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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Shaka Smart is different from other coaches, and Marquette is better off because of it

In Shaka Smart’s two years as the Marquette men’s basketball head coach, he has only brought in a few players through the transfer portal.

Rather than going portaling, he relies on smart recruiting and developing from within.

Under Smart, Marquette has yielded successful seasons, including a Big East Tournament and regular-season title as well as its highest March Madness seeding in school history. Smart’s strategy of not relying on the transfer portal is successful and why Marquette seems to have an edge over rival teams in recent years.

In 2021, The NCAA changed its rules and allowed student-athletes to move schools at least once without penalty. Another major rule change happened in 2021, allowing athletes to profit and benefit from their name, image and likeness, known as NIL. Top programs could no longer participate in the open secret of sliding money to top recruits in McDonald’s bags. Top recruits were now being paid openly through sponsorship deals and it swiftly ended the debate on whether college athletes should be paid. 

Many powerhouses across the country joined the bandwagon and threw hundreds of thousands of dollars at players to come to their school. At Marquette, Smart hasn’t brought in any transfers, requiring him to develop existing talent. Big East Player of the Year Tyler Kolek is the perfect of example of why this works. In his first year at Marquette, he averaged 5.9 assists per game, which set the foundation for him to average the third-most assists per game (7.5) as a junior.

Marquette’s recruiting classes have not been as highly ranked as the results have proven. Despite finishing No. 6 overall in the final polls last year, the Golden Eagles’ recruiting classes were ranked 53rd in 2023 and 90th in 2022.

Smart has been public that the amount of stars next to a recruit’s name don’t matter to him, but what’s more important is the player’s character. While other coaches bring in new transfers year after year, Smart gets huge returns on his investments and and competes on a national level with his recruiting classes.

This year will hopefully follow the trend as Marquette’s 53rd ranked recruiting class looks full of potential. Smart brought in three promising recruits in Zaide Lowery, Tre Norman and Al Amadou. In the scrimmages, Lowery showed out on offense and Norman impressed defensively. In recent years, Smart’s first-year players have played well and developed to become the core of the team. 

Last year Marquette had a historic season, boasting a 29-7 record. A majority of the core of the team remains the same as four starters are returning. Stevie Mitchell, Kam Jones, Oso Ighodaro and Kolek are expected to improve, while David Joplin should fill Olivier-Maxence Prosper’s shoes. Few ranked programs play and trust their players with huge minutes their first season. Smart and his method of coaching is the best way to instill trust in his players. 

As older players leave through the portal, minutes open for younger players to take over. This cycle has been greatly beneficial for Smart as he has replaced the older core with younger players that can grow and develop. Smart’s method of developing young talent is key to the program’s success. 

85% of the minutes from last year’s rotation are returning, far more than most teams across the country. Many schools lose core pieces every year, but Marquette finds a way to mitigate the losses, thanks to Smart’s philosophy.

They manage to not only recover, but improve, and it will be even more evident this year. It will be hard to top last season’s historic feat, but I am optimistic the Golden Eagles will soar high. 

This story was written by Conor McPherson. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on X at @ConorMcPherson_.

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