Dave Klinger (Photo: Marquette Athletics)
In Cam Marotta’s locker sits a sign from strength coach Todd Smith that reads: “What did you do to make the team better today?”
As a walk-on for the Marquette men’s basketball team, Marotta plays a big role every day — on and off the court. He’s always in the gym with different groups of players. He strives to be a vocal leader in practice. He puts in maximum effort on the scout team against his teammates, preparing them for games.
“The biggest part of my job is being an energy guy,” Marotta says, “whether that means filling in at practice, being in the weight room, or even getting on players if they’re not putting in enough effort.”
Marotta has big shoes to fill — literally and figuratively. Last year’s team boasted a 6-foot-5, walk-on forward in Michael Mache, who was rewarded for his attitude and work ethic in his final semester with a scholarship. The team needs players willing and able to provide leadership and energy throughout the season. As the most experienced walk-on in the program now, Marotta is ready to be one of those guys.
In two weeks, Marquette will open the season against Vanderbilt at the Naval Academy for the annual Veterans Classic. But for now, Marotta and his teammates will be hanging out, just as they’ve done since the beginning of summer.
“Marquette is absolutely a family,” Marotta says. “The family aspect is more present here than any other team I’ve ever been on.”
When the players aren’t in the Al McGuire Center, they’re in the dorms or around the campus together.
“We do both fun and boring stuff together,” Marotta says, laughing. “We play Xbox in Humphrey, watch sports, all that.”
They’ve made a lot of memories together during the summer and into the semester. One, however, stands out.
“My favorite memory was the last day of conditioning over the summer,” says Marotta. “We went down to Bradford Beach in Milwaukee and mostly ran sprints.
“At the end we knew the season was finally here.”
Since then, it’s been all basketball for Marotta and his teammates. They have goals to exceed expectations in the upcoming season. One specifically is in response to the Big East Preseason Coaches’ Poll, in which Marquette was picked to finish seventh.
“We have more lofty goals than that,” he says. “We gotta get back in the tournament. We gotta live up to the Marquette tradition.”
It’s no secret that Marquette has missed the NCAA Tournament for three years — the longest drought for the program since the late nineties. The Golden Eagles, however, have many returning players and additions that give them a reason to believe they’ll be back making madness in March.
“All of the newcomers bring something different to our team,” Marotta says. “I’m excited for all of them to step on the court, especially Andrew Rowsey, since I sat next to him on the bench last year while he redshirted. He’s a competitor, so that was tough for him.”
Marotta believes the team’s biggest strengths are its shooting and its depth at guard. Who, though, is the best shooter on the team?
Marotta smiles. “I’d say Rowsey. But we have so many other great shooters. Markus is unbelievable. I don’t think I’ve seen him miss in five practices,” he says with a laugh. “Sam is impressive — very mature for his age. Katin is very good, too.”
Marotta says the two biggest keys to success for Marquette are taking care of the ball and spacing the floor.
“Our goal is ten turnovers per game,” Marotta says. “That would put us as one of the top teams in the country.”
Marotta’s right about that projection. Only thirty-three teams averaged under eleven turnovers per game last season. But again, Marotta underlines the need to set the bar high. In a program with high expectations every year, Marotta and his teammates are determined to succeed.
Marotta also understands what might become limitations for Marquette.
“Some say we’re undersized, with only Luke and Matt,” Marotta says. “Some might see it as a problem, but we don’t.
“This is the era of the ‘undersized’ team. Many teams have had success with smaller players under the hoop. All it means is that we need to rebound and box out as a team.”
Marotta specifically mentions Sandy Cohen, Katin Reinhardt, and Sam Hauser as guys who could rebound and defend taller players as power forwards. But to the team, it’s not about specific positions — rather, what matters is what skills players bring and how they can be used in different situations.
Most of all, Marotta and his teammates are excited to get on the court.
“What we’re most excited about is getting out there,” says Marotta. “We’ve got Vandy as our first game and Wisconsin at home this year.
“We’re guys on a mission.”
Marotta plays a big role for Marquette, even at just 5 foot 10 inches tall. He may have just one point and eight minutes logged in a Marquette uniform, but he spends every day tirelessly working to make the team better in any way possible. It’s his job, his passion, and his favorite way to represent the name of the university. After hearing Marotta’s passion, one ends up asking the question to themselves: “What did I do to make my college better today?”
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