GOLDSTEIN: Marquette recruits continue to point toward a bright future

This season has certainly been a rough one for Marquette basketball. Blown leads, stagnant offensive possessions and poor rebounding have characterized the Golden Eagles’ season so far. However, the mantra has remained the same since the beginning of the year: next year will be better.

To be sure, all current evidence points to Marquette fans’ faith in next year’s team being well-placed. ESPN currently rates Marquette’s recruiting class fifth in the entire country and 247sports, a popular football and basketball recruiting website, ranks it sixth. The class is ranked first in the Big East and ahead of traditional college basketball powers such as Syracuse, Michigan State and Duke.

As it stands now, the class is comprised of four players: five-star power forward Henry Ellenson, four-star shooting guard Haanif Cheatham, four-star point guard Nick Noskowiak and center Matt Heldt, who is rated as a four-star recruit by some recruiting websites and a three-star by others.

The most intriguing prospect of the bunch is Ellenson. He’s Marquette’s first five-star recruit in more than a decade and the first McDonald’s All-American the program recruited since Kerry Trotter in 1982. (Not even Dwyane Wade was an All-American.)

This past Friday, Ellenson casually mauled Eau Claire North to the tune of 40 points and 13 rebounds. He has a strong mid- and long-range jumper, is a superior rebounder, and boasts a well-developed post-game. According to Joe Ziemer of the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram, he even takes photos with every little kid who wants one after the game. He couldn’t have more green flags if he pulled off a 360 dunk while cradling a puppy he just saved from a burning building.

The other three prospects Marquette recruited are no slouches either. Cheatham is a capable ball-handler, spot-up shooter, and rim-attacker, all traits Marquette needs. He needs to work on his defense and he could certainly stand to put on some muscle, but those are both things that can be taken care of once he arrives on campus.

Noskowiak is a knock-down outside shooter who is a threat to score from anywhere on the floor. He could fill the 3-point void Carlino will leave when he graduates after this year, and he adds some fairly strong passing skills. However, his lack of quickness and propensity for taking contested shots could be a problem. Noskowiak has also not played since late December due to personal issues, but Marquette is still honoring his scholarship offer for next season.

Finally, Heldt figures to be a big part of solving Marquette’s rebounding woes. Marquette needs him to do one thing only, which is to crash the living daylights out of the boards. His offensive game could use improvement, but as long as he rebounds, Wojo will most likely be a happy man.

Marquette may not be done adding to the 2015 class either. On Feb. 2, Marquette extended an offer to three-star small forward Sacar Anim from De La Salle high school in Minneapolis and are currently the favorite to acquire him, according to 247sports. The Golden Eagles  have 11 players under scholarship for next season, which is two shy of the NCAA maximum of 13. He would be the only small forward in Marquette’s incoming class, so it’s an understatement to say that Marquette has the space to accommodate him.

247sports is also reporting that Steve Wojciechowski is also scouting two junior college prospects, Lee College guards Shawn Smith and Tyrone Outlaw, which should help overcome Marquette’s depth issues.

Whether Marquette adds to their recruiting class or stands pat until signing day, next year’s team looks substantially better than this year’s does. So sit back Marquette fans and try not to get too worked up about this season. The greener grass is nearly here.