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2020-21 Marquette Women’s Basketball Season Preview: The Newcomers

Four freshmen and a newly eligible transfer will suit up for the first time for the Golden Eagles this season.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 21 St John’s at Marquette Photo by Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Hey! The 2020-21 college basketball season can start today, but for Marquette women’s basketball, things don’t get started until Sunday. That’s good news for us here at Anonymous Eagle because it has given us some extra time to put together some season preview things for you! If you haven’t looked at the Big East team previews already, run yourself over here and check those out.

We turn our attention to Marquette now, and we have to break up Megan Duffy’s roster somehow. We will start with a look at the newcomers on the roster, which includes the four freshmen who will be making their collegiate debut this season and the newly eligible transfer who sat out last season during Duffy’s first year in charge. In fact, just because she’s already familiar with the system, we’ll start with the transfer and move on from there.......

Antwainette Walker

Redshirt Sophomore - #4 - Guard - 5’11” - Lisle, Illinois

Walker comes to Marquette after a year at Arkansas-Little Rock. The Illinois native appeared in 21 of 32 games as a freshman for the Trojans, but her contributions were muted. She averaged just 2.2 points and 1.4 rebounds per game while playing only 5.8 minutes per outing. Coming out of St. Francis High School in Wheaton, IL, Walker was a three star prospect according to what her signing announcement at UALR says. Through her junior year at St. Francis, she averaged 17.3 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 3.7 steals per game, and in her 2018 summer of club play, she averaged 13.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 1.7 steals. As a senior at St. Francis, Walker averaged 20.0 points, 9.9 rebounds, 1.0 assists, and 2.1 steals per game while the team went 14-14 according to Max Preps.

I’m not going to take a whole lot away from Walker not playing much for Little Rock in her one year there, as that was a pretty good Trojans squad. They went 21-11, won the Sun Belt regular season and tournament titles, and made the NCAA tournament as a #12 seed. That trip in 2019 was their sixth since 2010, so that does lend a certain amount of credibility to the Trojans staff identifying Walker as a player that could have contributed to their future.

At Marquette, Walker will join a loaded up backcourt. In fact, she’s now part of the sophomore class that includes last year’s four freshman guards that return for 2020-21. Competition for playing time for the next three seasons will be pretty stiff, particularly this season with Selena Lott occupying as many backcourt minutes as she wants. Still, with Isabelle Spingola gone to a pro career in Switzerland, there are guard/wing minutes from last year that are now available. From her prep stats, it seems like Walker is more of a shooting guard than a point guard (look at the low/lack of mention of assists) so that does point to the possibility that she can help fill Spingola’s spot.

The other big thing that she might be able to contribute is shooting. Yes, I know, VERY small sample size, but Walker went 2-for-5 from long range for UALR in 2018-19, and 40% would definitely work out okay. With that said, those Max Preps stats I linked to a minute ago from her senior year had her going 10-for-40 (25%) in 23 games. Since she was leading the team in scoring and not shooting very many threes, it certainly seems like something that she’s not comfortable with, or at least wasn’t. Last year, Spingola took 41% of Marquette’s long range attempts, and no one other than Lott and Jordan King even pretended to look at the rim from outside the arc. While MU was an exceptional rebounding team and worked well inside, a more versatile shooting department might open things up even more. If Walker’s shot has improved in her year away from active status, that’s an easy way for her to push her way past her teammates and onto the floor.


THE FRESHMEN

Liza Karlen

Freshman - #32 - Forward - 6’2” - St. Paul, Minnesota

Julianna Okosun

Freshman - #0 - Forward - 6’4” - Copenhagen, Denmark

I was going to sort the freshmen by alphabetical order and talk about them each individually, but then I realized that when it comes to Liza Karlen (#187 in the class according to Blue Star) and Julianna Okosun, we’re going to talk about a lot of the same things. Thus, why not combine the two instead of repeating myself.

As the two new forwards on the roster, Karlen and Okosun will be called on to fill in the space left behind by Altia Anderson’s graduation. The Delaware native went out with a bang last season, posting 7.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.1 steals, and 1.5 blocks per game in just under 21 minutes per appearance. Had Marquette gotten the chance to play in the NCAA tournament, Anderson might have gotten the five blocks that she needed to break MU’s single season record. While Lauren Van Kleunen, Chloe Marotta, and Camryn Taylor all return from Marquette’s four-headed inside monster last season, Anderson’s multi-dimensional athleticism helped the whole thing run. Karlen and Okosun are going to have to step in — one or the other? Both of them splitting it? — and pick up the slack left behind by Anderson’s departure.

Karlen may be the more interesting prospect of the two. If you glance at her Marquette bio, you get the general standard forward notes in there. Over 2,000 points and 1,200 rebounds in her career, two sectional titles in her final two seasons, first ever state title game appearance in school history, 16.8 points and 10.2 rebounds as a senior, blah blah blah, you get the picture. However, as we talked about when Karlen committed to Marquette in June 2019, she’s not just an inside player. She also averaged 1.5 assists and 1.1 steals per game as a junior, and she shot nearly 43% from long range that year, too. The Star Tribune’s Basketball Hub has her at 2.0 assists and 1.9 steals as a senior, but unfortunately only 29% from long range. Still, that 43% is in there somewhere, and if Karlen can go inside and outside, that adds a dimension to the Golden Eagles that they didn’t have a year ago.

Okosun is perhaps more of a mystery just because she comes over to Marquette from Denmark. Obviously, things in terms of athletic development in Europe are wildly different than they are in the States, so we don’t have the high school and club details for Okosun that we do for Marquette’s other prospects. However, we do have Eurobasket.com, and that’s pretty helpful. In 2018-19, she averaged 13.9 points and 8.6 rebounds in 17 games for Vaerlose, her club in Denmark. Next year, she went for 11.6 points and 9.4 rebounds in about 20 minutes per game in 16 appearances while leading Vaerlose in field goal attempts. This is pretty good stuff. In the 2018 FIBA U18 Women’s European Division B Championship, Okosun averaged 9.4 points and 9.9 rebounds in Denmark’s eight games, posting the fifth best rebounding average in the entire tournament and landing in second place in scoring on her own team. Having someone who is very good on an international level on your college basketball team seems like a very good thing.

Okosun is more of a traditional in the middle player at least on offense, as evidenced by her general lack of attempting to shoot threes. We’ll see if that’s something she can do or if Duffy and her staff even want her to try for that matter. At 6’4”, she’s the tallest player on the team by two inches over Van Kleunen, Taylor, and Karlen, so that gives her an advantage that no one else has. If Marquette bumps up against biggest posts as the season goes along, even if Karlen is getting more of Anderson’s minutes, Okosun might be pressed into service to take advantage of her extra height.

Danyel Middleton

Freshman - #25 - Guard - 5’10” - Chicago, Illinois

Rose Nkumu

Freshman - #3 - Guard - 5’7” - Iowa City, Iowa

That brings us to a discussion of Megan Duffy’s two freshmen guards. Blue Star has both women noted as top 150 prospects, so it stands to reason that both Middleton (#141) and Nkumu (#146) could find a way to contribute immediately this season. The thing standing in their way, of course, is that Selena Lott and Jordan King figure to play big roles in the backcourt for the Golden Eagles. The good news is that Marquette may benefit from having players able to pull minutes away from Lott and King. Lott was one of the most efficient players in the country a year ago, but she was playing over 34 minutes a night. King was asked to do a whole hell of a lot last season as a freshman and was out there for over 30 minutes a game. As the season wore on, the coaching staff started doling out minutes deeper and deeper into the bench, but having more options available can’t be a bad thing for Marquette or either of the two freshmen.

Nkumu is the more point guard oriented of the pair, so her minutes this season may serve as a apprenticeship to Lott for Marquette down the road. Can I interest you in someone who set Iowa City High School records for career assists and steals? Megan Duffy has been tracking Nkumu as a prospect since she was coaching at Miami, so the fact that Duffy immediately sent her an offer as soon as she got settled in at the McGuire Center tells you a lot about Nkumu’s potential. While helping to propel Iowa City to four straight conference titles and four straight state tournament appearances, Nkumu averaged 19.5 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.4 assists, and 3.7 steals as a junior. For an encore, Nkumu followed that up with 14.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, 5.6 assists, and 4.0 steals as Iowa City reached the 5A state semifinals. If Nkumu can get those hands active on defense at the Division 1 level, that will help her earn minutes, and if she’s helping the offense stay efficient with Lott taking a breather, all the better.

Unfortunately, I can’t get you a lot of information about Danyel Middleton in terms of telling you about stats that she compiled in high school or on the club circuit. I wasn’t able to find much on her back when she committed in October of 2019, and I’m not finding anything now that’s helpful over a year later. I did track down this article that has a scouting report on Middleton from her coach at Bolingbrook High School:

“Danyel is really getting into our rhythm and flow right now, and that’s both on the offensive and the defensive ends. She really makes such a huge difference because she has that special ability offensively and defensively to affect and change the game.”

That’s coming out of a game where she scored 21 points to lead Bolingbrook to a 63-40 victory back in January 2020. As is the case for Nkumu, if Middleton can create dysfunction on defense, that’s going to help her get on the floor. With Middleton having a three inch height advantage on Nkumu, that may mean that she could be able to grab up some of the 34 minutes per game that Isabelle Spingola was occupying last year. There’s also the issue of Spingola’s outside shooting that MU needs to replicate, and if Duffy and her assistants can get shooting and defense from Middleton, that will really help her case out.

At worst, both Nkumu and Middleton provide Marquette with depth at guard this season and maybe give the Golden Eagles slightly different options to what they had coming off the bench last season. At best? Megan Duffy and her staff have an embarrassment of riches to sort out into a regular rotation.