Jamal Cain, others look to step up in Bailey’s absence

Forward+Jamal+Cain+%2823%29+goes+up+for+a+layup+in+a+game+against+Grambling+State+last+season.+

Photo by Marquette Wire stock photo

Forward Jamal Cain (23) goes up for a layup in a game against Grambling State last season.

The Marquette men’s basketball program released the surprising news May 22 that Brendan Bailey would not be returning to the program in order to pursue his professional basketball career.

Last season Bailey averaged 7.1 points per game along with 1.1 assists and was second on the team with an average of 5.2 rebounds per game. He had the most rebounds on the team with 157, with Theo John and Jayce Johnson following close behind with 156 and 155, respectively.

Bailey was occasionally an important factor when it came to scoring as well. He had seven games scoring in double digits, and that typically came from hitting three-pointers. His best game in a Marquette uniform was a 27-point performance in an early season loss against then No. 5 Maryland.

In order to replace Bailey’s abilities as a rebounder, scorer and defender at the forward position, senior forward Jamal Cain looks to have an expanded role this upcoming season.

Cain averaged 18.4 minutes per game off the bench last season, posting 5.2 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. He shot 48.3% from the field and 38.2% from deep.

“I’m going to have to improve and get better, particularly when it comes to being a vocal leader on the team,” Cain said. “We have a young team, so I need to help make sure guys are in the right spot and doing the right thing.”

Cain also said that this expanded role will not be the only thing that will help replace Bailey’s production, as a lot of the new faces in Marquette’s program will provide help at the forward spot.

“I feel like a lot of the new guys will come in and fill out those gaps perfectly,” Cain said. “They all bring something unique but they give us a lot of length and size.”

Specifically, first-year 6-foot-11 forward Dawson Garcia was recognized as BIG EAST Preseason Freshman of the Year. The 6-foot-7 forward Justin Lewis and 6-foot-9 forward Osa Ighodaro also look to play roles in providing length at the position.

“Justin can be a mismatch for a lot of big men because he’s really mobile and strong,” senior guard Koby McEwen said. “He has long arms and can score at all three levels.

Cain said that he is excited to watch Ighodaro this season due to his size and athleticism.

“He’s tall, has really long arms and he can shoot the ball well,” Cain said. “He’s going to be a great defensive and all-around player for us.”

Garcia fits into the mix at forward as well, but looks to focus more down low, similar to Theo John. However, McEwen said that Garcia’s athleticism makes him more versatile.

“Dawson is really talented, and he’s ambidextrous so he can get a shot off down low with either hand,” McEwen said. “Even at six feet eleven inches he’s probably one of the top three most athletic people on our team.”

With Cain and John returning in addition to the newcomers, head coach Steve Wojciechowski said that his team is looking to be more balanced at the forward positions this upcoming season.

“Obviously we lost some real key players, but the group we have with us now will be a really exciting group,” Wojciechowski said. “I think we can be a more balanced team and we’ll look to be different that we were last year on both ends of the floor.”

Wojciechowski also said that you cannot easily replace the players that left the program after last season such as Bailey, Jayce Johnson, Sacar Anim and most notably Markus Howard. However, he said that the team he has this year is strong on both ends of the court and collectively can help make up for the lost production.

“I think we have a lot of really good players, and I think we can score in a lot of different ways,” Wojciechowski said. “I like our depth, and I think our defensive versatility will translate to more wins.”

This story was written by Matt Yeazel. He can be reached at matthew.yeazel@marquette.edu or on Twitter @MJYeazel.