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

Megan Duffy has a deep roster of returners back from last season’s highly successful squad.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Big East Conference Tournament-Marquette vs St. John
What will we get to see from Camryn Taylor this season?
David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Have you had a chance to read through our rundown of the Marquette Golden Eagles women’s basketball newcomers? You should do that! It’s Part A of our look at Megan Duffy’s roster for the 2020-21 season, and you’re currently looking at Part B. You should always start with Part A before you read Part B.

We’re moving on to the names you recognize from last season in this article, and we’re going to start with the seniors and work downwards to the younger players from there.

THE SENIORS

Selena Lott

#24 - Guard - 5’11” - Troy, New York

15.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, 5.6 assists; 53%/35%/78% shooting splits

I’d like to make the case that Selena Lott is the player on the Marquette roster most hurt by the reappearance of Connecticut in the Big East. Lott was one of five non-Huskies named as a unanimous choice to the preseason all-Big East team. As such, there is a chance, had UConn remained consigned to the American Athletic Conference this season, that Lott could have been preseason Player of the Year. Without Connecticut around, the doorway would easily be there for Lott to push herself into position for the postseason variation of that award. I mean, sure, there’s a chance that Lott could get there anyway this year, but with three Huskies earning preseason all-league awards as they prepare to challenge for another national championship, it feels like it’s a sliver of a chance instead of an actual battle.

Still, she’s going to be one of the best players in the league, and arguably one of the best seniors in the country this season. That’s not nothing. As we talked about when discussing the freshmen previously, the depth behind Lott is improved. Hopefully that means that she doesn’t need to do as much for the Golden Eagles as she did last year. While playing over 34 minutes a night, Lott still ranked #35 in the country in points per scoring attempt according to Her Hoop Stats, and she posted the 65th best effective field goal percentage in the nation. Lott’s assist rate was top 50, her steal rate was top 500, and in a brand new addition to the HHS family, we know that she was #49 in the country in Win Shares.

And yet, as great as she was, because of the limitations of the Marquette roster a year ago, teams were still able to isolate her out of the game. That’s exactly what Seton Hall did in South Orange in early February last year, as lot played over 38 minutes, but only went 1-for-4 from the field. SHU’s faceguarding resulted in no assists and four turnovers as well as a 72-60 Pirate victory.

I don’t think Lott herself can play much better than she did last year. But with more experience in last year’s freshmen/the current sophomores and added talent in the incoming freshmen, I think Lott can have a bigger impact. Between getting to play a little less and thus be a little fresher and getting to give some of the responsibility to other people, Lott can be even better this year.

Lauren Van Kleunen

#42 - Forward - 6’2” - Mason, Ohio

11.8 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.2 assists; 51%/20%/80% shooting splits

We can’t officially say that 2019-20 was a big breakout for Lauren Van Kleunen. I mean, it’s impossible say “breakout” for a woman who went for 23 and 8 in her first collegiate game. However, it was all downhill from there for LVK in her first two years under Carolyn Kieger for whatever insane reason. She averaged under 16 minutes per game in her first two seasons and while she definitely busted her ass when she was on the court, we never really saw all that much of her.

That changed with Megan Duffy taking the reins last year. With four talented forwards on the roster, Duffy made scoring inside and rebounding a major focus of the team and the Ohio native was the second biggest beneficiary of that style behind Altia Anderson. Van Kleunen started in 30 of 32 games, averaged over 25 minutes a night, and posted career bests in points, rebounds, assists, and shooting percentage. While Kieger seemed to want to engage Van Kleunen as more of a guard and wing player, Duffy sent her to the area in and around the paint and it paid off in a big way. Gone (well, almost completely gone) was the career 24% three-point shooting, and Van Kleunen repaid Duffy’s faith in her by becoming a top 250 offensive rebounder and using her athleticism and physique to dominate opposing players.

What’s in stock for this season? Well, more of the same. Perhaps a little bit more, as Marquette will have to figure out what to do without Anderson’s athletic presence on the court. With two freshmen competing to take up Anderson’s minutes, Van Kleunen might have to do some of it until Liza Karlen and Julianna Okosun get their feet wet and the coaching staff starts feeling comfortable giving them responsibility. That’s not the worst thing in the world, given her efficiency (#304 in points per possession) in her minutes last season and the fact that she was averaging 25.5 minutes per game while not committing very many fouls. As long as the efficiency stays up while the minutes go up and thus also the fatigue, then that’s a winning combination for Marquette until the new kids are comfortable in their roles.

THE JUNIOR

Chloe Marotta

#52 - Forward - 6’1” - Mequon, Wisconsin

4.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists; 41%/33%/69% shooting splits

Marotta was the one who suffered last year as Megan Duffy realized what she had in Altia Anderson. Marotta started in Marquette’s first 13 games and she played more than 20 minutes in eight of those contests. As Anderson started demanding more and more playing time because of her impact on the floor, Marotta started coming off the bench, and her minutes kept dropping from there. By the end of the year, she still played in all 32 games, but only ended up averaging 17 minutes a night.

That’s fine. When the senior is making big plays, the sophomore has to take the back seat. Marotta still managed to make a contribution, as it was the four woman rotation with Anderson, Lauren Van Kleunen, and Camryn Taylor that made Marquette so dangerous on the glass last season. Marotta was a big part of that, as she ranked #120 in the country per Her Hoop Stats in offensive rebounding rate and #339 in defensive rebounding rate. With Altia Anderson gone, that means that, much like the case is for LVK, Marotta is going to need to step up and play some big minutes until the freshmen get settled. If that doesn’t happen, then it might mean that it’s a three woman rotation at the 4 and 5 on the floor. That will prrrrrrobably work out okay, but it’s going to require some very careful play from Marotta to make sure she can stay on the floor, too. Marotta fouled out three times last season and ranked in the bottom 20% of the country in foul rate. At least to start the season — and this is important with Big East play starting in Game #3 of the year — Marotta is going to have to pull her end of the deal.

THE SOPHOMORES

Jordan King

#23 - Guard - 5’11” - Rockton, Illinois

8.1 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists; 35%/27%/73% shooting splits

The good news is that 8/3/3 is a pretty good stat line for a freshman. The bad news is that Jordan King was voted preseason Freshman of the Year before last season and while Villanova’s Maddy Siegrist was the clear winner of the postseason iteration of that award, King never came close to that. In fact, she didn’t even make the Big East’s All-Freshman team at the end of the season. A lot of that has to do with there’s a lot of freshmen to pick from, sure, but that 35% shooting from the field and 27% shooting from long range didn’t do King any favors, either.

Look, when the worst thing you can say about someone is that they didn’t have a shot at Freshman of the Year, that’s not actually a problem. King was fine last year if you throw out the preseason expectation. Yes, the shooting’s a problem, but at the end of the day, it didn’t really affect Marquette all that much since the Golden Eagles were still headed to the NCAA tournament anyway. King clearly has the trust of the coaching staff, because if she didn’t, she wouldn’t have been logging 30-plus minutes in Marquette’s three Big East tournament games last season. That hadn’t been the case two weeks earlier when she was under 20 minutes against Butler and Villanova, so you can see that was more circumstantial than anything else.

There’s still clearly a major role on this team for King this season, especially with the departure of Isabelle Spingola from the wing. Not entirely unlike last year, Marquette needs experienced hands out there with four freshmen and just three upperclasswomen. That’s King. But she has to be better. She’s going to need to take more shots this season, and that means she absolutely has to finish more of them. If Marquette is going to play through the interior again this season, King needs to be able to present a threat on the floor to stretch the floor. If she continues to shoot 27% from long range, teams are going to know to not respect the shot at this point, and that’s going to create problems for the Golden Eagles to do what they can do best.

Claire Kaifes

#10 - Guard - 5’11” - Shawnee, Kansas

1.0 points, 1.4 rebounds, 0.6 assists; 28%/15%/83% shooting splits

With 24 appearances on the year, Claire Kaifes appeared in a game more often than not for the Golden Eagles last season. However, I think we can safely say that her impact on the squad was minimal at best, as she finished the year with a total of 201 minutes played, 25 points scored, and 34 rebounds gathered. Her minutes were on the rise as the season went on, though, and that’s good news for the Kansas native.

I don’t know exactly what role there is for her on the team this season, as Kaifes wasn’t asked to do anything in particular for Marquette while on the floor last year. There’s minutes to fill in the wake of Isabelle Spingola’s departure, but that job absolutely requires the ability to shoot the ball. Kaifes missed her final four attempts of the season, and while that sounds like a ridiculous criticism, those four attempts were spread over nine games after February 2nd. Again, she wasn’t asked to carry an offensive load for Megan Duffy’s team, but she also didn’t demonstrate the potential to be able to pick up one side of the pallet, either.

Can she? Sure, maybe! Is she going to be in a fight for minutes with two of her classmates and both freshman guards? Almost assuredly.

Nirel Lougbo

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

1.5 points, 2.3 rebounds, 1.2 assists; 37%/25%/31% shooting splits

If you appear in all 32 games and average 14 minutes per game as a freshman, you’re doing pretty good. That was Nirel Lougbo’s season last year, and she adeptly carried the minutes behind Selena Lott and Jordan King in the backcourt last season.

It also wasn’t all sunshine and lollipops as you can see from her shooting numbers. She also turned the ball over way way waaaaay too much, posting a rate of 38.2%. Literally in the bottom 1% of the country. Not good.

But this is Year #2, and Lougbo’s turnover rate was actually down during league play last year. Not much, just 36.6% instead of north of 38%, but down is down, so we’ll take what we get. I’m also slightly concerned that “take what we get” may be the extent of what Lougbo can offer the squad. Sure, much like Claire Kaifes, Lougbo wasn’t asked to do much for the Golden Eagles last season. Also like Kaifes, Lougbo didn’t show all that much either. She averaged 14 minutes a game but didn’t even get to two shot attempts per game, not even during conference play. It’s hard to make statements about what you see coming from a player in a new season when there wasn’t much going on other than chewing minutes to give teammates a break the year prior. With Rose Nkumu on deck to play some point guard minutes this year, Lougbo is going to have to carve out a niche that’s bigger than just “can cover someone’s shift on a moment’s notice.”

Camryn Taylor

#15 - Forward - 6’2” - Peoria, Illinois

9.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, 0.7 assists; 53%/NA/63% shooting splits

I’m sorry, I mislabeled this category. This is BUDDING FAN FAVORITE Camryn Taylor we’re talking about here. I’m still shocked that she wasn’t a unanimous choice for the Big East’s all-freshman team.

Taylor was the big surprise in the four-headed monster that Marquette deployed in the post last season. Lauren Van Kleunen was the player who got a chance to play a bigger role, while it was fun to see Altia Anderson actually get a chance to show what she do on the floor and Chloe Marotta was mostly filling in time around the other two. Taylor, though, was the freshman of the four, and quite honestly, the whole experiment doesn’t work if she doesn’t do what she did. The 9.3 points per game were actually fourth best on the team trailing only Van Kleunen, Selena Lott, and Isabelle Spingola. I’m kind of surprised at how low the rebounding total is, but I think I have an explanation there. Taylor ranked #327 in the country in offensive rebounding rate per Her Hoop Stats last season, so since I remember all the powerful putbacks from the Peoria native, I remember a lot of her rebounds.

She was also quietly good at other things, too. HHS has Taylor in the top 500 in block rate, which speaks to her defensive abilities, but she’s also top 500 in turnover rate. When you’ve got a freshman big mixing it up inside and not coughing it up much even with a top 200 usage rate, then you’ve got something you can work with going forward. I don’t know if Megan Duffy is quite ready to start running offense through Taylor, but her athletic gifts suggest that she’ll be able to contribute in more ways that just cleaning glass and doing the other dirty work on the inside. I’m greatly looking forward to what Taylor has on tap for Year Two.

Taylor Valladay

#5 - Guard - 5’7” - Chicago, Illinois

0.7 points, 0.7 rebounds, 0.3 assists; 60%/33%/25% shooting splits

Given that Taylor Valladay lost her senior season of high school to a knee injury and that she spent 2019-20 in a knee brace while on the court for Marquette, it’s not surprising that she didn’t have much of an impact on the team as a freshman. Valladay saw action in just 20 games, and only cleared nine minutes played in two of them: A 78-56 win over Milwaukee and a 61-47 loss at Villanova. She was mostly around for spot minutes here and there, and that’s fine.

What to expect from this year? No idea! I’ve said a million times already that Marquette does need to figure out how to fill Isabelle Spingola’s minutes, but Valladay seems to figure as more of a point guard type than a wing. Can she take a step forward and allow Selena Lott and/or Jordan King to shift to more of a wing spot? Can Valladay stay in front of freshman Rose Nkumu on the depth chart? There’s nothing but questions to be asked here as well as unrealized potential after just 86 minutes of action a year ago.