Wojciechowski enjoys team’s depth after first week of practices

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Wojciechowski enjoys team’s depth after first week of practices

Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics

Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics

Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics

Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics

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When men’s basketball head coach Steve Wojciechowski started at Marquette in 2014, he needed women’s basketball managers Mike and Matt Mache to serve as walk-ons to give the team 10 players.

Four seasons later, the Mache twins served as referees, for Saturday’s open practice, where Wojciechowski had the most competition for playing time in his five years at Marquette.

“We do have great depth,” Wojciechowski said. “We have a number of guys that can help us. … That hasn’t necessarily been the case my entire time here.”

The team finished the first week of practices with 13 scholarship players competing for five spots in the starting lineup, the highest amount of scholarship athletes in the Wojciechowski era.

“On a daily basis, there’s a lot of competition,” Wojciechowski said. “If you’re not ready, then there’s probably somebody else that is going to be ready and make you look real bad in practice.”

While the team has two freshmen — Joey Hauser and Brendan Bailey — the duo is better prepared than average freshmen. Hauser rehabbed from his ankle injury on campus last semester, and Bailey is already 21 years old.

“Brendan, for a freshman, has been mature, and he’s been consistent,” Wojciechowski said. “That’s not always the words you associate with young players.”

Meanwhile, junior Sam Hauser has been a full participant in practice after recovering from hip surgery for most of the offseason. He started playing about two weeks ago and rated his shape as a seven on a scale of one to 10.

“I have to get back to game shape,” Sam said. “First things foremost, getting my wind back, and then just sort of getting the rhythm of the game back.”

“Practices are incredible this year,” redshirt junior Sacar Anim said. “Everybody has to come with their A game every night. … It’s a little bit different from alternate years.”

The competitiveness comes despite a more spaced-out practice schedule. The NCAA allowed teams to start practicing Sept. 25, but the team is only allowed 30 practices from Sept. 25 to the start of the season Nov. 6.

“It hasn’t really had a big impact because some of the veteran guys have been making sure that everybody’s here getting some work in,” Anim said. “You don’t want to go two days off or three days off. … That can mess up our rhythm for practices.”

However, practices have not been entirely ideal. 

The open practice ended on a down note when junior guard Markus Howard suffered a left hip contusion. He did not have an immediate timetable for return, but he was walking around the Al McGuire Center without any assistance within an hour after the end of practice.

Sophomore Greg Elliott and redshirt freshman Ike Eke did not participate in the scrimmage Saturday because of respective thumb and back injuries.

And the much-coveted depth still has some work to do on the court. Wojciechowski was visibly upset at the team’s effort in Saturday’s practice, which he attributed to the challenge of playing for the first time in front of fans, parents and media.

“What we did in front of eyeballs in the stands is not what we’ve done through five practices,” Wojciechowski said. “When you’re in a controlled environment — there’s no people in the stands, there’s no parents, there’s no fans, there’s no media — it is very easy to be outward and external.”

The Golden Eagle edition of the Marquette Tribune will feature more men’s basketball preview coverage and will be on newsstands Oct. 23.