Men’s basketball holds intrasquad scrimmage in front of fans

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Photo by Collin Nawrocki

Men’s basketball head coach Shaka Smart coaches inside a huddle during his teams intrasquad scrimmage Oct. 31 at the Al McGuire Center.

An hour before Marquette men’s basketball’s preseason intrasquad scrimmage began, young fans dressed as Buzz Lightyear, Iggy the Golden Eagle, Superman, Wonder Woman and Harry Potter were roaming around the concourse of the Al McGuire Center. It was more than an open scrimmage as these fans were dressed in their Halloween costumes and took part in Halloween games and activities during the team’s Haunted Hoops event Oct. 31.

This was the second time spectators were allowed to see the team scrimmage in a span of three weeks. The roars and excitement of the upcoming basketball season, only a week away, spread throughout the few hundred in attendance during the hourlong scrimmage.

“It’s fun to see how many people came out here to watch us play,” first-year guard Kam Jones said. “I’ve never been a part (of) anything like this.”

The Golden Eagles were broken up into two teams, Blue and White, and played two 16-minute halves. Every member of the Golden Eagles, including walk-ons, played in Sunday morning’s scrimmage. While things got sloppy at times, it was expected with nine newcomers and a new coaching staff heading into the season.

“Honestly, for everyone (but) especially our freshmen, just a chance to play in front of some fans in a little bit different atmosphere was a good step,” Marquette men’s basketball head coach Shaka Smart said. “It was a good learning experience. I thought we had some guys that were nervous. So it’s good to go through that.”

Here are some takeaways and updates from the scrimmage.

First-year guard shows off confidence

Jones was touted as a nationally ranked prep prospect who committed to Marquette and former head coach Steve Wojciechowski. Despite the coaching turnover, Jones stayed committed to Marquette when Smart was named the program’s 18th head coach in program history.

“The day he (Smart) got hired, he called me and that meant a lot to me honestly,” Jones said. “He told me that he was fully invested in me and what Marquette has to bring. So I feel like that’s the man and a coach that I want to play for so I just decided to stay and I’m very glad I made that decision.”

Out of the five first-year players on the team, Smart said Jones is the one that is ahead of the curve.

“He plays with a lot of confidence,” Smart said. “I would say of all of our freshmen, he’s definitely the furthest ahead in terms of just having an understanding of what he can do out there and not doubting it and all that’s really unique for freshmen.”

The 6-foot-4 guard certainly didn’t hesitate to show off his skills. In about 38 minutes of action for the White team, Jones finished with 18 points and six rebounds while going 7 for 13 from the field and 4 for 8 behind the arc.

Kam Jones (right) dribbles the ball up the court while Tyler Kolek (22) defends in Marquette’s intrasquad scrimmage Oct. 31 at the Al McGuire Center. (Photo by Collin Nawrocki )

Smart said while 90% of the time first-year players doubt themselves due to not having played at the collegiate level before, Jones for the most part hasn’t shown much doubt.

“He really just goes and plays and attacks with confidence,” Smart said. “He’s in a role on our team where he knows that I want him to play with a lot of freedom and take good shots anytime you can get them.”

Jones, who will be playing mostly point guard and shooting guard this season for Marquette, provided an update on his progression since he arrived to campus this summer.

“Coach Smart made an emphasis with the team to be one percent better every day so that’s what I’ve been trying to do,” Jones said. “Outside of practice, (I) just get shots up. Nothing too crazy. Just working with my team every day, we all been progressing a lot over the last few months.”

Jones has developed a relationship learning behind graduate student transfer Darryl Morsell. In the scrimmage, Jones committed only one turnover while going against Morsell, who earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year at Maryland last season.

“I just told him in the locker room after the scrimmage, ‘bro, you are annoying.’ He blows up ball screens, (he) blows up off ball screens. He’s hard to drive,” Jones said. “He’s just a great defender, very well earned of Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.”

Prosper shows all-around game

Olivier-Maxence Prosper, a 6-8 power forward, was another standout in Sunday’s practice.

The redshirt first-year transfer from Clemson could be a big part of Marquette’s scoring either as a starter or off the bench.

Prosper, knocked down four 3-pointers and slashed to the rim as he led the White team with 19 points and six rebounds in 35 minutes of actions.

“We will take that for sure and I thought he took high quality shots today,” Smart said. “But he’s at his best when he is attacking the basket: slashing, offensive rebounding, being aggressive on the defensive end getting his hands on the basketball. That’s what we need him doing.”

Prosper said he sees himself as a multidimensional player on the offensive end heading into his first season with the Golden Eagles.

“A player that could shoot the three, that could slash, that could drive; I see myself as just trying to find open space and make the right basketball play,” Prosper said. “My teammates do a great job of finding me and getting me in close-out situations and just attack close-outs to shoot it and find ways to make a play and help my team put the ball in basket.”

Kur Kuath (35) goes for a slam dunk in Marquette’s intrasquad scrimmage Oct. 31 at the Al McGuire Center. (Photo by Collin Nawrocki )

Prosper, who is referred to by his coaches and teammates as O-Max, has developed a nice relationship with 6-10 center Kur Kuath.

“He’s one of the best shot blockers I’ve seen, played with or against. The thing with Kur is, he’s so long and athletic it’s really hard to dunk on him,” Prosper said. “And I  try to challenge him every time because I know he’s gonna get me and him better. Because when we get to games, he’s going to have guys try to dunk on him and when I get to games, I want to be able to dunk on people, too.”

One last tune up

The Golden Eagles have one last event to check off on their preseason checklist before the season opener Nov. 9 vs. Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville.

Thursday the team will host Division II Bowie State for an exhibition at Fiserv Forum at 7 p.m. CST.

Smart said he is looking forward to his team to play against someone else instead of beating up on each other in practices.

“Looking forward to testing out some of the things that we do against someone else. Looking forward to our guys reactions to be in Fiserv with some fans and coaching those guys together as a group,” Smart said. We’ve been split into teams in half and competing in practice, but it’s just different when you have everyone together in one jersey.”

This article was written by John Leuzzi. He can be reached at john.leuzzi@marquette.edu or on Twitter @JohnLeuzziMU.