Cain, Bailey’s expectations rise in 2019

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Photo by Katerina Pourliakas

Junior forward Theo John (4), junior forward Jamal Cain (23) and redshirt junior guard Koby McEwen pose with head coach Steve Wojciechowski.

Junior Jamal Cain said his expectations for himself are a lot like his vertical: high and getting higher.

“(Fans) can expect a better level, a higher flyer, always going to the rim, making better plays and always being a threat,” Cain said.

Every year, college teams lose players to graduation, transfers and other reasons. With those spots open, it is up to returning players who stay to pick up the slack and help the team produce results.

This is especially true for the Marquette men’s basketball team, who lost four players from the 2018-’19 squad. Besides the four incoming freshmen who are expected to fill those spots, there are two players the team hopes to lean on and bolster this season: Cain and sophomore Brendan Bailey.

Head coach Steve Wojciechowski said both have an opportunity to carve out a significant role on the team. The pair has the size to play either forward position while also scoring from beyond the arc.

“That’s different than the rest of our roster because we have three really good traditional bigs,” Wojciechowski said. “If they evolve to the level we believe they can, they give us (the) kind of player that can crossover between doing some things that a post player does and having the skills of a perimeter player.”

One of the causes for the excitement around the two players is their versatility, length, athleticism and speed, assistant coach Dwayne Killings said.

“It’s a big year for both of them because it’s a chance to show their growth,” Killings said. “There is a great opportunity for them to play a lot of minutes on the floor this year. They’ve worked their tails off this summer, so now they have a chance to show what they can do. In reality, they can be a pivotal part of our success this season.”

Bailey, a 6-foot-8 forward from Salt Lake City, said he felt it was a good summer for him training at home. He said over the summer he practiced with a lot of friends.

“(I) was involved with a lot of great pick-up games working on my shot, trying to be more consistent and definitely being stronger so I can be more versatile,” Bailey said.

The sophomore averaged 3.2 points and 1.8 rebounds last season, which was seventh and ninth-best, respectively, on the team. He said he is aiming to assist his team however he can and “to be more consistent on offense and defense.”

Cain, however, averaged 1.7 points and 2.1 rebounds in his sophomore year, which was ninth and eighth-best respectively on the team.

He said he will continue to direct his energy toward building confidence, ball handling and getting stronger.

With Cain’s new status as a junior, Killings is expecting him to assume more of a leadership role, emphasizing his magnetic persona.

“One of the things about Jamal is that he’s got a great personality. (He) walks in the gym, you gravitate towards him,” Killings said. “He’s got great energy, so just be that same guy every day, bring that energy, and then I think it becomes infectious for our team and it makes us better.”

With the season just around the corner, Cain is looking forward to Nov. 5.

“I don’t have one game that I’m looking forward to, but to be that corny guy, I’ll say the first one,” Cain said.