Depth charge: Marquette has strength in numbers

Marquette Golden Eagles center Luke Fischer is the tallest player on the roster at 6-foot-11.

William Hauser/William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

MILWAUKEE — Coach Steve Wojciechowski looks at his deep roster at Marquette and sees strength in numbers.

Depth and up-tempo basketball will have to make up for a lack of height for the Golden Eagles this season.

One-and-done forward Henry Ellenson is now in the NBA. The rebounding and defensive slack must be picked up by a rotation that could go 11 players deep.

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"We’re going to have to try to do some things defensively in terms of maybe extending the floor, being disruptive on the defensive end of the ball," Wojciechowski said. "In order to do that … we need to have fresh bodies out there to maintain a certain pace of play, a certain energy level from your group."

The 6-foot-11 Ellenson averaged team-highs of 17.0 points and 9.7 rebounds a game. He was a focal point of the offense, and combined with 6-11 center Luke Fischer to give Marquette two rim-protectors.

Ellenson is now with the Detroit Pistons, but Fischer is back for his senior season, ready to anchor the middle.

After 6-10 sophomore Matt Heldt, a backup center, the roster is filled with guards and swingmen. Six-foot-7 freshman Sam Hauser is the next tallest player on the roster.

Marquette finished 20-13 (8-10 Big East) last season but missed the NCAA Tournament. They’ll miss Ellenson, but can compensate in other areas.

"It goes both ways. We’re going to miss him for his rebounding," senior guard Jajuan Johnson said. "But now the ball is going to get moved a little bit more. He will be missed, surely."

Marquette was picked to finish in the Big East in the preseason coaches’ poll. Other notes on the Golden Eagles, who open their season on Friday against Vanderbilt in the Veterans Classic in Annapolis, Maryland:

BIG LUKE

Fischer (12.1 points, 6.2 rebounds) is getting ready to run more with all the guards on the roster. He’ll need to play more than the 28.2 minutes a game that he averaged last season and stay out of foul trouble.

"Obviously, we have to be in good shape, running-wise," Fischer said. "We’ll be able to push the ball up really fast. I think that plays to our advantage, being smaller than most teams."

LITTLE GUYS

After Fischer, the rest of the starting lineup in the preseason game against Rockhurst last week featured Johnson, along with guards Markus Howard, Katin Reinhardt and Haanif Cheatham. Howard, 5-foot-11 freshman, played on the under-17 team for USA Basketball this summer.

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Six players off the bench played at least 16 minutes against Rockhurst.

"We’re going to have a lot of lineups that mix four perimeter guys with one post guy," Wojciechowski said. "In today’s day and age in college basketball, when you can do that, it can work to your advantage."

THE ‘NOVA WAY

There’s a model in the Big East for winning with a small lineup after Villanova won the NCAA title. The Golden Eagles hope to be able to get to that level one day, though the Wildcats at least provide a blueprint.

"The great thing we will be able to do is pressure" guard Traci Carter said. "We’re going to be able to pressure a lot. Fun."

COUNTING ON CHEATHAM

Ellenson’s NBA potential overshadowed Cheatham’s solid freshman campaign last season. The 6-foot-5 guard (11.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists) started all 33 games, with turnovers being his biggest problem. Wojciechowski hopes Cheatham can continue to play aggressively while taking better care of the ball.

STEADY REINHARDT

The 6-6 guard will provide experience and outside shooting after coming to Marquette as a graduate transfer. As a junior, Reinhardt averaged 11.4 points at Southern California last season. He is a career 36.9 percent shooter from the 3-point arc.