Markus Howard mentors younger guards ahead of foreign tour to Spain, France


Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics

One look around the Al McGuire Center after Saturday’s open practice, and it’s clear fans’ attention is on Markus Howard. A lengthy line formed for autographs as he talked to media.

Yet the reigning BIG EAST Player of the Year has his focus elsewhere — on mentoring newcomer guards Symir Torrence and Dexter Akanno.

“This being my fourth year, I think all I can do is (just try) to get what I’ve learned and give it to the younger guys,” Howard said. “That’s kind of been my thing is trying to be a big brother, a mentor, to these guys.”

Head coach Steve Wojciechowski said Howard has always been a great example; now it’s Torrence and Akanno’s time to learn from him.

“For Symir and Dexter, the opportunity to go against them on a daily basis but also to learn from him is, I think, a huge benefit to their careers,” Wojciechowski said.

Akanno, who committed to Marquette last September, said it’s been great learning from Howard.

“The way he talks, the way he leads, the way he carries himself around shows me how I’m supposed to lead when I’m up there,” Akanno said. “He’s a real big influence.”

As Akanno looks to learn from how Howard carries himself, he’s also looking to emulate Howard’s hot shooting.

Head coach Steve Wojciechowski described Torrence, who reclassified this summer to the class of 2019, and Akanno as “willing learners and good teammates.”

Akanno said the intensity of practice and the detail-oriented focus has been some of the more surprising aspects of practice.

Wojciechowski said he was impressed with how Torrence and Akanno performed for the first time in front of a MU crowd Saturday.

“Often times freshmen can be nervous,” Wojciechowski said. “They handled themselves very well.”

The newcomers will have more time to acclimate with Marquette’s upcoming foreign tour. The Golden Eagles will spend 10 days in France and Spain for a three-game trip.

The NCAA allows for 10 extra practices before the trip, giving newcomers like Torrence, Akanno  and incoming graduate transfer Jayce Johnson more time to acclimate to MU.

Injuries have limited how much Marquette can prepare for the foreign trip and the season. In Saturday’s open practice, assistant coach Jake Presutti scrimmaged with the team to allow for a five-on-five. Outside of Saturday, Wojciechowski has focused more on defensive fundamentals until more players are healthy.

“We’re not very far along (in game preparation),” Wojciechowski said. “We haven’t had a full complement of players, so we haven’t been able to do five-on-fives.”

Greg Elliott is recovering from surgery on his right ankle in June 20, and Theo John was out Saturday with a pectoral strain. Wojciechowski said he expects John to return early next week. Elliott will not play on the foreign tour, but Wojciechowski expects him to be ready well before the season starts.


Wojciechowski on the newcomers

On Akanno: “Dexter has a high level of talent and ability. He’s an elite level athlete.”

On Torrence: “Symir is a really good basketball player and decision-maker, very good passer.”

On Johnson: “He’s big. He’s mobile. He’s a terrific rebounder. I think he can really carve out space with his post-ups. I think he can really help us.”