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Marquette feeling ‘connected’ for opener vs. Radford

Sportsnaut
Mar 17, 2022; Fort Worth, TX, USA; Marquette Golden Eagles head coach Shaka Smart directs his team against North Carolina Tar Heels during the first half during the first round of the 2022 NCAA Tournament at Dickies Arena. Mandatory Credit: Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports

The second year of the Shaka Smart era at Marquette begins much like the first — with the Golden Eagles picked to finish ninth in the Big East.

Marquette looks to once again exceed expectations, beginning with Monday night’s season opener against visiting Radford in Milwaukee.

“We’ve got a really connected group right now, but we haven’t played any games yet,” Smart said at the team’s media day. “We haven’t been tested or challenged yet by outside competition, other than closed scrimmages.”

Marquette tied for fifth last season in the Big East, finishing 19-13 overall and earning an NCAA bid.

The Golden Eagles will have to replace forward Justin Lewis, who led with 16.8 points and 7.9 rebounds per game, and guard Darryl Morsell, second in scoring at 13.4.

Key returnees include sophomore guard Kam Jones (7.4 ppg), junior guard Tyler Kolek, (6.7 ppg) and 6-8 junior forward Olivier-Maxence Prosper (6.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg).

Graduate transfer Zach Wrightsil, a 6-7 forward, was the NAIA Player of the Year after averaging 18.7 points and 8.8 rebounds at Loyola (New Orleans) last season.

Darris Nichols enters his second season as coach at Radford, picked sixth in the Big South preseason poll.

Radford went 11-18 last season, including 7-9 in the Big South, but has been bolstered by the addition of seven transfers.

The Highlanders return leading scorer Josiah Jeffers, a 6-1 senior guard who averaged 10.0 points per game, and leading rebounder Shaquan Jules, who averaged 4.6 boards.

Transfers include guard DaQuan Smith, who averaged 3.5 points in 33 games at Murray State. Graduate transfer guard Onyebuchi Ezeakudo averaged 18.7 minutes per game last season at Pitt; and junior guard Bryan Antoine, a former five-star recruit and McDonald’s All-American, appeared in 20 games last season for Villanova after missing all of November and parts of December due to a knee injury.

“We tried to get guys from winning programs, that come from maybe a higher level,” Nichols told the Roanoke Times. “Come over here and you can have a bigger role possibly.”

Freshman Ibu Yamazaki, a 6-7 forward, averaged 14.6 points and four rebounds for Japan’s U19 team at the 2021 FIBA World Cup.

Radford rolled past Mary Baldwin 114-54 in an exhibition game Tuesday, shooting 66.7 percent with a commanding 42-19 rebound advantage.

–Field Level Media