BORN: Wojo’s first season a success despite record

Every Marquette basketball fan knew what this season meant for the men’s program. It was going to be a rough season with a new coaching staff and just one recruit from former head coach Buzz Williams’ class sticking around through the coaching change. Coach Steve Wojciechowski had a lot of work to do, and it was going to be trial by fire for the rookie staffer.

But with the season finished, despite having the worst winning percentage since 1990-91, Wojciechowski’s season should be viewed as a success.

The biggest victory Wojciechowski achieved this season was that he laid a solid foundation for the program, both through recruiting new talent and developing current underclassmen. Wojciechowski landed Henry Ellenson, a five-star recruit, and added four other four-star recruits in Matt Heldt, Hannif Cheatham, Sacar Anim and Traci Carter. Carter and Anim committed to Marquette after Nick Noskowiak was asked to be released from his national letter of intent.

Being able to not only replace a four-star recruit with another, but add a second recruit of the same value toward the end of the signing process showed how successful Wojciechowski can be on the recruiting trail.

Wojciechowski also did a great job of molding the young players he had on the current roster, even though he wasn’t the coach that recruited them. Redshirt freshman Duane Wilson was one of the best freshmen Marquette has seen and has a lot of potential under Wojciechowski’s tutelage. He was the second-leading scorer on the roster and is a versatile player.

Sandy Cohen III was the only player from Williams’ final recruiting class to stay, and while he certainly was a raw recruit, he developed nicely through Wojciechowski’s first year. Cohen averaged 15 minutes per game as a freshman, and Wojciechowski did a good job of keeping Cohen out of situations where he was doomed to fail. Cohen was used less and less in the closing games of the season, but Wojciechowski made sure to build the confidence of the freshman to be successful for his future years with the program.

While laying a solid foundation for his program to build off of, Wojciechowski also handled his fair share of adversity. During the year, Wojciechowski saw his already small roster shrink from 10 to eight players when Deonte Burton and John Dawson transferred in December. From there, the team added walk-on Pete Thaus before parting ways with him and bringing on Mike and Matt Mache. Wojciechowski, knowing the small roster couldn’t handle it, completely switched from man-to-man to zone defense, something he did not want to employ. And when Matt Carlino and Juan Anderson couldn’t play due to injury, he made the most of trying to be competitive with only six scholarship players.

Wojciechowski still has areas to work on. Some Big East games should have been won, especially early in conference play, and coaching plays a part of that. He also didn’t always employ the best pairings on the court. But overall, Wojciechowski was more than serviceable in his first season as a head coach. With a couple more years and a chance to play “his guys,” Wojciechowski can be one of the best coaches in the nation, with a national powerhouse of a team.