O-Max looks to build on “Stalwart” defense from last season

Olivier-Maxence+Prosper+at+mens+basketballs+open+practice+at+Fiserv+Forum+Oct.+28.+

Photo by Isabel Bonebrake

Olivier-Maxence Prosper at men’s basketball’s open practice at Fiserv Forum Oct. 28.

Olivier-Maxence Prosper is finally comfortable.

For the first time since high school, the junior forward is back suiting up in the same colors and the same program in consecutive seasons.

“That’s something that for the past couple years, changing programs, I didn’t have (comfortability),” Prosper said. “I always had to change and adapt. Here, being with this group again another year is something I feel much more comfortable in where I am.”

Prosper played at Lake Forest Academy and the NBA Academy Latin America in high school before committing to Clemson University, where he enrolled ahead of the 2019-20 season. After one season as a Tiger, Prosper entered the transfer portal and wound up at Marquette.

He said being back has helped him grow within the program and build on the relationships he has with those who call Marquette home.

“The biggest thing for me is the relationships I’ve built,” Prosper said. “Those relationships have developed into a point where I’m so much more comfortable with my teammates and just as a program and as a unit.”

Junior forward Oso Ighodaro, the longest-tenured Golden Eagle, has noticed Prosper’s growth in his relationships and believes it will lead to a big year for Prosper.

“Sometimes during the season you can have a little bit of self-doubt, but when you have that strong backbone, the relationships and the belief from your teammates and coaches behind you can really help,” Ighodaro said. “O-Max (Prosper) knows that we all believe in him and I think he’s going to have a great year.”

Playing for the same team, in the same city and for the same coaches for multiple years brings a sense of familiarity aside from knowing what the plays are.

Marquette assistant coach Cody Hatt said it eases one’s day-to-day life and makes it easier to be honest when coaching.

“You know where certain things are, where the training room is, who’s in charge of nutrition, you understand the person coaching you every day is not a stranger and that allows us to be very honest,” Hatt said. “I really appreciate the ability to coach O-Max hard, to be honest with him and he understands that’s rooted in a place of taking a lot of pride in his development.”

Prosper’s development starts with growth and recognition of what he did last season.

“He showed flashes last year being a guy that can be effective in any high-level Big East game, against any type of opponent across our schedule. But we’re looking for him to become more consistent,” Hatt said. “I’ve seen him grow the most in his maturity and consistency as a player.”

In the 2021-22 season, Prosper averaged 6.6 points, 3.3 rebounds, 0.9 assists and 0.9 steals per game, doing so while averaging playing 20.7 minutes.

There’s something the numbers don’t show; his play and responsibilities on the defensive side of the ball.

“He was flat out a stalwart for us defensively last season,” Marquette head coach Shaka Smart said.

Prosper made improvements in every major statistical category aside from blocks from his lone year at Clemson to his first year at Marquette all while being a key player defensively.

“We asked a lot of him defensively,” Hatt said. “He’s a guy that’s going to cover the best perimeter player on the other team a lot of nights and he’s going to have to be a guy that’s switchable and then go rebound the ball.”

Senior forward Zach Wrightsil said the two of them have had some battles in practice, helping both of them get better.

“We talk a lot of trash. We love each other, but we definitely do get after it every single day,” Wrightsil said with a sly grin. “He’s a great defender, I’m a great defender, so we’ve definitely challenged each other every single day and coach doesn’t even like to put us on the same team because we just really get after it.”

Part of Prosper’s game resonates with one of the team’s mottos. His teammates have taken notice of how he attacks the rim.

“He’s a violent driver and we always talk about violence in our program,” Ighodaro said.

When Prosper isn’t attacking the rim with violence and flying high above the rim, he can be found stationed on the 3-point line in either corner waiting for a pass so he can catch and shoot. This can come from what Hatt described as a “swing-swing” and this past summer there was an emphasis for Prosper on making even more of those shots.

“I worked on it a lot. It’s something that was a big emphasis for me this offseason,” Prosper said. “I feel like this year is just about being confident and just stepping into it and knocking it down.”

Last season, Prosper increased his 3-point percentage from 16.7% to 31.7%, making more than he attempted in his first year.

When the season starts Nov. 7 and Prosper is announced as part of the starting lineup in front of the screaming fans, he’ll come with all the work he’s done and knowledge about his defensive assignment.

But, there’s only one thing the coaching staff wants from Prosper once the ball is tossed in the air waiting for Ighodaro or any of the opponent’s centers to tip it signaling the game is underway.

“We just want O-Max to be himself,” Hatt said.

This story was written by Ben Schultz. He can be reached at b[email protected] or on Twitter @benschultz52.