Marquette quietly has sneaked into metro Detroit the past couple of years, and it has paid off with the signing of two of the Free Press’ top-seven preseason basketball players: 6-foot-6 Jamal Cain (No. 2) of Detroit Cornerstone and 6-10 Ike Eke (No. 7) of Detroit U-D Jesuit.
“Over the years, obviously Detroit has a great basketball history, and even broader than that, the state has turned out a lot of really good players,” said Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski, who took over the program in April 2014. “It’s not very far away from Marquette so we’ve really tried to do a good job of developing relationships and putting in legwork in the states the closest to us, including our own.”
Cain, a Mr. Basketball finalist, is averaging 24 points a game, 14 rebounds, four assists, four blocks and two steals, according to Cornerstone.
Eke averages 10.2 points, 10.8 rebounds, two blocks and is shooting 40% from three-point range. U-D Jesuit is the defending Class A state champ, and Marquette first saw Eke when recruiting Michigan State’s Cassius Winston the previous two years.
“First of all, I was sold on them as people,” Wojciechowski said of the Detroiters. “And secondly, I think both those kids have really high ceilings as players. They’re both big-time athletes who are just scratching the surface of who they could end up potentially being as players. I really love both of those kids, really good guys. They’re very easy to be around. I think they’ll fit in really well with the other guys we have in our program.”
U-D Jesuit coach Pat Donnelly said Eke’s only other official college visit was to Xavier, another Jesuit school.
“But he came home from his visit and told me, ‘Coach, I really want to go to Marquette. I just feel comfortable there, and it’s where I want to go.’ So, whatever they were selling, he was buying.”
Eke is in the U.S. via the F1 student visa, which is granted to foreign students to study in the country. Donnelly spoke on behalf of Eke because he returned to Nigeria for an undisclosed time a week ago to be with his family. His mother was hit by a car and killed.
“He loved the players returning,” Donnelly said of Eke picking Marquette. “He connected with them very well and just came home from his visit and said he was very comfortable, he felt at home with Marquette being a Jesuit school. It had a lot of the same philosophies that U-D has. It was just something really in his comfort zone.”
Wojciechowski had a successful playing career at Duke in the mid-to-late 1990s, ranking eighth at Duke in all-time steals and assists. After a one-year stint in the NBA with Portland, he returned to join Mike Krzyzewski’s staff.
The Marquette staff includes assistants Brett Nelson, Stan Johnson and Chris Carrawell.
“The coaching staff just felt like family,” Cain said. “They really encouraged me to come in and do what I do best. And my future teammates … they are great people. None are selfish, they have good character, and they just want to win.
“They didn’t hide the facts about what players would be leaving or staying. They just keep it real, and that’s what I really liked about them.”
Marquette finished the regular season 19-11. The Golden Eagles won four of their past five regular-season games to tie for third in the Big East, at 10-8, entering this week’s conference tournament.
Wojciechowski isn’t done. It’s well-known in recruiting circles he is looking at high-scoring Greg Elliott, a senior at Detroit East English Village, who also is strongly considering Michigan State.