Last season, sophomore guard Junior Cadougan ruptured his Achilles’ tendon on Sept. 18 and only played an average of 3.9 minutes in the 12 games he played in after he came back from his injury.
For much of this season, the sophomore has played second fiddle at the point guard position to senior Dwight Buycks.
But now it appears it may be Cadougan’s time to start on a Marquette team (18-11, 9-7 Big East) possibly headed to the NCAA Tournament for the sixth straight year.
Cadougan has started the last two games for Marquette, which is 2-0 over that stretch, and will continue to start until Marquette loses, according to coach Buzz Williams.
It started in a 74-67 overtime victory against then-No. 14/15 Connecticut on Thursday. Cadougan hit a 3-pointer, only his second of the year, that gave Marquette a 56-55 lead with 3:04 left in the game.
“You have to have some big guts to take that shot as a non-shooter,” Williams said. “Junior caught it and shot it in rhythm, which is the only way he has a chance to make a shot. But that our team threw it to him, shows the confidence that our team has in him.”
Cadougan followed that shot up with 10 points, 10 assists, six rebounds, two steals and only two turnovers in 30 minutes of play in an 86-62 victory over Providence (14-15, 3-13 Big East) on Sunday.
Junior forward Jae Crowder said Cadougan’s confidence is what’s made him a difference maker over the last two games.
“It’s sky-high, which comes from practice. He does well in practice and everyone knows it,” Crowder said. “He finds you in practice, so we know he’ll find us in the game.”
Williams said Marquette players like to play with Cadougan because he “makes the game very easy” with his precision passes and offensive penetration – both of which are making it “very difficult” to get him off the floor.
Whether he starts or comes off the bench, Cadougan isn’t concerned.
“If I start or come off the bench, it’s basketball,” Cadougan said. “If I come off the bench I’ll play hard. If I start, I’ll play hard. It doesn’t even matter to me.”
Cadougan’s injury, Williams said, has slowed him down in his time at Marquette but now that it’s behind him things are starting to turn.
“He’s got, by nature, a little thickness to him, similar to me. When he can’t run, he struggles,” Williams said of Cadougan. “I think he’s able to play extended minutes for the first time, mostly because of his conditioning, but also because defensively he’s not a liability anymore.”
During the recruitment of Cadougan, Williams said Cadougan reminded him of former Pittsburgh guard Levance Fields. Fields was a three-time nominee for the Bob Cousy Award, given to the best point guard in the country, and finished with a 52-12 career record.
“He’s powerful,” Williams said of Cadougan. “When he was on campus, I told him that I thought he was a faster Levance Fields. He’s only a sophomore, and I think that’s what he is.”