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2019-20 Marquette Women’s Basketball Preview: The Freshmen

Boy howdy, there’s a lot of them.

Big East 1st Round Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Okay, so look.

There was always going to be a bunch of freshmen on this year’s Marquette Golden Eagles women’s basketball roster. That was going to be the case if it was still Carolyn Kieger running the show or if it was Megan Duffy taking over for her first year in charge in Milwaukee.

Having six freshmen on the roster with five returning players means that most if not all of the freshmen are going to have to play some kind of significant role on this team. The problem with that is that the Golden Eagles don’t have a double digit scorer returning, so the roles going to freshmen this season could be all over the place, both in a season long perspective and also from a game-to-game perspective.

As such, I don’t think giving you an idea of what and who the freshmen were as high school prospects is particularly helpful. If you want that, you can go check out our article from last year’s fall signing period..... just try to ignore the Shemera Williams part.

Instead, I’m going to give you names, jersey numbers, positions, heights, home towns, and what I saw from them in MU’s exhibition victory over Winona State. Marquette did not publish a box score after the game, so I can’t give you stats. That’s probably for the best, anyway. I’m going to go in order of who stood out the most down to the freshman that didn’t even dress for the game.

Jordan King

#23 - Guard - 5’11” - Rockton, IL

Hey, you’re never going to believe it, but the Big East Preseason Freshman of the Year looked pretty damn great in her first run in a college uniform. Quite honestly, if I had grabbed you off the street and said “hey, one of these five starters is a freshman, which one is it?” I don’t think you would have had an easy time figuring it out. I figure the biggest compliment you can pay to a college freshman player in November (or October, as that’s when the game was) is that they absolutely looked like they fit in out on the floor. King was doing a little bit of everything for the Golden Eagles and had absolutely no fear.

Destiny Strother

#13 - Guard - 5’9” - Flint, MI

This might just be a case of what her face looks like when she’s focused on a task, but my very first instinct upon seeing Strother on the court was that she was nervous as hell. Second impressions didn’t necessarily clear that from my mind, as she looked fine out on the court, but didn’t particularly stand out.

That changed as the game went on. Strother started raining in threes, so it’s very clear that she got comfortable out there. Again, without stats or a streaming replay to go back to, I can’t confirm this, but it felt that her buckets were of the catch-and-shoot variety. If that’s something that she’s comfortable doing on the regular and if those are shots she can hit on the regular, then “sniper off the bench” is a perfectly solid role to plug Strother into at this point.

Taylor Valladay

#5 - Guard - 5’7” - Chicago, IL

From all accounts, Valladay appears to be in a competition with King for point guard minutes. As you can tell from what I wrote about King, I’d give the clear edge on the job to her, and given the fact that King started along side four of the returning players tells you that the coaches do, too.

That’s praise for King, though, not a knock on Valladay. The Chicago native looked confident and in control while she was out on the court. While she’s wearing a big ol’ knee brace as she recovers from an injury that I believe stole her entire senior season from her, she looks unbothered by both the brace merely being there as well as the injury that requires her to wear it. Given the sheer numbers of guards on the roster, Duffy is likely going to have to play three and four of them at a time in order to field a team, but Valladay is clearly carving out a niche for herself.

Nirel Lougbo

#1 - Guard - 5’10” - North Andover, MA

Much like Strother, there appeared to be a little bit of anxiety to Lougbo’s game to start off. I can’t really point to anything in particular that’s a real turning point, but it appeared that she settled in and just started playing basketball as her playing time progressed. Nothing jumped out at me as extremely notable for Lougbo, but sometimes not standing out in any way at all is okay and also exactly what you’re looking for from a freshman.

Camryn Taylor

#15 - Forward - 6’2” - Peoria, IL

I make the point about not standing out at all while talking about Lougbo on purpose to lead in to talking about the tallest of the six freshmen. Taylor has a unique opportunity compared to the rest of her classmates in terms of playing time. The other four we’ve already talked about are, to a certain extent, fighting with each other for playing time, not to mention fighting with Selena Lott and Isabelle Spingola, who will take up a bunch of minutes this year.

Taylor is part of a front line that includes Altia Anderson, Chloe Marotta, and Lauren Van Kleunen.... and that is it. We’ll get into it more in our look at the returners, but at least in terms of collegiate experience, Taylor isn’t that far behind those three. There’s a way for her to stake a claim to serious playing time this year...... but that means not fouling like crazy.

I know, I know, one game, small sample size, blah blah blah. However, Taylor racked up fouls at a frenetic pace against Winona State, and she wasn’t doing it by hacking people getting free for layups, either. 1) Marquette was generally speaking thrashing WSU by the time Taylor got onto the floor, so there was not much of a reason to try to throw her size around and end up with fouls. 2) I feel like Taylor is a better overall athlete than anyone on WSU’s roster, so she should have been able to carry the day through that means as opposed to force.

Let’s chalk it up to jitters for the time being, and cross our fingers that Taylor figures it out with alacrity as MU plays three games in the first six days of the season.

Claire Kaifes

#10 - Guard - 5’11” - Shawnee, KS

Kaifes is the easiest one to discuss here, as she’s the freshman who was stationed on the bench with a clipboard, along with transfer Antwainette Walker and Tori McCoy. Kaifes wasn’t immediately obviously hindered by some sort of physical malady be it by way of a brace or a limp, but she also didn’t dress to play. It’s unclear if this is a minor injury that wasn’t worth aggravating in an exhibition game where five other freshmen needed to get their feet wet anyway or if this is part of a plan to redshirt Kaifes. As you can see, there’s a lot of guards in this recruiting class, and nudging Kaifes down one eligibility class wouldn’t be the worst decision.