GOLDEN EAGLE: Transfers help bridge gap for men’s basketball

Photo by Xidan Zhang/xidan.zhang@marquette.edu

Photo by Xidan Zhang/xidan.zhang@marquette.edu

Coach Steve Wojciechowski had some roster spots to fill when he arrived on campus, but he made it clear he would not pick up players just to fill those voids. The players would need to fit a certain mold, and fit into the overall plan he’s putting into place at Marquette.

Wojciechowski added three to the roster this offseason; senior point guard Matt Carlino, junior guard Wally Ellenson, and sophomore Gabe Levin (who has since transferred to Long Beach State). He also received a gift from former coach Buzz Williams before his departure, as sophomore and former Indiana center Luke Fischer will make his Marquette debut in December.

Carlino, one of the oldest players on this year’s roster, has been called the team’s most proven scorer by Wojciechowski. He had his best scoring season last year at Brigham Young, averaging 13.7 points a game. Likely Marquette’s starting point guard this season, the coaching staff expects immediate production.

Despite being a new face on the roster, Carlino is already taking on a leadership role.

“Being one of the older guys, that just comes with the territory,” Carlino said. “Guys come to you because you have the experience.”

Wojciechowski said he told Carlino scoring will be his major role on this squad.

“I anticipate (him) being very impactful,” Wojciechowski said. “He can score with the ball in his hands, and he can score off the ball.”

Carlino said he understands the offensive expectations that are being placed on him.

“That’s why I came here, that’s why (Wojciechowski) brought me here,” Carlino said. “I’m excited for the challenge.”

Carlino is no novice when it comes to changing programs. He started his freshman year at California-Los Angeles, but suffered a concussion early in the season and faced heavy ridicule from teammate Reeves Nelson, according to a Sports Illustrated report. Carlino left UCLA for BYU, a program that he felt fit him much better. He said he doesn’t want to think about the past, instead focusing on the things he likes about the Marquette program.

Although he will only be on the team for one season, Carlino is excited for the future of Marquette basketball.

“I’m a part of this program now,” Carlino said. “I want to stay connected to this program for the rest of my life.”

Wally Ellenson has been overlooked by many and is simply looked at as a step toward earning a commitment from his brother Henry. However, Ellenson began turning heads at Marquette Madness, dazzling the audience with a sensational dunk and one of the best performances in the inter-squad scrimmage. He’s beginning to prove himself as one of the most athletic members of this year’s roster.

Ellenson transferred to Marquette from Minnesota this summer after two seasons with the Golden Gophers. He averaged two points per game last season.

“I’m so happy I made this move,” Ellenson said. “I’m really loving it here. I’ve made great friendships. (Wojciechowski), he’s an outstanding coach. You couldn’t ask for anything better.”

Besides basketball, Ellenson is also well known for his track and field performance. A two-time All-American in the high jump, Ellenson finished second in the 2014 Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

Wally knows he’s going to have to answer a lot questions about his brother during the coming months. He says he and Henry had talked about the possibility of playing together at Marquette for a while, and he’s very happy Henry chose to commit.

Fischer joined Marquette midway through last season when he decided to transfer away from Indiana and closer to home. He has said on numerous occasions that he has no hard feelings for former Marquette and current Indiana coach Tom Crean, saying he was simply missing home.

“It feels good to play for a school you grew up cheering for, playing in Milwaukee in a place that I’m familiar with,” Fischer said. “It’s nice to be around people who have watched me my whole life.”

When Wojciechowski was hired, he became Fischer’s third coach in two years. Fischer isn’t too worried about adjusting to another playing style.

“It’s a fresh start,” Fischer said. “So far (Wojciechowski’s) system is really easy to pick up. It’s free flowing basketball.”

The 2013 Wisconsin Mr. Basketball recipient, Fischer could develop into the best player on the current roster. He was ranked 34th in the country by ESPN in last year’s recruiting class, the fourth highest ranked center.

Fischer, standing at 6-foot-11 and 240 lbs., is the only pure big man on the roster this season. He’ll likely have to take on a hefty amount of minutes, but doesn’t think the added pressure will hurt his play.

“There’s going to be pressure on all of us when we get out there,” Fischer said. “Once that first game comes around and I step onto the court for the first time that’s all going to go away.”

While Fischer sits out, senior Juan Anderson and junior Steve Taylor will likely split center duties.

Wojciechowski was particular in the additions he made, looking for quality, not quantity. Marquette only has 11 players on the roster, two under the limit. Having fewer players may hurt the team this year, but it gave Wojciechowski flexibility in recruiting. With those open positions, he has assembled one of the strongest classes in recent Marquette history.

So far it seems Wojciechowski’s plan is coming together well.