Easily one of the weirder first years as a Golden Eagle that we’ve seen in a long time.
With the 2020-21 season long since in the books, let’s take a few moments to look back at the performance of each member of YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles this year. While we’re at it, we’ll also take a look back at our player previews and see how our preseason prognostications stack up with how things actually played out. We’ll run through the roster in order of total minutes played going from lowest to highest, which means today we move on to the transfer that suddenly got a waiver and then didn’t play all that much………
Junior – #55 – Guard – 6’5” – 220 lbs. – Bronx, New York
Well, this is a hard one to pin down. I haven’t really been considering how Perez fits into this team up until Saturday since I wasn’t expecting him to play. I also don’t see him fitting into a role as “The Guy” on this team, not right out of the gate. If there was a sentiment from the coaching staff that Perez would be best benefitted by sitting out this year and that’s why there wasn’t a pursuit of a waiver immediately out of the gate, then that has an impact on what he could bring to the table, too. If Steve Wojciechowski and his assistants were approaching bringing Perez in with the idea that he needed a year to make himself ready to play in the Big East, I don’t know if that has changed. The circumstances have, sure, what with the NCAA extending everyone on a roster this year an extra year of eligibility if they want it thus perhaps making a waiver more palatable to everyone involved. That doesn’t suddenly make Perez more Big East ready in the coaches’ eyes, though.
Here’s what we know, though: Perez is not going to be asked to be The Guy on this team. No one who gets a waiver four days before the season starts was a major cog in the planning for the year. For Perez, that might not be the worst thing. If he can start picking his spots instead of being asked to carry the team, that might ultimately help his efficiency on the court. With Koby McEwen fitting into the rotation as The Big Guard in front of Perez in the lineup (at least for the time being, go read our McEwen preview), that means all Perez has to do is carry his end of things. Of course, we might have said the same thing about McEwen a year ago, and that did not go well.
I think that at 6’5” and a somewhat surprising 220 pounds, Perez provides the Golden Eagles with an intriguing option of size and physicality at the guard/wing positions. When you’re a guy who can bring something different to the table, there’s always a possibility that you can earn minutes that way. I think we have to project Perez as a part-time player, someone who can carry a second unit off the bench, but maybe not more than that for the time being. T-Rank’s outlook of 4.7 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 1.6 assists while playing 38% of the minutes feels about right.
Why You Should Get Excited
I don’t have any faith in Koby McEwen at the moment, as is very clear if you go read his Player Preview. He’s probably the only player on the roster that I am legitimately worried about for this season. Why am I talking about McEwen in terms of Perez? Well, Perez seems to be the guy on the roster most matched to McEwen in terms of size and abilities. Height, weight, general guard/wing skills, statistical comps, it all seems to match up pretty well.
The point of the story here is that there is a distinct chance based on how last season went — especially at the end — that Koby McEwen might not be able to contribute to this team in a regular fashion this season. We’ll see how it goes, but I’m not putting a lot of eggs in that basket. If that’s how that all shakes out, the door is wide open for Perez to grab onto the brass ring and occupy the minutes that the coaching staff can’t hand over to McEwen. We have no idea how much responsibility the coaches are planning on giving to McEwen, but if that falls apart, Perez has the chance to make an impact.
At the very least, Perez’s newfound eligibility gives Marquette a little bit of flexibility. Redshirt freshman Dexter Akanno is apparently still shaking off the effects of COVID-19 and at least as of about a week ago, he had not been cleared by MU’s medical staff. We can’t be sure how much Akanno was factoring into things up until the program shutdown due to coronavirus exposure, but for now, he’s on the sideline. In theory, that should mean that Perez can slip into Akanno’s projected spot in the rotation and start showing what he can do. In addition to Akanno being a question mark, we don’t know exactly how healed Greg Elliott is. He had ankle surgery back in April, and while that was a long time ago in terms of recovery time, that’s two ankle surgeries in 10 months for the Michigan native. If Elliott’s athleticism has been stolen from him by his repeated injuries, then he may not be able to play a notable role for this team this year. That’s another avenue for Perez to get on the floor. If the skills that led Perez to average 15/6/4 in 57 games for Gardner-Webb translate to the Big East, then big things might be in store for the New Yorker.
I think the biggest possible problem for Perez in 2020-21 is that he just isn’t Big East ready and ends up being relegated to a deep bench role at best. That’s not the worst thing in the world, and it might honestly be in line with what the coaching staff was expecting for Perez in the first place.
The biggest question for me relative to how much playing time Perez can get is his shooting. It’s not a secret that Steve Wojciechowski loves him some three-point shooting, or at the very least, he loves taking advantage of having shooters who can hit a bajillion threes. If 38% Freshman Year Jose Perez shows up on the court for Marquette, that’s great news! If 25% Sophomore Year Jose Perez is what we get, then that’s going to keep him on the bench. With Markus Howard gone, offense is going to have to come from multiple different spots on the floor, and that means balance is key. If teams are able to sag off of Perez because they don’t have to worry about his long range shot, that’s going to cause dysfunction everywhere else on the floor for the Golden Eagles, and that’s not going to work out for anyone involved.
Here’s the problem I have with trying to properly assess Jose Perez’s 2020-21 season, particularly in regard to what was in his Player Preview back in November.
On one hand, “ends up being relegated to a deep bench role at best” is exactly what happened to Perez this season if you take the wide view. 10 games played out of 27, 112 total minutes played. That’s nearly twice as many minutes as Dexter Akanno but still less than half as many as Symir Torrence, the next guy in the review order.
On the other hand, Perez wasn’t sporadically playing this past season. He played 13 minutes in the opener against Arkansas Pine Bluff, then only got on the floor for the final two minutes of a 25 point win over Eastern Illinois, and then didn’t play at all for the next 16 games. This seemed to almost perfectly fit into the idea that the coaches had no intention of getting a waiver for Perez when he originally transferred from Gardner-Webb: Not ready to play at the high major level yet, and needed the transfer redshirt year to get ready. Which is fine! It is what it is.
And then Perez played in every one of the next eight games.
12.3 minutes per game, and at least 10 minutes in six of the eight games, 3.0 points, 0.9 rebounds, 0.4 assists.
And then he didn’t make the trip to New York for the Big East tournament for what was called “personal reasons” at the time.
Even when head coach Steve Wojciechowski elected to make use of Perez — finally, just over two months into a three month long season — Perez didn’t do much. He shot 29% from the field and a very not good 25% from long range. He was out there, but he wasn’t contributing much….. other than making Marquette fans wonder why Steve Wojciechowski was suddenly giving him minutes.
That’s how his season went. Invisible until he wasn’t, and even then, barely worth mentioning as a part of the season. Can we judge anything about this? Is it fair to Perez to give him a season grade on just 112 minutes, 88% of which came after the season was essentially over when MU had a three-game skid against DePaul, Providence, and St. John’s? Especially when we thought he wasn’t going to play at all even just five days before the season started?
In Marquette’s 77-71 victory over DePaul on March 2nd, Perez got 18 minutes of run, scored eight points, grabbed two rebounds, dished one assist and blocked one shot. Season highs in points, rebounds, and blocks right there, so that’ll work for his top performance of the season.
Yeah, I can’t do it. Between the late notice that he was actually going to play and the not playing at all for nearly two-thirds of the season, I can’t give him anything but an Incomplete on the year. Steve Wojciechowski made the decision to apply for a waiver for Perez and then made the decision to not put him on the court for most of the season. I can’t justify hanging a below-average score on Perez’s season for something that was mostly out of his control.