We have to start with the news-iest part of this post. Technically speaking, the title should be "The Newcomers." Marquette does have one non-freshman on the roster that wasn't with the team a year ago. However, Chelsey Gibson, a JUCO transfer from Gulf Coast State College, blew her ACL in the very first practice of the year. She'll be out for the year rehabbing the injury, leaving Marquette with "only" eight newcomers on the roster this season.
Marquette was the youngest team in the country BEFORE Gibson's injury. If you cross off the junior from the active roster, then MU just got insanely young. Let's take a spin through the eight player experiencing Division 1 basketball for the first time this season. Only one question left: How do we organize this list for consumption? Let's go with alphabetical order....
Freshman - #11 - Guard - 6'0" - Milwaukee, WI
Blockton is one of the three freshmen on the squad from Wisconsin, but she's the one of the three that did not end up in the starting lineup for Sunday afternoon's exhibition game. With that said, she ended up leading Marquette in scoring with 15 points in a team high 32 minutes. She also had four rebounds and three assists, which is quite the nice well rounded game. I don't know how Coach Kieger and her staff are going to be divvying out minutes and starting spots with this many talented freshmen running around, but I'm seeing a significant reason to make sure that you're getting as much time as possible with Blockton on the court. Oh, and she had the bucket that gave Marquette the lead for good in that exhibition game. Just sayin'.
Ranked #91 overall by Prospects Nation, Blockton scored over 2,000 points in her prep career at Whitefish Bay Dominican. She broke the school's single season scoring record as a junior with 633 points, averaging a double-double with 24 points and 12 rebounds per game. As a senior, she was named to the all-Wisconsin First Team by the Associated Press, as well as being named the Metro Classic Conference Player of the Year.
Freshman - #10 - Forward - 5'9" - Stockholm, Sweden
Dahling is one of two freshmen that did not see action in Sunday's exhibition against Southwest Baptist. The good news is that of the two that didn't play, she was the one in uniform.
Wait, that might not be good news. With Dahling in uniform but not inserted into the game, we have to presume at this point, head coach Carolyn Kieger isn't up to trusting Dahling in close games. This means that with Gibson sidelined for the year and Ines Mata out for the time being, Kieger's going to war with an eight woman active roster. That's potentially a problem long term.
Dahling does have a rep as a versatile player and was listed as a guard when her signing was announced back in April. She led her club team back in Sweden in both scoring and rebounding last year, and was presumably an obvious choice to be team MVP.
Freshman - #12 - Forward - 5'11" - Clarkston, Michigan
Davenport might be the most fascinating player on the roster, as she was named the best player in all of Michigan by the Associated Press... as a JUNIOR. She got there by averaging 22 points and 14 rebounds, and even after that, her high school coach at Clarkson knew that she hadn't even hit her ceiling yet. What works in Davenport's favor the most is that she was just 5-foot-6 when she started high school, so she had to get good at ballhandling since she was going to be playing as a guard at the time. Now she's 5"11" with the possibility of continuing to grow and is a multidimensional player.
It looks like she's going to be playing a lot of interior time for Marquette, at least based on how the exhibition game went, and she's showing signs of immediate impact. She had eight points and seven rebounds in that game, and that was in a foul hampered 16 minutes off the bench. Her time on the court was also marred by five turnovers, but that might just be Davenport adjusting to the size, speed, and strength of the Division 1 game.
Freshman - #5 - Guard - 5'8" - Green Bay, Wisconsin
The first thing that stands out about Natisha Hiedeman is that she's so small. Not height wise, really, but her limbs. The long sleeve compression undershirt probably isn't helping her cause, but she just looks so small.
And then she starts playing and then you realize that she's got the agility that earned her a Wisconsin state triple jump title in 2014 AND a repeat title in 2015 and a spot in the state tournament in tennis as a senior. Sure, she LOOKS small, but this is going to work out okay for her in the long run.
The #74 overall recruit by All Star Girls Basketball Report and #144 according to Prospects Nation, Hiedeman averaged over 25 points per game as a senior at Green Bay Southwest. She was such an amazing scorer at Southwest, she didn't just break the school record, she broke the Green Bay metro area scoring record. Fun side note to that topic: On the night she broke the record, she needed 15 points to get there. Hiedeman scored 16 IN THE FIRST QUARTER, including 12 of that on four three-pointers.
Hiedeman was inserted directly into the starting lineup for Carolyn Kieger, and for the most part, that seems to be working out. 11 points, eight rebounds, five assists, and a steal in the exhibition against Southwest Baptist, and the only downside in general that you can really point to is that she was 4-11 from the floor. 2 of 5 behind the three point arc, though, and that's more than okay if she can keep that up.
Freshman - #1 - Guard - 5'5" - Chicago, IL
Four of Marquette's American freshmen were ranked in Prospects Nation's top 150. Danielle King is the fifth. So it was kind of surprising to see her in the starting lineup for MU's exhibition game.
And then they actually played the game, and you watch her play in the game and you say "Ohhhhhhhh." King went for 13 points on 5-10 shooting, plus reeled in five rebounds, dished four assists, and snagged three steals. A pretty busy day for the rook from Bloom Township High School that I didn't expect to be a major player for Marquette this season.
WITH THAT SAID, King did average over 28 points a game for Bloom last year, and when you tack on over six assists and over six rebounds, not to mention the 5+ steals, and suddenly, you have yourself a player that got nominated for the girls' McDonald's All-American Game. She had a stat stuffing line in her junior season, too (20/8/5/5), and was a team captain for Bloom since day 1. At this point, you start wondering if her recruiting ranking was low because she's relatively short when it comes to Division 1 players, because someone who can throw those kinds of wide ranging numbers together is clearly deserving of high quality attention.
Freshman - #22 - Forward - 6'1" - Madrid, Spain
Here we have the other player who didn't see action in the exhibition. Dahling was dressed to play but didn't, while Mata was wearing a snazzy white jacket warm up set and was not dressed to play. Thus, she remains a bit of a mystery to us, and we'll have to wait to see what she can contribute to the team this year.
In yet another bit of a change from their signing announcement, Mata was marked as a center back in April, so she's presumably fairly mobile for her size. She won league MVP in 2014 while guiding Rivas Ecopolis too the league title. She also was a major contributor to Spain's U16 European Championship in 2013.
Freshman - #13 - Guard - 5'9" - Helsinki, Finland
Moskari was the only one of the three foreign born freshmen to see action in Sunday's exhibition, and honestly, I was kind of disappointed in her 19 minutes of action. I mean, at least that was the sense of it that I had while watching the game. Then I pulled up the box score and realized that Moskari only attempted three pointers, hitting two of her five attempts. That's good! Her only other contribution to the team was two personal fouls, but that means that she didn't commit any of Marquette's 21 turnovers in the game. That's also good! Ok, so she's going to be MU's resident sniper, and maybe that's all she's going to contribute to the team. That's fine. Just have to adjust the ol' expectations, y'know?
Perhaps that role will be enough for Marquette this season. With the lack of experience on the roster, I suspect that Coach Kieger is going to need more than just 40% on threes from Moskari at several points this season. Everyone on the team is going to have their freshman struggles at some point, so someone else on the team is going to have to step up and fill the void at that point. It's going to be Moskari's turn eventually, and hopefully she can answer the call.
Moskari has had experience winning titles during her time with her club team, Helmi Basket. They won consecutive U18 Finnish Championship titles in 2013 and 2014, and Moskari was on the U16 squad that won that Finnish Championship, too.
Freshman - #15 - Guard - 5'9" - Milwaukee, WI
I wanted to wait to here at the bottom to outline a key component of Carolyn Kieger successfully recruiting the trio of Blockton, Hiedeman, and Wilborn. Yes, they're all from Wisconsin, which is a big deal for Kieger as she essentially restarts the program from scratch here in her second season. Yes, all three are nationally ranked by Prospects Nation, which makes their recruiting even more impressive.
Here's the big deal, though: Blockton, Hiedeman, and Wilborn have experience playing together on the same AAU squad.
When you're essentially restarting the program like Kieger is - only two returning players, and neither were very important in their combined three seasons at MU - then you're going to have to build a foundation fast. Kieger was gifted a foundation by having three of her most well regarded players already having experience being teammates. They already have a relationship with each other as well as familiarity with each other on the court. This really can't be understated.
I don't have a solid feel for Wilborn's ability to contribute to Marquette this season. Working in her favor is the fact that she was one of three freshmen in the starting lineup in Sunday's exhibition. But she picked up two early fouls, and was limited to just six minutes in the first half. She played 11 minutes in the second half, which may just be a function of Kieger finding other things that were working while Wilborn had to sit in the first half. She finished with just four points, two rebounds, and two assists, but definitely looked like she was settling in during the second half. Wilborn also committed four turnovers in the game which, for now, we'll chalk up to inexperience at this level.
Wilborn is as highly decorated as any of her teammates. Coming in ranked #84 in the country by Prospects Nation, Wilborn was named Co-Player of the Year in her conference each of the last two seasons after helping guide Riverside to a state title as a sophomore. She was recognized as an all-state performer by the Wisconsin coaches' association, and the Associated Press included her on the 2015 all-Wisconsin Second Team.