Junior Cadougan knows it’s his time to become a leader. As the player with the most starts on the roster, the senior guard is the most likely candidate to shoulder the load of making sure players stay on task during the grind of the season.
Cadougan is a quiet person by nature and usually prefers to let his play do the talking, but he realizes this year is different.
“On the court, it’s a different story; I have to be vocal,” Cadougan said. “My job this year is to get the guys to come in and work and play hard and be positive all the time.”
Cadougan has never been seen as a scoring threat, having averaged just 4.4 points per game in 78 career contests, including 34 starts.
But his confidence in getting to the basket and either getting fouled or setting up teammates for an easy score has grown in the last two years. Cadougan had a career-high 6.4 points per game and also averaged 5.5 assists per game last year.
Last year, Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder could be counted on to score at basically any time during the game. This year, Cadougan realizes points will have to come from someone but isn’t worried about who that will be.
“Guys have improved their game, and this is a different team from last year,” Cadougan said. “We’re not looking to single out anyone as someone who needs to be a scorer.”
He doesn’t get the attention he deserves nationally, however, and is seen in a negative light by some Marquette fans. Despite a 2.1 assist-to-turnover ratio for his career, including a 2.2 average last year, some see him as turnover prone because of his performance in the Big East quarterfinals against Louisville last year.
In Marquette’s 84-71 loss to the Cardinals, who went on to win the conference title and advance to the Final Four, Cadougan turned the ball over a team-high eight times, but the Golden Eagles had 26 turnovers as a team.
Cadougan said he worked on some ball skills this summer and is ready to take care of the ball better this year.
“Things happened last year, and I’m over that,” Cadougan said. “I’m over that now and ready to go. We need every possession, and I’m going to try my best to limit my turnovers.”
As an example of how underappreciated he is on the national scene, CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander ranked the top 50 point guards in the country and didn’t even mention Cadougan.
Louisville’s Peyton Siva was Norlander’s best Big East guard at No. 9, with Syracuse’s Michael Carter-Williams (13), Connecticut’s Shabazz Napier (17), Providence’s Vincent Council (18), South Florida’s Anthony Collins (31), Pittsburgh’s Tray Woodall (36) and Syracuse’s Brandon Triche (39) also making the list.
It goes beyond that, however, as NBC Sports’ Raphielle Johnson didn’t include the Marquette backcourt in his Top 15. To Johnson’s credit, he listed Marquette in his “others” category.
Coach Buzz Williams is used to having his Marquette teams under the radar, but to not even include Cadougan in a top 50 ranking is borderline laughable.
“In the two years Junior has started, we’ve been to the Sweet 16,” Williams said. “What his heart is is really hard to quantify … I think for his story as a human being and where he’s at as a student and as a player is really a great example to our guys.”
Being a great human being is different than being a great basketball player, but Williams is confident Cadougan can make the jump to being a great player this year.
“If you had just watched Junior every day, you would not look at him and go, ‘He’s a senior, he’s a really good point guard, he’s the guy that a lot of good things happen to when the ball goes off his hands,’” Williams said. “But you can’t quantify who he is internally, and that is a huge part of who we are.”
Redshirt senior forward Chris Otule is entering his fourth season with Cadougan as a teammate and is happy with the way he has handled himself both on and off the court.
“I’m proud of Junior because I’ve known him since he first came here,” Otule said. “I’m proud of what he’s doing now, and I hope for the best to come.”