Marquette Wire

Cain ‘stays ready’ despite limited playing time

Photo by John Steppe

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For many players, a five-point performance at DePaul would not necessarily stand out.

But for sophomore wing Jamal Cain, it’s a major step toward getting back into the rotation.

A year after playing 17 minutes per game, Cain played less than 10 minutes in 17 of Marquette’s last 20 games.

“My teammates, they’re just playing well,” Cain said. “They’re doing what they’re supposed to do and doing what coach said to win.”

For Cain, it’s the first time he had to deal with not playing for an extended amount of time.

“Not playing is something for Jamal that is not easy,” head coach Steve Wojciechowski said.

Cain said it was a hard adjustment.

“That’s when you need to drop all the selfish thoughts and think more of the team,” Cain said.

The sharp decrease in minutes coincides with Marquette’s improved depth this season, and Cain isn’t the only one affected. Senior center Matt Heldt, who started in 32 of 35 games last season, has not started at all this season.

With Cain not knowing whether he’d play 15 minutes or not at all on any given night, he said he adopted a “steady mindset.”

“You still have to get up shots. You still have to work out because you never know when your number is going to get called,” Cain said. “You never know what can happen during a game.”

As long as the team keeps winning, Cain said he has accepted the reduced role on the court.

“With the rotation that’s going, if they’re winning, I’m fine with it,” Cain said.

Junior guard Markus Howard said it’s part of the team’s approach for this season.

“We have a group of guys that truly love being around each other,” Howard said. “We’re just truly happy getting wins. When you have a team like that, you can just focus on getting better each and every day.”

Cain’s mindset helped him stay ready for Marquette’s game at DePaul University last Tuesday. He didn’t play in the last four games and did not hit a shot in the last nine games.

“It didn’t matter if it was 30 seconds left or 15 minutes left,” Cain said. “I was going to stay ready.”

With freshmen Brendan Bailey and Joey Hauser not hitting their shots against DePaul, Wojciechowski needed someone else to contribute offensively.

“It’s a long year for everyone, especially young guys,” Wojciechowski said. “You’re going to go through periods where you’re playing really well, and periods where you don’t feel like you’re playing as well as you’re capable of.”

Cain’s readiness helped answer that call, scoring five points on 2-for-2 shooting. He also had three rebounds and one assist in nine minutes against the Blue Demons.

Cain said he felt more confident with the ball, which he has been working on since the end of last season. He said the coaches have been telling him to stop over thinking, which has had a “huge impact” on him as well.

As his first shot went in at the 1:23 mark on a 3-pointer, he said his confidence jumped.

“It felt like all the extra shooting, all the extra stuff I was doing, was working,” Cain said. “It’s hard to come into a game after not playing for like four games and making your first shot.”

Wojciechowski attributed Cain’s success to his results in practice.

“What Jamal did tonight was a reflection of how he’s practiced,” Wojciechowski said. “He’s had a great attitude.”

Wojciechowski and Howard said they were both happy to see Cain find his rhythm.

“We’re really happy that Jamal did that tonight,” Howard said. “He’s really deserving of that.”

“I love Jamal,” Wojciechowski said. “Jamal is going to be a terrific player for Marquette. Because he’s had a good attitude, good things happened when he’s on the court.”

Now Cain said he’s hoping for his success at Wintrust Arena to carry over to the rest of BIG EAST play.

“Just shooting the ball and seeing the ball go in tells your mindset, ‘OK, I can still do this,’” Cain said. “Huge confidence boost there. Now I can’t wait to go out there and do it again.”

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About the Contributor
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....

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