For this next piece I preview some guys who are tweeners between the guard and forward position. Sacar definitely leans towards the guard position, while Sam and Jamal project as small forwards or power forwards. The combination of these three should eat up a majority of the minutes at the small forward position complemented by a few quick stints from Joey Hauser. Here are your key small forwards:
Sam Hauser Junior (6’8”): The Stevens Point Native has been a central part of the Marquette program since he stepped on campus. Hauser comes off a sophomore year where he averaged 14 points and almost six rebounds on 50 percent shooting. He often had the toughest assignments on defense with guys like Kelan Martin and Mikal Bridges which indicate that his decrease from 0.9 to 0.7 win shares was not a slip up on the defensive end. Perhaps Sam’s best attribute was his 3 point shooting, where he finished first in the Big East among players over 150 attempts. For me his next step will be getting stronger in the post, and steadily improving his defense. He will benefit greatly from Morrow stepping in to shoulder a lot of the rebounding responsibilities, and letting him often play the small forward position. I expect Sam to have another huge year, become a all conference player, and lead young guns like his brother to success.
Jamal Cain Sophomore (6’7”): Cain had a solid freshman campaign where he finished second in defensive win shares, second in steal percentage, and third in total rebound percentage for the Golden Eagles. He was somewhat of an anomaly with his shooting this past year where he shot 47.3 percent from the three point line and 47.8 percent from the free throw line. This was on a very small sample size with less than 60 attempts from the three point line and less than 25 from the free throw line, but it was very unusual. Cain also showed off his unbelievable bounce with a few top 10 worthy put-back dunks. Much like the other sophomores, what will keep Cain in the lineup is consistency. Cain is a tenacious defender which will always earn him minutes, but the question marks are how hard he wants to hit the glass and how much his offensive game evolves. At this point, Cain projects as more of a 3&D guy due to a shortage of back to the basket moves. I project Cain to play a similar role to last year off the bench, and average from 15-20 minutes per game.
Sacar Anim Junior (6’5”): Anim had a pretty dismal freshman year in 2015-2016 before deciding to redshirt. After huge praise from the coaching staff about the decision, Anim became a true contributor last year averaging just under eight points per game. Anim excelled as a slasher, shooting 52 percent from inside the arc, but struggled with his jump shot hitting only 23 percent of his three pointers. Anim may be one of the Golden Eagles who has to sacrifice some of his minutes from last year if he cannot make free throws or shoot the three. I expect him to still be in the rotation because of his pesky defending, but consistency will differentiate him and Greg Elliott for who gets most of the minutes behind Markus Howard at shooting guard. Anim is definitely a guy who is more valuable than what his stats show. He finished with the worst defensive rating in the Big East, but those who study basketball know he possessed a high IQ when he was defending. This stat is mainly due to Marquette’s defense ranking sub 200th in the nation, and Anim turning out at fault for helping his teammates. Hopefully Anim can accept his role and continue to contribute for the Golden Eagles.
Hauser is going to shoulder big minutes for the Golden Eagles and should start at the small forward position. Anim should fill the gaps when Marquette is playing small ball or when Sam needs a breather. Cain will often play the power forward position, but can also fill in at the 3. Joey Hauser is mentioned in the next piece for bigs due to my prediction that most of his minutes will come at the power forward position, but should get around five minutes a game at small forward. All of the players mentioned in this article will need to be contributors for Marquette to make the journey to the NCAA tournament.