Author: Dave Klinger (Editor), firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tomorrow’s exhibition game versus Division III Wisconsin Lutheran will be the last time Marquette plays publicly before its first real test against Tennessee-Martin on the 14th. As with the season in general, it’s tough to pinpoint what to expect from the match (besides a win in this case), especially in consideration of the New Coach Factor and the amount of player turnover that the team has undergone since last season. The team has thus far played itself twice in public (Marquette Madness and Haunted Hoops) and once behind closed doors against the consensus top-10 Virginia Cavaliers. Both intrasquad games were sloppy for the most part but were also punctuated with numerous highs and lows, which was expected since one side’s success meant a mistake from the other. Not much information has arisen from the “secret scrimmage” versus Virginia (which was also expected, hence the unofficial name), and Wojo’s interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Matt Velazquez seemed to bring only vague, scripted answers (besides the promising information that freshman Sandy Cohen and junior Steve Taylor “stood out the most for [Marquette] in terms of personal performance”). In short, despite Marquette having participated in three other exhibition games, it’s still hard to figure out what to expect from this young, inexperienced team, so we posted two videos of press conferences that address this question (among others) to Coach Wojo and seniors Derick Wilson and Matt Carlino. Hopefully, this helps fans get a better grip on what we expect, what the coaches expect, and what the players expect from both tomorrow and the season in general. Some quotes are repeated in both videos, since they were taken from the same press conference, but both offer a lot of different takes on each question. We’ll scribble quotes, notes, and commentary below each clip.
- Coach Wojo: “I want to see max effort defensively.”
As he’s stated before, Wojo believes a program is built on defense, energy, and communication — and if you are familiar with the annoyingly energetic persona he boasted in his playing days at Duke, this should come as no surprise.
- Wojo: “Hopefully we can can create a tempo and points off of our defense… We want to be a team that’s aggressive defensively.”
This sounds like something Buzz would say, as he often stressed that stellar defense and energy create offense. No alpha dogs, no one-on-one, no stopping the ball — just constant ball movement and taking open, high percentage shots.
- Wojo: “Offensively, we can’t turn it over and we can’t take bad shots. We have to work together to score. We’re not a team who has been blessed with a number guys who know what it’s like to get buckets at the college level. Not to say they can’t eventually do it, it’s that they haven’t done it. So on the offensive end it’s going to be important that we don’t have empty possessions…where we’re attacking a defense individually. It’s not where we’re going to be at our strongest suit.”
In short, we’re going to have to do our best San Antonio Spurs impression on offense if we want to score consistently.
- Wojo: “Any time you’re in a competition you give 110 percent… You never pace yourself when it comes down to a game competition.”
It’s been sixteen years since Wojo last played in a Duke uniform and, for the most part, I don’t think he’s changed. No Division III exhibition game has the same level of intensity as a prime time matchup against the Wisconsin Badgers, but nonetheless, it doesn’t seem as if Wojo’s the type of coach to cruise through the second half of a blowout.
- Wojo: “A lot of guys have shown signs of getting better… I’ve been encouraged with Sandy Cohen… I think he’s going to be an outstanding player for us… Steve Taylor has shown signs at times of a guy who’s capable of being a good player for us.”
Both players specifically have been grouped with those who “stand out” to Wojo and others on numerous occasions. It initially seemed as either a mere coincidence that both had decent days at practice or as tactics to improve confidence (Taylor has vocally stated that he almost transferred after his disaster of a sophomore season and Cohen is the lone true freshman on this year’s team), but this joint praise has been made many other times (from Wojo after the Virginia scrimmage, from Jon Rothstein during his visit to practice, and a few other instances). I tend to buy into the hype linked to both players, but I won’t be sold on anyone’s role or potential production until I see them play in games. As Wojo once said himself, some guys are two completely different players when on the practice floor and when under the lights. Hopefully Taylor submits a nice bounce-back season and Cohen finds a way to contribute to the rotation.
- Matt Carlino comparing games to practices: “It’s more fun. It’s obviously fun to go out there every day but you play to play in front of a crowd, against an opponent, have people watch you, so that’s the biggest difference.”
It’s more or less a useless nuance, but I would have liked to hear Carlino talk about “playing to win” and blah blah blah, especially considering his reckless, “green light” style of play. As long as he wins us more games than he loses for us (Wisconsin counts as ten wins alone), I’ll be happy, okay?
- Derrick Wilson: “I think I’m just excited for this season. We have a great group of kids…we’ve all been working hard and I think I’m just ready to show everybody what our team is made of…hopefully they’ll come to life on Saturday.”
It’s great to see Derrick exhibiting his leadership skills, confidence, and “chip on shoulder” mentality for this year. I’m excited to see how his hard work over the offseason translates to the court.
- Wilson, continued: “We want to start off something great with the new coaching staff…so that’s what we’re focused on this season.”
- Wojo: “We have a lot of work to do.”
This has been the common theme in most Wojo interviews, often stated in this phrase specifically. It’s like his version of Iverson’s “practice.” If analyzed at its surface, the quote seems to foreshadow bad things, but nearly every coach in the country is saying this and nearly every team in the country has a lot of room to grow. I wouldn’t hit the panic button until Wojo says this during conference play.
- Wojo: “We’re a team that has a tremendous amount of room for growth. That’s been our focus since we started…and will remain our focus throughout the season.
- Wojo: “Like most coaches around the country, at times you wish you were further along than you were. Our guys overall have done a good job. It’s a new system — offensively, defensively, communication wise… Not only the new system we’re putting in but the new roles and responsibilities for our guys.”
- Wojo: “With a new team, a young team, a team that’s trying to find its identity, we can’t worry necessarily about pacing. We have to worry about creating good habits. That’s been our primary focus, trying to build good habits that will allow us to compete against the outstanding opponents we play.”
- Derrick Wilson: “When I first got here…I wouldn’t say it was an older team, but we had guys like [Darius Johnson-Odom] and Jae [Crowder]…so we had guys who had been there before… This year the team is younger. There’s still a lot of talent, don’t get me wrong.”
The “talent versus inexperience” debate is a common one in figuring out how much this team is truly capable of. Person A points to the roster turnover and says we’re doomed, Person B points to the potential of each player and insists we can make some noise, the whole world explodes, and so on.
- Wilson, continued: “From a practice standpoint we shoot the ball a lot more than we ever have. Beforehand we had a lot of guys who could drive and get to the basket…we didn’t have four to five guys who were good three-point shooters.”
Guesses on the four to five candidates for best three point shooters? Jajuan Johnson, Matt Carlino, Duane Wilson, Sandy Cohen, and Deonte Burton whenever he happens to heave one up (he doesn’t often because he has a much better chance of scoring if he drives, despite his efficiency from behind the arc). The team’s “average” three-point shooters should be John Dawson (only because he won’t play much), Juan Anderson, Steve Taylor, and Derrick Wilson (gasp!). This might be the first Marquette team in a long time where everyone but one player is allowed to shoot threes. Luke Fischer, don’t even think about it!
- Matt Carlino: “We’ve come together a lot more. We’re a lot sharper offensively. I mean, we still have a long way to go, but…we’re getting a lot better. It’ll be hard to tell from the first exhibition, but as the season progresses we’ll get a lot sharper.”
Progress is a common theme in both videos, as is potential. I’d like to see these ideas proven on the court, but nonetheless, it’s promising news for a young team with one day left until its first test.
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