is something that he is already working diligently on. Jerel is, however, superb at driving to and scoring at the hoop. Look for Jerel to be a major part of this team’s success this year and in the future.

Wesley Matthews: 6’5” guard, Madison, WI, main reserve… Mr. Wisconsin Basketball will be a great player at Marquette, the only question is when it will happen. The safe money is on “sooner” rather than later. Matthews was impressive at Madness and other scrimmages with his scoring ability, defensive prowess, and maybe most importantly, his ability to “let the game come to him.” Maybe the best aspect of Wes is the extreme natural athleticism that allowed him to not only be tabbed as Wisconsin's best basketball player, but also first team all-state in soccer. Some people have speculated that because Wes split his time between two sports in high school, he may be a little behind when it comes to some fundamentals. While Wes does need to firm up some skills over time, he has showed a veteran’s poise on the court to this point, and figures to battle for solid minutes right away, along with his backcourt mate, McNeal.

Dwight Burke, 6’8” forward, Brooklyn, NY, reserve… This Brooklyn native who prepped in New Jersey was an extremely underrated pickup by Marquette late in the spring recruiting season. Originally slated for East Carolina, Burke was let out of his letter of intent when ECU fired Bill Herrion. Marquette snatched him up, and already, Burke has tremendously impressed those who have watched him scrimmage. Dwight’s surprising physical acumen has reminded some of Terry Sanders’ natural athleticm. Unlike Sanders, though, Burke has a nose for the rim, and the bulk and wherewithal to really battle down low.... the "bull in a china shop" type of player that can be so valuable. Burke is without a doubt raw in some aspects of his game. His perimeter shot looks bad and he still has to get a feel for the system. However, his performances in recent scrimmages have really made people think that long-term, Burke will be a starter at the power forward position. This year, expect Burke to find minutes here and there and improve through his apparently tremendous work ethic.

Matt Mortensen: 6’6” guard/forward, Provo, UT, reserve… It is difficult to get a true read on Matt at this point in time. In the early scrimmages open to the public, Mortensen looked overmatched athletically and did not appear to have a chance to contribute immediately to the program on the court. However, in the latest public scrimmage, Mort canned a number of three pointers and looked very solid on both ends of the court. With all the athleticism at the guard positions, it is hard to imagine Matt getting more than a few minutes per game this year, but he may be very valuable in certain games as a zone busting, David Diggs-like assassin from three-point range. Look for Mort to contribute more as time goes by.

Tomorrow, we'll preview the 2005-2006 campaign......

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

vrmneuI'm not quite sure how you came up with the projected starting lineup, but based on a public comment by Crean, I expect Lott to start at 4 rather than Amo. It's not impossible Amo will start, but I think the odds favor Lott.

I also think there's a 50-50 chance McNeal starts instead of Chapman, but even if he doesn't, I think it's pretty obvious that McNeal will get more minutes than chapman will.

James, Novak, and even Barro seem like pretty safe bets, at least at this point, to start.

I haven't read the profiles yet because I'm tired. I'll be interested to check them out when I get up for one of my middle-of-the-night slhourns to the W.C.