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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Walk-on players’ energy during practice vital to team success

Photo by Andrew Himmelberg

Walk-on players make up almost one-fourth of the Marquette men’s basketball roster. Chances are at the end of the game none of their names will be on the stats sheet.

“They do everything from (keeping) our guys ready to go (to keeping) them upbeat,” assistant coach Dwayne Killings said. “They’re cheering on the bench whether it be practice or games.”

Cam Marotta, Mike Lelito, Buddy Jaffee and Tommy Gardiner are walk-ons for the Golden Eagles, meaning they are non-scholarship players who rarely get to see the court compared to scholarship players. Wojciechowski has never had this many walk-ons on the roster at one time.

Last year, Marquette had two walk-ons: then-junior Marotta and then-redshirt freshman Lelito. Since then, the coaching staff added freshmen Jaffee and Gardiner, allowing for more options in practice.

“You never know if somebody’s going to get hurt, so (we) have guys that are ready to fill in,” Killings said. “Also, when you’re preparing for other teams, you have a full scout team that can run the other teams, plays and mimic what the other teams do. That really helps us prepare.”

Although walk-ons are on the roster as players, they have different responsibilities from scholarship players. They are less concerned with personal improvement and more focused on team improvement.

“We’ve got a bunch of responsibilities, but I’d say the biggest ones are keeping everyone on track and staying focused,” Lelito said. “Whenever (the other players) are not locked in like they usually are, (we) get them back in that mindset. Practice are our game days, so we take that seriously.”

Of the four walk-ons, each varies in size, skill set and experience. Marotta is a 5-foot-10 senior. Lelito is a 6-foot-5 redshirt sophomore. Jaffee is 6-foot-3, and Gardiner is 6-foot-7.

“Tommy is a really skilled forward,” Killings said. “It’s been great for us to have (him) in our program. Mike is very versatile on the perimeter; he does some different things.”

According to Killings, Marotta is fast despite his size and that makes movement, shooting and passing the basketball easier. Killings also said Buddy is a talented shooter.

Marotta and Lelito have tried to help Gardiner and Jaffee adjust to being freshmen on a high-major college basketball program.

“Obviously there’s a learning curve. Coming in you don’t really know what to expect as a walk-on,” Marotta said. “Tommy and Buddy are doing a really good job. They’re very energetic, and they’re encouraging to the other guys, so they’ve been doing a really good job early on giving these guys good looks.”

Jaffee said the ability to play at the highest level in college basketball has always been an aspiration of his.

“Being able to accomplish it at a school like Marquette is a dream come true,” Jaffee said. “It’s really tough, it’s definitely a full-time job between school and basketball but its great, the payoff is awesome.”

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