By Emmett Prosser Special to Published Oct 21, 2009 at 6:14 PM

Lazar Hayward didn't have to worry about being caught off guard by questions at Big East media day this afternoon in New York.

That's because he's already answered them.

Now that Jerel McNeal, Dominic James and Wesley Matthews have graduated, most of the pre-season talk has centered around the seven new players on Marquette's 2009-10 roster.

It's only natural for pre-season prognosticators to wonder about who will fill the shoes of the trio that will forever be known as the "Big Three" at Marquette.

Most folks want to talk about Marquette's inexperience. They forget that the Golden Eagles will still be anchored by ... experience.

Though Hayward is the team's only returning starter, fellow seniors Maurice Acker and David Cubillan have both played major minutes in the Big East conference. Sure this team will have growing pains, but it is not as if head coach Buzz Williams is starting from scratch.

"I think us just being young is something for people to talk about," said Hayward. "We're not worried at all."

Hayward, Acker and Cubillan spent most of last week's media day attempting to convince local media how much potential the current recruiting class has. They didn't say much about themselves.

While it is clear that the trio of seniors is excited about its current supporting cast, you get the feeling that now that Hayward, Acker and Cubillan are out of the shadow of McNeal, James and Matthews they'd like to make a statement that they can play, too.

"All three of those guys want to put their stamp on it," said Williams. "Those three guys have always been under the umbrella of the seniors that just left. I'm sure they are a little tired talking about all the young kids. I'm sure they would like a question or two about themselves."

Before the season is over, the consensus is that Hayward certainly won't go unnoticed. He averaged over 16 points and over eight rebounds per game last season as the fourth option in Williams' offense. This year, the opposing scouting reports will look a little different.

"He has no protection this year," Williams added. Defenses will be designed to stop him. I think he's prepared for that."

Hayward, who was among the most underrated players in the Big East last season, doesn't concern himself too much with the fact that teams will be paying closer attention this season. He claims he doesn't have to be the No. 1 option on offense, even though opponents will put a target on his back.

"I'll probably have the ball in my hands a lot and that will be good for us because all eyes are going to be on me. Since everybody thinks we're so young, hopefully they won't play those guys as tough and I'll just give them the ball and they'll make their shots."

With freshman Junior Cadougan out for the season because of an Achilles injury, Acker will get the majority of the minutes at the point guard spot. Perhaps no other player is more important to the team. In addition to creating scoring opportunities with his quickness, Acker will navigate an offense that will often include first-year players making freshman mistakes. He'll be counted on to take on a leadership role immediately. That's just the way it is when you play at the top of the key.

Acker gained valuable leadership experience last season when he was forced into the starting spot after James' injury. He doesn't possess the athletic or scoring ability that James provided, but he has exceptional quickness and pure point guard skills.

"He's the first guy in the gym and the last guy out," said Hayward. "He's really stepping up to that challenge. He's managing our team and he's a really smart player."

The diminutive Acker understands that MU won't be on the Big East radar when the season starts ... and that's just fine.

"I love being the underdog," he said. "Being the underdog makes you get up every day and put in the extra work. I will be ready."

So will Cubillan, who is ready to play either guard spot whenever asked. While he's not sure what his role will be, Hayward notes that he expects big contributions from the perimeter from his friend and teammate.

"No one really talks about Cuby and I kind of like that," Hayward said. "He's the kind of guy that likes to prove people wrong. I think it is good that people are kind of forgetting about him."

And perhaps Big East foes are also forgetting that though Marquette has many new faces on its roster, some of them are not freshman at all. Transfers sometimes make contributions in a hurry and it appears that junior college All-Americans Dwight Buycks and Darius Johnson-Odom both have a chance to play often this season.

"We have a lot of doubters, because the ‘big three' are gone," said Acker. "But we know we are going to have a good year."

Translation: Keep talking about how young Marquette is. This group of seniors has plenty of experience being overlooked.

Emmett Prosser Special to

Emmett Prosser is a former sports producer at Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Online and has covered the Brewers, Bucks and Marquette basketball in many capacities for 13 years.

Prosser also signed a year's worth of 10-day contracts with the Cleveland Cavaliers' media relations department after graduating from Xavier University so he could get three-point shooting tips from NBA great Mark Price. The son of an English teacher and former basketball coach, Prosser attended Marquette high school.

In his spare time, Prosser enjoys live music and fooling people into making them believe he can play the drums. He also serves on the board of directiors for United Cerebral Palsy.