MILWAUKEE — Steve Wojciechowski has only been on the job for a little over two months, but Marquette University’s new men’s basketball coach’s stamp is already all over the program.
After being hired April 1, Wojciechowski was allotted just a small period of time to work with his new players, using the vast majority of the time allotted to him to get to know the nine who were left on the roster.
Marquette recently begun its eight-week summer session, as NCAA rules allow basketball coaches to spend eight hours per week — with only two hours allowed for on-court skills training — with their players.
"It’s been terrific," Wojciecowski said of his first 60 days at Marquette. "Obviously I had high expectations coming here and ultimate belief in the program and the school when I took the job. I think that has only grown since I’ve been here. It’s a special place with special people.
"The kids who are in the program right now have embraced my staff and I and the way we want to try to do thing. I’ve been impressed with their capacity to work. I’ve been impressed with their willingness to embrace change. And the excitement and enthusiasm has been terrific."
Returners Duane Wilson, John Dawson, Todd Mayo, Juan Anderson, Derrick Wilson, Jajuan Johnson, Steve Taylor Jr., Deonte Burton and Luke Fischer are all enrolled in summer school and thus able to participate in the summer sessions.
Senior transfer Matt Carlino and incoming freshman Sandy Cohen will join the Golden Eagles for the second four-week summer session, which will coincide with the second session of summer school at Marquette.
Wojciechowski plans on focusing on individual player skill sets in the first session before shifting to beginning to implement his system in the second session.
"(We’re) trying to build a skill set, a fundamental base that they’ll need to have to play the style we want to play," Wojciechowski said. "In addition to that, though, the additional benefit is you get to really get to know a guy when he’s on the floor. I’ve always found that the best way to develop a relationship with a player is working with them on the court, being hands on, trying to teach them."
As of now, Marquette’s roster stands at 11, meaning the Golden Eagles have two open scholarships for next season. While he didn’t rule out adding a late transfer or even a walk-on, Wojciechowski said he is comfortable moving forward with the roster as it stands.
Cohen is currently the only incoming freshman, as the rest of Buzz Williams’ recruiting class opted not to attend Marquette. Guard Ahmed Hill and center Satchel Pierce followed Williams to Virginia Tech, while guard Marial Shayok flipped his commitment to Virginia and forward Malek Harris signed with Kansas State.
"To be honest with you, I only want guys who want to be at Marquette," Wojciechowski said. "To me, I think it’s an honor to wear the Marquette jersey, so if I have to twist your arm or trick you or promise you stuff to put that jersey on, then I don’t believe that’s the right fit.
"There’s enough kids around the United States who recognize the Marquette brand, both as a university and as a basketball program, as a place that they can bet better and they can get better as person and get better as a player."
Wojciechowski has already had to defend the program after a story published by ESPN.com listed Marquette — along with Clemson, Boston College, UNLV, Florida State, Minnesota, Northwestern and Rutgers — as one of the eight "bad coaching jobs" in college basketball.
"To me I think it’s laughable," Wojciechowski said. "Marquette is an incredibly special place. I mean, I’m at a university where I can offer the kids who are here the best of all words. You come to Marquette you can get a first class education, a degree that means something no matter where you go in the world, a community that’s ultimately supportive of the students here, especially student-athletes there. And you have a chance to play elite level basketball. And so, when you’re thinking about the criteria of big time programs, Marquette first every criteria. And really, an argument against that, is not a very good one.
"I mean, this program has stood the test of time. It is one of the historic programs in college basketball. It’s a program that year in and year out makes an amazing commitment to its basketball program. Its basketball program is part of the fabric of the university. There’s been successful coaches, players, teams, it has all the characteristics and the identity of a big time program. And if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be here. And that’s why I’m so excited to put my Marquette shirt on every morning.
"So, you know what, again, everybody’s got their opinion. But there has not been one coach, one person, that I’ve come in contact with who has told me anything less than Marquette is a great job. And after having been here for two months, there’s no doubt in my mind that it is."