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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

MUBB Portal Watch: Potential forwards that might fit with Smart’s program

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With the NCAA national championship game come and gone, it’s time to shift all focus to the college basketball offseason.

And for Marquette head coach Shaka Smart and his staff, that means figuring out how to fill an open scholarship spot on next year’s roster.

With the departures of sophomores Emarion Ellis and Keeyan Itejere and graduate student forward Zach Wrightsil to the NCAA transfer portal, the Golden Eagles sit one spot below the NCAA limit of 13 scholarships at 12.

Smart, who was named the Associated Press men’s basketball Coach of the Year over the weekend, has approached the transfer portal differently in each of the last two offseasons.

In his first season, Smart filled out open roster spots with the additions of Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Darryl Morsell, shot blocker Kur Kuath and sharpshooter turned facilitator Tyler Kolek through the portal.

But last season, Smart did not go into the portal as much as other teams around the country did as Wrightsil was the lone addition to the Golden Eagles.

Smart has been adamant about his recruiting philosophy in today’s current state of college basketball world with the NCAA transfer portal in the past. As of April 1, there are close to 1,200 players in the portal looking for a new home.

“Maybe I’m old school (but) I love the opportunity to develop relationships with guys while they’re still in high school,” Smart said in April of 2022. “With their families. To really get to know them and even be a part of their growth process before they get to college.

“There’s a lot of guys in college basketball moving around. That’s their prerogative and there’s a whole lot of different reasons why guys do that. But we’re still going to build our program primarily through high school kids. That doesn’t mean we would never take a transfer. I think it would be irresponsible to not at least look. But those guys have to fit, too.”

Since Smart’s comments, the transfer portal has only grown. As of April 1, there are close to 1,200 players in the portal looking for a new home.

But something to keep a close eye on as the offseason continues and more players enter the portal or are linked to the Golden Eagles is, does a player “fit” with Smart’s style of coaching?

Since joining Marquette in 2021, Smart has compiled a team that matches his personality and coaching style. At Marquette, , Smart built a program and developed a culture compared to just building a team.

One just needs to look at the makeup of this year’s roster for proof. And as it has been said numerous times this season, the success between Marquette and Smart this season goes back to Smart’s core values of relationships.

MORE ≥ How Shaka Smart’s importance on relationships has led Marquette to its best season in over a decade

With the entirety of this year’s core — Kolek, Kam Jones, Oso Ighodaro, Olivier-Maxence Prosper and Stevie Mitchell — expected to return in 2023-24, adding depth in the forward position should be a point of emphasis for Smart and his staff.

Despite all of Marquette’s success this season, an Achilles’ heel for the Golden Eagles was the lack of size and height on their roster. There’s no better way of strengthening what is brewing in Milwaukee than adding a “dominant” or “impact” forward.

So who might be the right fit for the Golden Eagles next season? Here are three potential forwards for Marquette:

1. Hunter Dickinson | 7-foot-1 Center | Two years of eligibility 

The 7-foot-1 junior has been one of the most dominant centers in the country over the course of his last three seasons. He earned First-Team All-Big Ten Honors in 2021 and 2023 and Second-Team Honors in 2022 and named a consensus second-team All-American following his first season in Ann Arbor in 2021.

Dickinson can make an impact on both ends of the floor and can score from outside the post. This past season at Michigan, he connected on 24 triples and he shot 44% on all jump shots, per Synergy.

He’s a big body on the floor and can be a “dominant” big man that the Golden Eagles can utilize next season. This season he averaged 18.5 points, 9.0 rebounds and 1.8 blocks for the Wolverines.

2. Jamarion Sharp | 7-foot-5 Center | One year of eligibility 

Sharp was among the tallest players in college basketball this season, beating out Purdue’s Zach Edey by one inch.

At a 7-foot-5 frame, Sharp is a defensive menace on the floor that can provide Marquette with a strong presence in the paint and under the glass.

He was the nation’s leading shot blocker during the 2022-2023 season averaging 4.1 blocks per game. He also averaged 7.4 points and 7.7 rebounds per game while shooting 62.8% from the field.

Though he is in the transfer portal, Sharp has also declared for the NBA Draft.

3. Micah Handlogten | 7-foot-1 Center | Three years of eligibility 

Handlogten is another highly sought and one of the more undervalued players in the portal.

He quickly became a dominant force for Marshall in his lone season in Huntington as he was tabbed with Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year honors after averaging 7.6 points and 9.8 rebounds per game.

What is intriguing about Handlogten and makes him a good fit for Marquette is his presence on the glass, something the Golden Eagles can benefit from. He ranked 16th amongst Division I players with 2.3 blocks per game this past season.

Handlogten has three years of eligibility remaining, which gives Smart and his staff the ability to continue developing him down the stretch. This luxury makes Handlogten a perfect fit with Smart’s recruiting philosophy.

This article was written by John Leuzzi. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @JohnLeuzziMU.

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