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2018-19 Marquette Women’s Basketball Player Preview: The Starters

No, not the NBA TV show, the five seniors who will do most of the heavy lifting for the Golden Eagles this season.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Marquette at Notre Dame
Danielle King deserves more recognition.
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

When it came time to figure out how to go about previewing the 2018-19 Marquette women’s basketball season, a decision had to be made. The usual tactic around these parts is to split the team in to returning players and newcomers. Unfortunately for Carolyn Kieger’s team, she has 10 returning players and just two newcomers. That leads to one VERY VERY VERY long article I don’t want to write out to that length and you don’t want to spend that much time reading one thing, and one much much much shorter article.

With that in mind, we’re going with a different split here, and this one actually makes a lot more sense given how Kieger has coached the team over the past three seasons. Here, we’ll go with the five senior starters, or at least they should be starters, in theory. That’s usually where Kieger went last season, but even the 2017-18 Big East Player of the Year didn’t start every game last season. Even if this group of five seniors doesn’t start every game, they’re going to be the five players expected to carry the team night in and night out. In our other article, we’ll talk about everyone else on the roster, aka The Bench. Not The Bench Mob, that’s a different thing, and MU doesn’t have any walkons on the roster.

Onwards then, and while this is in alphabetical order, fate intervenes and starts us off with the aforementioned POY....

Allazia Blockton

#11 - Guard - 6’0” - Milwaukee, WI

2017-18 Stats: 19.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.2 steals; shot 52/39/86

What more can we say about the reigning and defending Big East Player of the Year? Well, I guess we can say this: She was the preseason POY last year and repeated that honor again this season.

She has proven herself time and time again to be Marquette’s most reliable player, and comes up big time and time again in the biggest moments. She can do a little bit of everything and her hard work in the offseason keeps making itself obvious on the court when a new season rolls around.

If she averages 19 points per game off the bat again this season, she will become Marquette’s all-time leading scorer in the ninth game of the season, and she will become the first Marquette basketball player, male or female, to score 2,000 career points in game #12. Blockton is on pace to break the all-time field goals made record as well, and she will finish the year in the top 10 in rebounds and assists, and if she gets hot from outside this season, she’ll make the top 10 for three-pointers made, too.

Basically, we’re just passing the time until Marquette hangs her number on the north wall of the McGuire Center.

Erika Davenport

#12 - Forward - 5’11” - Clarkston, MI

2017-18 Stats: 11.7 points, 8.5 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 1.4 steals; shot 54/25/52

Davenport is the “one in” in Carolyn Kieger’s “four out/one in” system that the Golden Eagles have been running for the past three seasons. She’s an adept low post scorer and rebounder, as evidenced by the fact that she has the opportunity to become just the fourth Marquette player to ever record 1,000 career points and 1,000 career rebounds.

While we know what we’re going to get from Davenport on the offensive end, to a certain extent, Marquette’s ceiling as a team depends on her output on the defensive end. She ends up with the primary assignment of defending the opposing team’s centers, and as we’ve seen in the past, sometimes that doesn’t really work out in Marquette’s favor. Look no further than Thursday night’s exhibition game, where Davenport fouled out in just 20 minutes while defending Grand Valley State’s 6’4” center. That left someone else defending Cassidy Boensch, and I suspect that may have had something to do with her 11-for-15 shooting night, and that is a primary reason why Marquette lost the game.

Marquette is going to win a lot of games this season, and they’re going to win a lot of games because Davenport plays really well in them. But where MU is going to struggle is when they get a bad matchup combined with a bad whistle, and Davenport ends up being limited. I don’t even know if qualifies as being her fault or anything like that. It is, however, a primary weakness of the team.

Natisha Hiedeman

#5 - Guard - 5’8” - Green Bay, WI

2017-18 Stats: 13.4 points, 3.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.9 steals; shot 40/33/67

Say hello to Marquette’s future all-time three-point shooting leader. The Green Bay native is just 15 made triples away from Lori Goerlitz’s record, and after putting in 65 a year ago, it’s only a matter of time before she gets there.

Hiedeman is quite possibly Marquette’s most electrifying player. She can catch fire from outside, she can dish the ball all over the court with ease, her speed turns Marquette’s defense into offense on the regular, and her apparent lack of concern for taking bumps and bruises sends her to the rack to draw contact as well as make the hustle play. When she’s on, she actually might be Marquette’s most complete player. When she’s off, she’s still a major reason why this team can succeed.

Danielle King

#1 - Guard - 5’5” - Chicago, IL

2017-18 Stats: 11.3 points, 3.1 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.4 steals; shot 41/28/79

Four of Marquette’s five senior starters were included in the preseason all-Big East honors. Blockton was named Player of the Year, while three of the other four women were included on the 11 player preseason all-conference team.

Danielle King is the one who was left out.

Yet once again, King does not get the recognition that she deserves for Marquette’s successes.

On a team full of players that could be point guards — Carolyn Kieger has said in the past that she wants all of her guards to have the mindset of being point guards while they’re on the floor — it’s King who ends up as the primary ballhandler and distributor. Yes, other players may have ended up with more assists than King. But she’s the only one of the five who started and played in all 34 games last season. She also led the team in minutes played as well as in average minutes played. She is the true extension of her head coach — Marquette’s all-time leader in assists, remember — on the floor.

Much like her teammates, King is on the verge of etching her name into the MU record books. She needs just 17 points to become MU’s 29th 1,000 point scorer, and could easily launch herself into the top 15 all-time by season’s end. King is 22 rebounds away from pushing into the top 10 all-time in assists and should finish her career in the top six. It’s almost a disappointment that Kieger wants all of her players sharing the ball for the easy basket, because it’s stopped all of them from challenging her career record. Instead, she’ll have four players who occupy spots in the top eight all-time.

Amani Wilborn

#15 - Guard - 5’9” - Milwaukee, WI

2017-18 Stats: 12.3 points, 3.9 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.5 steals; shot 48/29/71

This brings us to our fifth and final player in the group, and as you’ve already put together from the Danielle King section, Amani Wilborn is the fourth of the four all-Big East honorees in this group. It makes all the sense in the world. There’s very few players in the conference that can have the across the board impact on a game as Wilborn can. There’s even fewer players in the conference that make look as physically simple as Wilborn can. Her body control while taking the ball through traffic may be unmatched in the Big East.

She is, however, also the player that Kieger.... well, I don’t want to say trusts the least, but Wilborn is the player that throws my entire “five senior starters” concept into disarray the most. She played in just 33 of MU’s 34 games last season, and she started in just 27 of those, the fewest starting assignments amongst the group. She gets her minutes, averaging just over 29 per game last season, but for the most part, the other four seniors are essentially guaranteed a spot in the starting lineup, while Wilborn’s spot sometimes goes to someone else.

There’s also the issue of why she didn’t play in Thursday night’s exhibition. The official team recap of the game says nothing about her, and neither does the Marquette Wire recap. At the very least, it indicates that Kieger isn’t willing to discuss the nature of the absence since it wasn’t worth noting by the student media outlet. Is this something that’s going to keep her out of action long term, or even short term? Is Wilborn going to be back and ready to go against South Dakota State on Tuesday morning? We’ll have to wait and see, I guess.