Marquette Wire

Men’s basketball notes: Short bench gives Elliott, fellow freshmen opportunities

Photo by Jordan Johnson

Photo by Jordan Johnson

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With Andrew Rowsey on pace to have more turnovers in this year’s non-conference slate than his entire junior season and Haanif Cheatham gone, freshman guard Greg Elliott had a perfect opportunity.

“There’s an old adage in basketball: You play like you practice,” head coach Steve Wojciechowski said. “(Rowsey has) got a very, very important and prominent role, and with that comes responsibilities.”

Rowsey’s benching gave Elliott a spot in the starting lineup. “We watched the tape, we talked about it in practice and we harp on it a lot,” Wojo said. “We have to keep working with (Rowsey).”

Elliott has taken advantage of his opportunity. In three games as a starter, the Detroit native has averaged 23.8 minutes per game since Marquette returned from the Maui Invitational.

“Greg is a good player whether he’s starting or coming off the bench,” Wojo said.

The freshman hasn’t quite transitioned to the game offensively; he’s averaging 3.1 points per game this season. However, according to Wojo, his best talents are not reflected in a basic box score.

“Defensively, I think he leads us in deflections,” Wojo said. “He’s got a real knack for blocking shots. He gets his hands on a lot of balls.”

This gives Wojo a different option on an otherwise defensively deficient squad. Elliott’s steal percentage is 58th-best in the country. The rest of the team is 171st in the country, per KenPom, a prominent basketball analytics site.

“His length presents some problems for other teams’ perimeter players,” Wojo said. “Especially because we’re not really long, so he’s different.”

This same depth issue has also granted fellow freshmen Theo John and Jamal Cain opportunities in key games.

“It doesn’t happen that fast but all that extra work (John) has been putting in is now starting to come to fruition,” junior center Matt Heldt said. “And I would plan on being used to seeing him play like this.”

Foul trouble has hindered John’s ability to make a difference in the post. Through the first nine games of the season, John averages 12.9 fouls per 40 minutes.

Cain has seen the most dramatic jump in minutes since Cheatham left. Prior to the junior guard’s departure, Cain averaged 8.8 minutes per game. Since Cheatham departed, Cain is averaging 21.8 minutes per game.

“I’ve been paying attention to what (coaches) have been telling me to do and what not to do,” Cain said. “They’ve been telling me to just run the floor hard, play strong because I’m not that built … And rebound, and make sure I hit my open shots.”

Cain is shooting 11-for-24 since the influx of minutes but has not become a consistently reliable option. After shooting at least 40 percent against Eastern Illinois, Chicago State and Georgia, Cain was 2-for-7 against Vermont.

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About the Writer
John Steppe, Executive Sports Editor

John Steppe is the executive sports editor for the Marquette Wire. He is a junior majoring in journalism and double-minoring in digital media and Spanish. He primarily covers men’s basketball, women’s soccer and basketball recruiting. You can follow his coverage on Twitter @JSteppe1.

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