Thursday, February 11, 2016

Cheatham's progression is key to Marquette making a run at postseason play

Photo Credit: Geno Green

With all of the hype surrounding Marquette's freshman phenom Henry Ellenson, another member of the class has emerged into a reliable option.

Haanif Cheatham, who came into this season with a lot to adapt to skill-wise, like most freshmen in Division I basketball.

Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski threw a curveball at Cheatham as he converted to playing the point guard position for the majority of offensive sets, after running the shooting guard spot in high school.

Sure, Cheatham could have shown frustration at the move, but instead doubled-down and has proven to be a reliable option with 11.4 points per game this season.

Cheatham's 21 points for the second consecutive game helped Marquette to a 96-91 win over No. 20 Providence on Feb. 10 and showed Wojciechowski that he can be counted on in crunch time.

"I think [Haanif] has stepped up quietly in his freshman year and we have asked him to play a lot of a times at the point guard, a position in which he has never played before," Wojciechowski said. 

"He is a big time kid and can really get to the basket and finish. I think he is going to be a tremendous college basketball player."

Given the length of the game and Cheatham, Ellenson, and Jajuan going 40-plus minutes each in the win against Providence, Wojciechowski knows preparation for Saturday's game against Creighton will take on a different tone.

"We are not going to be able to have a long, drawn out practice today and I think we have to learn to get familiar with who Creighton is," Wojciechowski said.

"In terms of physicality and a lot of stuff on the court, we are not going to be able to do very much based on the level of game we played in last night."

Marquette's hopes at making the NCAA Tournament will hinge on its final six games, with No. 1 Villanova as the only ranked opponent until the BIG EAST Tourney on March 9 or 10, depending on where it finishes in the standings.

With a favorable schedule, the Golden Eagles will rely on their underclassmen in Ellenson and Cheatham, along with junior Luke Fischer to make their first trip to the field of 68 under Wojciechowski.

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