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High-profile freshman class fending off pressure

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Freshman+Sacar+Anim+is+used+to+pressure+after+four+state+championships+%28Photo+by+Doug+Peters%2Fdouglas.peters%40mu.edu%29.
Freshman Sacar Anim is used to pressure after four state championships (Photo by Doug Peters/douglas.peters@mu.edu).

Freshman Sacar Anim is used to pressure after four state championships (Photo by Doug Peters/douglas.peters@mu.edu).

Freshman Sacar Anim is used to pressure after four state championships (Photo by Doug Peters/douglas.peters@mu.edu).

The Marquette men’s basketball team has been left out of postseason play for the past two years. Despite this, there is an air of excitement around Marquette’s campus and hope that this year’s team could be headed back to the tournament.

The high morale that surrounds the team comes largely from the well-regarded recruiting class that second-year head coach Steve Wojciechowski has brought in.

The class, ranked 14th in the country by Rivals.com, is highlighted by five-star big man Henry Ellenson and is one of the better freshman classes to come play for Marquette in recent memory.

“We want high expectations,” Wojciechowski said. “We want people to be passionate about our program.”

High expectations, however, come with pressure.

“I just take things one day at a time,” Ellenson said. “So today I am just worrying about practice, and when it is time to start playing, it’s time to start playing.”

For some, pressure is nothing new. At DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis, Sacar Anim was part of four state championship teams. With each championship came added pressure.

“We had a target on our back, but you just try to not concentrate on that too much,” Anim said.

Wojciechowski himself is used to dealing with pressure. Coming from Duke, a team that is consistently in the national championship conversation, he often dealt with high expectations as a player and an assistant coach.

“You are always focusing on things you can control,” Wojciechowski said. “You try and limit your focus on things you have no control of, because if you are constantly gauging how you feel or your worth as a player, it can be a lonely road. I learned that as a player and I have had that talk many times with players over the years.”

Marquette has received less national attention leading into this season. Marquette was left off preseason polls despite the talented freshman class.

“I feel like we are an underdog,” Anim said. “I know we are one of the top recruiting classes in the nation, but I don’t feel too much pressure. I don’t think we are getting the respect we deserve, especially nationwide. I think we are a really good team, but a lot of guys haven’t seen that yet, so we are going into the season with a chip on our shoulders.”

The Golden Eagles feel that when the time comes, they will be equipped to deal with whatever comes their way.

“With the expectations that our freshman class has, we have to come in and try and build chemistry,” freshman Haanif Cheatham said . “I think one thing we already have right now is chemistry, so I know on the first game we will be a well-gelled team.”

If things go according to plan, the pressure will come this season, and the Marquette basketball team is ready to handle it.

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