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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

SISARICA: Marquette cannot afford another year of no portaling

Photo by Katie Craig

Last season, Marquette men’s basketball found themselves in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2013, but that’s as sweet as things would get. After losing to NC State, All-Big East team honorees Tyler Kolek and Oso Ighodaro announced they will be entering their names into the NBA draft.   

This leaves two huge holes for Smart and staff to fill, and it’s going to take more than relationships, growth and victory to do so. Marquette’s recruiting class contains only two first-year forwards in Damarius Owens and Royce Parham.

Although these top 100 recruits show promise, their similar size and skill isn’t enough to replace the versatility that Kolek and Ighodaro brought to this program — only the transfer portal can provide that. This off-season, the portal has seen a record of former five-star recruits. The talent is there, and all eyes look to Smart and the Golden Eagles, who have one open scholarship spot they need to fill.  

Smart has had to watch his teams fail to make a deep NCAA tournament run since his tenure began. Meanwhile, every single Final Four team had at least one transfer in their starting lineup.

Some of the top prospects are estimated to be making millions from NIL, leaving teams to shift their recruiting processes. Teams that used to be getting recruits purely based on culture are now prioritizing the business, and if the Golden Eagles aren’t able to make that transition, mediocrity will follow.  

Three years ago, when Smart took over for Steve Wojciechowski to become the 18th head coach in Marquette men’s basketball history, he was dealt a difficult hand: a roster of only three returners at a school built around basketball.   

Like any new coach, Smart focused on retaining the Marquette commits, which included keeping Wojciechowski’s Kam Jones and Stevie Mitchell, along with having guys follow him from Texas, like Milwaukee native David Joplin.

From there, Smart went to the portal.

It started with Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Darryl Morsell and Oklahoma graduate Kur Kuath. Then Smart took a chance on a pass-first point guard from George Mason in Tyler Kolek and an athletic forward from Clemson in Olivier-Maxence Prosper.  

Smart’s development turned transfers like Morsell, Prosper and Kolek into NBA caliber players while recruits like Joplin, Mitchell and Jones have become staples on this Golden Eagle team.

Marquette was one of the standalone teams in the NCAA tournament that was built from the ground up, and they could afford no transfers heading into last season. 

But that’s not the case anymore.

With the NCAA establishing name, image and likeness for college athletes, the transfer portal has seen more athletes than it has ever had — and teams are taking advantage. But hopes are high for Marquette and the Golden Eagles as they have been actively looking in the portal.

Smart has been able to build a culture and a system that’s clearly working, winning games and producing NBA talent.

If he can use some of that Shaka magic seen in years past and use the portal as a tool to get players that fit the culture he’s built, the Golden Eagles can continue to compete at a high level. If not, they’ll fall behind in one of the toughest conferences in college basketball.

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About the Contributors
Gabriel Sisarica
Gabriel Sisarica, Sports Multimedia Journalist
Gabriel Sisarica is a junior from Northbrook, Illinois studying journalism and psychology and is a second year Sports Multimedia Journalist for the Marquette Wire. Outside of the Wire he enjoys playing volleyball, participating in fantasy football and spending time with close friends and family. He is excited to spread his passion for Marquette and Marquette athletics across campus and beyond.
Katie Craig
Katie Craig, Staff Photographer
Katie is a Staff Photographer at the Wire. She is a first-year from Lakeville, MN studying digital media and minoring in advertising. In her free time, Katie enjoys photography and hanging out with her friends. This year Katie is looking forward to getting to know more people and improving her photography skills.

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