When I heard the news today that Marquise Carter had committed to Gonzaga (kudos to Max and his source), it almost felt as though a marathon had come to an end. For the past few months, Mark Few and his staff have been courting guards from across the country to fill a void left by Matt Bouldin. There have been many names and many players I honestly thought would wind up in Spokane and I'm very happy to say that Marquise is a guy the staff pegged relatively early and to see them deliver with his commitment is great news for the program. When Max initially broke the commitment on the site, there was obvious jubilation which then led to the inevitable "hold your horses" discussion. The fact remains that many Zag fans don't know much about Marquise Carter. We know he's a junior college standout, we know he was getting interest from many different division one programs, and we know he is about to venture up to Spokane once the school year is out, but that is really about it.
I've made it abundantly clear throughout the day that our excitement for Marquise shouldn't be misconstrued as unachievable expectations. The best part about Marquise coming to Gonzaga is that it provides Mark Few with more options and, unlike GJ and Meech who have many similarities in how they play the game, Carter brings some different things to the table which is exactly what this team needs. It would be an incredibly insane comment to say that Marquise's arrival makes up for Matt Bouldin's departure but I really do love the fact that the staff saw the area of need and filled it with a player that has experience playing against some damn good talent. This experience will pay off when summer rolls around and Marquise is playing every day against an extremely athletic and talented group of back court players.
Like every player that comes to Gonzaga on a scholarship, we expect a lot out of Marquise in his two years in Spokane. He'll have to earn his minutes this summer but it is clear that Marquise did not come join Mark Few to sit on the bench...
Setting expectations for recruits is nearly impossible. Setting expectations for junior college recruits might be even harder. I say this because, as Gonzaga fans, we have been burned by some junior college transfers that never, ever even got near where we had hoped. I won't name any names but if you've been around this program long enough to know what our site name means, you know what I'm talking about. With that being said, it is inevitable that expectations will be placed on his shoulders. But first, let me tell you my opinion of Marquise and what he can (and hopefully will) bring this team.
The very, very first thing I noticed when watching several of Marquise's game tapes is how differently he runs an offense to a guy like Demetri Goodson. There are isolated times when he makes a dedicated effort to really attack the rim without passing first but those are few and far between. He works very well in halfcourt sets and showed an ability to make consistent entry passes to big men (which is kind of important for next season). He rarely gets out of control to the point where it hurts a team and I was just impressed with his overall poise on the court. He's not going to make a living shooting the deep ball however. He sort of reminded me of a Jeremy Pargo in that respect. He can shoot it from outside but you'd much rather see him create off the dribble or pull up for a mid-range jumper. If you are expecting a lights out shooter, it's just not going to happen this year. Going back to his ability to run an offense, I was also very impressed with the fact that he never really overdribbles. He finds a pass to make and runs the offense. He doesn't go in to no mans land and he doesn't make aimless drives into the paint.
At Three Rivers Community College, the entire team revolved around Carter. Most times down the court it seemed like they would just clear out the lane for him to make a play on the defender. That style of AAU-like basketball at the juco level is what it is so hard to judge someone like this. On the defensive end however, you can see some areas for improvement. He's not a ball hawk like Meech or GJ and he doesn't come close to having their overall athletic ability. For that reason, he'll probably never be the guy you put up against a team's best offensive weapon but he is by no means totally lost on defense. He's a very basketball savvy player in that he knows the game, understands situations, and processes things very quickly. He had a couple steals I saw that weren't a result of fast hands or quick feet but rather and understanding of where a player tends to go or by filling in passing lanes. If he can work on using that IQ for a forty minute stretch consistently, I think his defense will get that much better.
The reality of the situation now is that we've got one hell of a competition on our hands for minutes. Oh, make that another thing I like about Marquise: he's ready to compete. Don't discount the fact that he visited Gonzaga, knew we had a deep stable of backcourt players and still decided to stick around. The other team in the final two for his services was Oklahoma and the Sooners still don't have a legit point guard on their roster. He could have slid in there in played two seasons of Big 12 basketball and probably started from jump street! The competition over the summer will be tremendous. You've got two very athletic and quick guards in GJ and Meech, and then more slow down type players in Marquise and Grant.
I won't make any leaping conclusions that Marquise will be a starter come November but I do believe there are a great number of minutes to be won in that backcourt. If I had to pick who I think our opening day starting point guard would be I would still say it is 50-50 between Meech and GJ but much can happen over a summer. I hope that all the returning players take Marquise's arrival to mean that Mark Few is serious about making next season one for the ages in Spokane. If the guys we now have are serious about improving where they need to and growing as a team, I really do think we can expect great things come next season.