The brief Henry Ellenson era at Marquette yielded bittersweet results for the Golden Eagles.
Ellenson was phenomenal in his one and only year on Marquette’s campus, but the team did not appear in any postseason tournament.
Ellenson surely lived up to his billing, being named Big East Freshman of the Year as well as making the Big East First Team after averaging 17 points, 9.7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game. However, his heroics were not enough to create a team resume worthy of NCAA Tournament inclusion.
It should be noted that Marquette improved its record from 13-19 in the 2014-’15 season to a more than respectable 20-13 overall showing last season.
As expected, Ellenson was not long for college. The lure of NBA riches was too great to pass up and the Detroit Pistons ultimately made him their first-round draft pick.
Although Marquette is bringing back four starters, the loss of Ellenson led the Golden Eagles to be picked seventh in the Big East preseason poll.
Marquette head coach Steve Wojciechowski heads into the 2016-’17 season looking for ways to make up for Ellenson’s production.
“We’ll have to make up for (Ellenson’s production) with multiple guys,” Wojciechowski told Today’s U at Big East Media Day. “Offensively, I think we can make up his 17 points a game, and hopefully we can do it in a more efficient manner.
“Defensively, there’s two things he really did for our program with (regards to) rebounding and protecting the rim. We got to figure out ways–without having the size that he had–to do that.”
What Wojciechowski does have is an abundance of talented guards and wings.
Marquette is bringing back all-freshman team member Haanif Cheatham (11.8 points and 2.2 assists per game), junior combo guard Duane Wilson (11.6 points and 2.5 assists per game), and sophomore point guard Traci Carter (5.4 points and a team-leading 4.6 assists per game). Wojciechowski is also bringing in a great group of newcomers, including four-star freshman point guard Markus Howard and sharpshooting transfers Katin Reinhardt (USC) and Andrew Rowsey (UNC Asheville).
It wouldn’t be a stretch to label Marquette’s backcourt the deepest in the league. Wojciechowski plans to take advantage of that depth and play four guards at a time.
“We’ll have four guards in the lineup,” Wojciechowski admitted. “We may be undersized, but we’ll be able to put at least four guys on the floor that can make plays from different parts of the floor. We’re excited to do that.”
In the frontcourt, Wojciechowski has the ever-so reliable Luke Fischer at his disposal.
The play of Fischer last season was overshadowed with Ellenson grabbing all the headlines. Fischer had a fine junior campaign and averaged 12.1 points and 6.2 rebounds per game last season, while shooting 60.8 percent from the field (second in the Big East).
Wojciechowski is also hopeful center Matt Heldt can makes strides in his sophomore season after a freshman year in which he battled an injury.
Wojciechowski talked more about the play of the frontcourt:
“We need Luke to have his best year. We need him to be a double-double level guy, where you can pretty much put it in the book on a day-to-day basis. He’s gonna give you double-figure points and double-figure rebounds (on most nights).
“And Matt Heldt was really starting to hit his stride before he got injured last year. He can be a very nice player for us.”
As Wojciechowski pointed out time and time again, this is a team that is all about its guards. The Golden Eagles will simply go as far as their guards can take them.
While a trip to the NCAA Tournament may be tough to achieve, Marquette is another wild card in the league that can’t be counted out. Their season could go in almost any direction depending on how the guards play.
This should still be a competitive team that can at least make the NIT. If the guards go above and beyond the call of duty, this team that can crash the dance next March.