Marquette shows promise, depth in opener
MILWAUKEE — For just a brief moment, it appeared as if Juan Anderson’s shoulder was going to give him more trouble.
The sophomore guard held his surgically repaired right shoulder and for the first time concern ran through his mind. Just a few minutes later he was able to breathe a sigh of relief. It was just scar tissue.
Anderson was one of two Marquette players returning from serious injury Sunday, the other being senior center Chris Otule. In a season opener against an overmatched opponent, both passed their first game back with flying colors.
Anderson had one surgery after first injuring his shoulder last December, but had to have another surgery when he injured it again during an open gym in May.
Playing 21 minutes off the bench in Marquette’s 84-63 win over Colgate, Anderson scored nine points, grabbed nine rebounds and had two steals.
“His energy level is what helps us,” Marquette coach Buzz Williams said. “He had energy last year. He just didn’t have purpose to his energy. Now he better understands (the need) to have purpose with that energy.
“I’ve been telling him the last couple weeks, he needs to put me in a position where I can’t keep him off the floor. The way he is going to do that is doing the things he did today, very pleased with him.”
Anderson credited that increased purpose to finally getting extended minutes on the floor, the first time he’s been able to do that since high school.
“I feel like I picked up a rhythm now,” Anderson said. “Last year I didn’t have a chance to get a rhythm and I didn’t really know what I was doing much last year.”
While Anderson knew his basketball career was going to continue at some point, Otule was left to wonder if his was over when he tore his anterior cruciate ligament last December.
Nearly 11 months later, the big man was back, scoring 11 points in 17 minutes, giving MU a legitimate interior presence along with Davante Gardner and Jamil Wilson.
The trio combined for 40 of the Golden Eagles’ 84 points against a very undersized Colgate team.
“We want them to stay healthy,” Williams said of Otule and Gardner. “Those two guys are different in what they can do. They are different in their skill set and our players have a feel for that. It changes the dimension our team. As time goes, if they are having to double the post that creates opportunity for our perimeter.”
After the game, Williams singled out Otule, Anderson, Gardner and Arizona State transfer Trent Lockett as guys who he thought performed well Sunday. Like Anderson, Lockett filled the stat sheet and was all over the floor making hustle plays or “favor” plays as Williams calls it. The senior finished with seven points, seven rebounds, three assists and five steals.
“He is a guy who is going to be, as time goes on, a guy that’s going to be really hard for us to get off the floor,” Williams said. “He plays really hard. Extremely intelligent, plays within himself and is a great teammate. I anticipate he’ll have a huge role on our team.
He’s not necessarily the most talented guy, he’s not necessarily the best guy but we seem to do well with those kind of guys.”
Sunday’s victory certainly wasn’t perfect. Marquette’s defense needs fine tuning and it got out-rebounded by a very undersized team, but almost 48 hours after the Golden Eagles were set to open their season, there were a lot of positive signs.
“We still have a lot of things to work on,” Marquette forward Jamil Wilson said. “As we noticed when we wrapped up in the locker room, it wasn’t perfect but it was good to put some wind in the sails finally. It was good to finally play against somebody else other than the guys you play in practice and actually put the jerseys on. Everybody was looking forward to that.”
Follow Andrew Gruman on Twitter.