Cajuns survey options without Marquetti

Kevin Foote
The Daily Advertiser
UL junior Jerekius Davis is one of several Cajuns that figure to carry a larger load after the season-ending knee injury to Malik Marquetti.

UL men’s basketball coach Bob Marlin didn’t waste any time trying to downplay the obstacle of playing without senior captain Malik Marquetti will be for his Ragin’ Cajuns as they begin Sun Belt Conference play at 7 p.m. Thursday against Arkansas State in the Cajundome.

He didn’t wave the white flag for the season either.

“We know injury and illness can affect a team,” said Marlin, referring to the negative impact JaKeenan Gant’s injury had on the stretch drive of his 27-win team from a year ago.

“We learned that last year at the end of a season, so it’s always a concern. But I feel like our guys will rally and play well.”

More:Cajuns miss Gant's presence in Sun Belt tourney loss

There was simply no way to minimize it. Not only was the senior transfer from USC the team’s most consistent scorer (15.1 points per game for season) of late prior to injuring his knee in last Saturday’s 73-72 road win over Southeastern, he was also the best 3-pointer shooter (45.2 percent), free throw shooter (86.8 percent) and top perimeter defender.

“We’ll have to do it my committee,” Marlin said. “There won’t be one person that has to replace him.

“The versatility was huge with Malik. He was kind of like a Swiss Army knife. He was excellent to coach, because you could throw him into any of the positions and he could execute and play. He always knew what everybody’s role was.”

Perhaps not as obvious to fans is Marquetti’s loss on the defensive side, which Marlin has identified as the team’s biggest void of late — even before Marquetti’s knee injury.

“Defense is something that gets overlooked, and he’s been so consistent for us defensively,” Marlin said. “He’s drawn the other teams' best perimeter player, whether it’s a smaller guy or a bigger guy, much like Frank (Bartley) did for us last year.

“But defensively is an area we have to improve in and now losing him makes it extremely difficult.”

More:Cajuns overcome stiff road test for tuneup win

One of his teammates possessing some of Marquetti’s skill set is 6-foot-6 junior forward Jerekius Davis, who is averaging 9.4 points and nailing 40.5 percent from three-point land.

Against Prairie View A&M on Dec. 11, Davis made seven 3-pointers and scored 27 points.

“Jerekius certainly has that capability as far as size, strength and can play inside or outside," Marlin said. "Jerekius gives us some of the size, scoring and inside play … perimeter shooting.”

Another player who will be asked to play a larger role is 6-3 junior transfer Jeremy Hayes, who is averaging 6.0 points, 1.2 rebounds and shooting 30.8 from three-point land.

“Jeremy Hayes is another guy that’s started — against Southeastern — and played well,” Marlin said. “He’s been really good in practice this week, as has been Jerekius.

“They’ll (all) have to step up.”

Marlin was also including junior guard P.J. Hardy in that number. Hardy nailed all three of his 3-pointers in the win over SLU and has under-performed from three-point land so far this season.

“We’re going to try to play the same way, but it certainly cuts into our rotation a little bit,” Marlin said.

More:Gant delivers big numbers for Cajuns despite sore knee

Certainly Marquetti’s sudden absence raises many new questions Marlin was anticipating.

“You want to get off to a good start,” he said. “It’ll be a little bit of a feeling-out process, the game, because we hadn’t played a game (without Marquetti). We finished a game, but we haven’t started a game without Malik being in the rotation.

“How that develops, we’ll just have to wait and see. But it’s important that we play with confidence and get off to a good start at home.”

So far, Marlin reports a team trying its best to move forward.

“We have two other captains who have played well all year,” Marlin said. “JaKeenan (Gant) played lights out in the second half (after Marquetti injury at SLU). He and Marcus (Stroman) have both done a great job at practice.

“We’ve had two tremendous practices. We started the new year yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon with one of our best practices of the year. The leadership is coming from everyone. It’s starting at the top with me and then going through the coaches and certainly the players.”

Another wait-and-see part of this new development is the issue of Marquetti’s potentially getting a medical red-shirt.

More:Marlin wants his Cajuns to be 'a little more accountable'

“It’s too early to say,” Marlin said. “It depends on how many games we play this year. The cut-off is usually about a third of your games. We’ll have to get with our compliance people.

“We’ll certainly look forward to putting that request in for a waiver and see if we can get him a year or even the conference season back next season.”


Arkansas State at UL

Game: 7 p.m., Thursday, Cajundome.

Records: ASU 6-7, UL 9-4.

Radio: KHXT 107.9 FM.

Online: ESPN-Plus.Series: 

Series: UL leads 51-24, including 30-8 at home.

Coaches: ASU, Mike Balado, 17-28; UL, Bob Marlin, 164-115.

UL Leaders: JaKeenan Gant (16.3 pts, 7.6 rebs), Marcus Stroman (12.3 pts, 4.5 rebs), Justin Miller (10.2 pts, 7.5 rebs), Jerekius Davis (9.4 pts, 3.6 rebs).

ASU Leaders: Ty Cockfield (20.7 pts, 3.5 rebs, 3.5 assists); Marquis Eaton (10.6 pts, 2.8 rebs, 2.2 assists); Grantham Gillard (8.7 pts, 5.8 rebs).