Courtesy of RetroAlexander
Shaka Smart surprisingly took the reigns of the Marquette basketball program in March, and like his fictional namesake Special Agent Maxwell Smart, he’s got a lot of doors to go through to bring the Golden Eagles to the top of the Big East. The departures of DJ Carton and Dawson Garcia have lowered the talent level somewhat, but Smart’s greatest successes come when his rosters play his intense defensive philosophy as hard as they can. Here are the players from Marquette and what can be expect for the crew hoping to “get Smart” some victories.
THE STARTING FIVE
PG- Tyler Kolek, 6’ 3” Sophomore (Transfer)
SG- Greg Elliott, 6’ 3” Junior
SF- Darryl Morsell, 6’ 5” Graduate transfer
PF- Justin Lewis, 6’ 7” Sophomore
C- Kur Kuath, 6’ 10” Graduate transfer
The two anchors of the Marquette roster are the veteran Morsell and the sophomore Lewis. Morsell was a solid scorer and an elite defender at Maryland and has the ideal profile for Smart’s aggressive philosophy. Lewis has all of the tools of a dangerous scoring threat- good athleticism inside and a steady jump shot. As we’ll discuss deeper Kolek will probably share minutes at guard with highly rated prospect Stevie Mitchell but was on the Atlantic Ten all freshman team with George Mason in 2020-21. Marquette fans have expected since his arrival that Elliott would emerge as a consistent scorer and maybe in a lineup where his skills are more valuable he finally emerges. Kuath was a strong interior defender at Oklahoma.
Marquette will be one of the youngest teams in the Big East but these new players should be fun to watch. Stevie Mitchell is a larger version of DJ Carton and his physical presence plays nicely with Smart’s defensive mindset. Kam Jones, Emarion Ellis, and David Joplin are all athletic wings reminiscent of some of the players on Smart’s surprising 2011 VCU Final Four squad. Marquee fans are also hoping Oso Ighoardo will finally give them quality minutes at the center position.
Smart and his nearby “freshman” Big East colleague Tony Stubblefield of DePaul have something to prove entering 2021-22. Each are taking on a conference where many programs have established histories of modest success (Villanova notwithstanding) and goal one is to at least be competitive more nights than not. Marquette has the talent to do that. The challenges for the Golden Eagles are two-fold. First is how fast can they learn Smart’s “Havoc” style of defense and how committed are they to put the work in to implement it. Second, who is their “go to” guy if they need a late basket. Morsell is limited offensively. Elliott has never shown offensive consistency. Lewis may or may not be ready to be the late game finisher. Others may grow into it, but the lack of reliable scoring will hinder Smart’s first season trying to bust through the doors and become a force in the Big East.