Before we dive into the five new players on the Marquette women’s basketball roster, I think we have to first talk about what to expect from them this season.
Marquette was picked to finish third in the Big East by a vote of the league’s coaches. DePaul and Creighton tied for first, with the Golden Eagles coming in behind them. The primary reason for this is that MU brings back every major contributor from last year’s 9-9 team while most of the other programs suffered significant losses due to graduations.
The secondary reason is that Marquette adds four freshmen and a junior college transfer to the roster. All five players are at least six feet tall, thus providing the Golden Eagles with a bit of depth all across the floor. With the added depth and size, one would figure that the burden of production and the grind of playing heavy minutes would be lifted from the returning players, thus making them more efficient along the way.
The problem here, though, is that the five newcomers played a grand total of five minutes in Marquette’s narrow exhibition victory over Minnesota State. Altia Anderson played four minutes, spread out across the game, while Isabelle Spingola registered just one minute of action at the very end of the game.
On one hand, you can understand why head coach Carolyn Kieger stuck with the eight players that she’s used to playing in tight situations. On the other hand, it’s pretty clear that, at least for right now, Kieger doesn’t trust any of her five new players in a competitive game. We’ll see how much that changes as MU starts the season with two buy games before hosting preseason #18 Arizona State.
Redshirt Junior - #32 - Guard - 6’0”
Gibson is the aforementioned player that is technically not a newcomer to the team. Gibson has been on campus since the summer of 2015, but she blew her knee out at the very start of practice last season and missed the entire year.
She’s a junior because she spent her first two years of eligibility at Gulf Coast State College, a junior college in Panama City, Florida. Her head coach for her first season at GCSC was none other than current Marquette assistant coach Vernette Skeete, which explains how Gibson ended up leaving the Florida coast (she’s from Pensacola) to continue her collegiate experience.
Dan Olsen ranked Gibson #23 in the country amongst junior college prospects for the 2015 class. She averaged nearly 13 points a game and seven rebounds as a freshman before boosting that to 19 points and almost nine rebounds as a sophomore. In addition to her two All-Panhandle Conference First Team awards, she was also a JUCO All-American in the eyes of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association.
While Gibson is listed as a guard, you can tell from her rebounding totals that she has the physical presence to take care of business down low as well. Given Kieger’s high octane attitude towards basketball, a player with a guard’s ability to handle the ball and the ability to rebound will fit right in. Don’t believe me? Look right at Allazia Blockton, the Big East’s best returning scorer and rebounder.
Freshman - #20 - Forward - 6’2”
The Delaware native tore it up as a senior at Woodbridge High School. Lots of players average 19 points per game, but you don’t see a lot of them averaging 14 rebounds on top of that. You also don’t see that same player recording nearly SIX BLOCKS per game, and you definitely don’t see that player dishing nearly four assists on a nightly basis. Part of me wondered if that was maybe a little bit inflated because of easy competition in the Bridgeville area, but it seems Anderson is the first player to catch Kieger’s eye as a reliable component.
Anderson was a First Team all-conference honoree for each of her last three seasons of prep hoops, and an all-Delaware selection for the last two years. She’s been the focus of her opponents’ defenses for a while now, so hopefully she can give the Golden Eagles something soon.
Freshman - #44 - Center - 6’4”
ESPN marked Mandel as the 15th best center in the country for the class of 2016. Since she’s now the tallest player on the team, I was kind of hoping that she would get on the floor quickly for Marquette. However, between senior year marks of 10 points and seven rebounds as well as not being able to get on the floor for the exhibition game, it seems that Mandel might need a little bit of seasoning before getting ready to contribute.
She’s used to winning, though, as Orono went 30-2 and made it to the state final four in 2015. Her club team, Minnesota Stars Martin, won two state championships during her tenure as well.
Freshman - #30 - Guard - 6’0”
On one hand, Spingola was not a particularly highly regarded recruit, getting a positional ranking of #46 from ESPN. On the other hand, she was a four year varsity letter winner for Whitney Young High School in Chicago, one of the most decorated programs in not just Chicago history, but Illinois history as well. Through 2014, Spingola’s sophomore year, the Dolphins had qualified for seven straight Class 4A state semifinal games, including a state championship in 2014. That streak was broken in Spingola’s junior year when Whitney Young was bounced from the tournament, snapping a 137 game home winning streak along the way.
What did they do the next season? Spingola helped push her squad back to the semifinals to start a brand new streak. Whitney Young won four straight conference titles and four straight city championships during Spingola’s time in school on top of that statewide success. Spingola’s best attribute for Marquette right now might be that she’s never been the star at Whitney Young. This Golden Eagles squad is stocked with talent already and the biggest need right now is for role players to fill in the cracks.
Lauren Van Kleunen
Freshman - #42 - Guard - 6’2”
Hailing from Mason, Ohio, Van Kleunen looks to provide Marquette with the same kind of combination of size and ball handling as Gibson. She was listed as a forward in high school, but Marquette has her as a guard. She averaged 16 points, nine rebounds, two steals and two blocks per game as a junior while guiding Mason High School to the District 2 championship game, and all of that earned her district honors as the underclassman player of the year.
Van Kleunen followed up that season with a 13/7/2/1 stat line in 29 games in her senior year. Her team did even better than the year before, advancing all the way to the state championship game. Even though she had 15 points and 11 rebounds, Mason fell to Wadsworth, 60-51, in a rematch of a regular season contest that Mason had won.