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2019-20 Marquette Women’s Basketball Season Wrap-Up: The Freshmen

The Golden Eagles had six new faces in 2019-20 and got big contributions from several of them.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 01 Women’s DePaul at Marquette
I just wanted an excuse to use a picture that wasn’t Jordan King or Camryn Taylor.
Photo by Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

I’m going to try something a little different and a little new here. As you’re probably aware of at this point, the coronavirus ended the Marquette women’s basketball season just a few days before Megan Duffy’s team was going to almost assuredly receive an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. As such, we never got an official chance to bring the season to a conclusion.

We also lost every scheduled Marquette sporting event between now and August for sure, as the Big East and Marquette ended the rest of the spring seasons at the same time as the NCAA tournament was cancelled. So, as a result, we’ve got nothing but time to fill for a long time now. So, while I don’t normally do a big breakdown for women’s basketball, we’ve got the time to dive in and do that.

In the interests of not turning this into one 8,000 word article where I end up giving things less attention than I really could, I’m going to break things up into a few pieces. We’ve already given the seniors a big farewell over here, and the other three returners from the 2018-19 season got their time in the sun over here. That means this one is for all six freshmen, and while that sounds like a lot, there’s a couple of names that will get just a mere glancing look just because of lack of anything relevant to say. Eventually, we’ll wrap up with a big team overhead view at some point in the not distant future.

So let’s jump in to today’s adventure, shall we? We’ll sort these by total minutes played this season.

Jordan King

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

Jordan King Traditional Stats

Games Min FGM FGA FG% 3PTM 3PA 3P% FTM FTA FT% OReb DReb Reb Ast Stl Blk Fouls Pts
Games Min FGM FGA FG% 3PTM 3PA 3P% FTM FTA FT% OReb DReb Reb Ast Stl Blk Fouls Pts
32 30.8 2.9 8.5 34.6% 1.0 3.6 27.2% 1.3 1.8 73.2% 0.5 2.8 3.4 3.2*** 0.8 0.5 1.8 8.1

Jordan King Fancy Stats

Usage Rate eFG% FTRate OR% DR% Total Reb Rate ARate TORate Blk% Stl% Foul Rate
Usage Rate eFG% FTRate OR% DR% Total Reb Rate ARate TORate Blk% Stl% Foul Rate
18.9% 40.3% 14.1% 2.1% 9.9% 6.2% 18.5% 22.8% 1.7% 1.3% 2.9%

*** - Denotes a top 500 national ranking by HerHoopStats.com

Okay, so look. Yes, Jordan King was named Big East Preseason Freshman of the Year for the 2019-20 season. Yes, Jordan King didn’t come anywhere near snagging the postseason version of that award. A large chunk of that is not her fault, as Madison Siegrist came off of her redshirt season at Villanova and was the straw that stirred the drink for the Wildcats. Siegrist was an obvious runaway choice for the trophy as Villanova’s leading scorer, so you can’t knock King for a campaign that fell short.

We also have to address the fact that King was not a part of the five woman Big East All-Freshman team this season. That’s not something you expect to happen for someone who came into the year as the best freshman in the conference according to a votes of the coaches in the league. It leaves us with an ever so slight note of disappointment in King’s season..... but that’s also a ridiculous thing to say. Let’s look at it from the other direction: How can you possibly be disappointed with a freshman who averaged nearly 31 minutes a night for a team that went 24-8 and was going to end up with an NCAA tournament at-large berth before the tourney was cancelled? You can’t! It was clearly a really good season from King, both from a personal perspective and a team perspective. It just wasn’t a great season, but these things happen sometimes.

Think of it this way: It’s a good thing that we (and the coaching staff and Jordan herself, too) can look at her freshman campaign and see a lot of good things that happened. Averaging 8/3/3 as a freshman, including ending up in the top 300 in the country in assists per game? That’s quality stuff! It’s also a good thing to be able to look at a season with a lot of good things in it and be able to see things to work on for the next time out. A few people have mentioned that Marquette needs a point guard for next year, which I think is a question raised about King’s turnovers this season more than anything else. However, the answer to that question is Selena Lott is still there as the person who led the team in assists in 2019-20, so “point guard” isn’t really a problem.

However, if Lott’s the point guard, that makes King more of a shooting guard..... and, uh, a 40.3% effective field goal percentage isn’t cutting it for a shooter. Unfortunately for King, there’s not an aspect of her run of play shooting that we can highlight as good. She shot 39.9% from inside the arc and 27.2% outside of it. As we head into next season without Isabelle Spingola providing a long range threat for the Golden Eagles, someone is going to have to pick up that slack to help spread the floor. In terms of confidence, at nearly four attempts per game, King was willing to take on that role, it’s just that the results weren’t there. That’s something that Marquette will need from someone going forward, and hopefully that can be King.

Camryn Taylor

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

Camryn Taylor Traditional Stats

Games Min FGM FGA FG% 3PTM 3PA 3P% FTM FTA FT% OReb DReb Reb Ast Stl Blk Fouls Pts
Games Min FGM FGA FG% 3PTM 3PA 3P% FTM FTA FT% OReb DReb Reb Ast Stl Blk Fouls Pts
31 16.3 3.7 6.9 53.3%*** 0 0 0 1.9 3 62.8% 1.5 2.3 3.8 0.7 0.4 0.5 2.4 9.3

Camryn Taylor Fancy Stats

Usage Rate eFG% FTRate OR% DR% Total Reb Rate ARate TORate Blk% Stl% Foul Rate
Usage Rate eFG% FTRate OR% DR% Total Reb Rate ARate TORate Blk% Stl% Foul Rate
28.2%*** 53.3%*** 17.1% 10.9%*** 15.1% 13.1% 10.0% 13.4%*** 3.3%*** 1.2% 7.3%

*** - Denotes a top 500 national ranking by HerHoopStats.com

I actually didn’t realize that Camryn Taylor nearly averaged 10 points per game until I assembled these tables for this article. That’s impressive.

As much as we can say that Jordan King’s season wasn’t quite as good as we thought it might be at the start of the season, I think it’s clear that Taylor’s season was much better than anyone expected it to be. 9 and 4 per game for a freshman forward playing 16 minutes per outing is fantastic production, and that shows up in her stats from Her Hoop Stats. #327 in offensive rebounding rate, #498 in turnover rate, #483 in block rate, #322 in the country in effective field goal percentage without taking a single attempt from behind the three point line.

There’s a reason why I nicknamed her “Budding Fan Favorite Camryn Taylor” as the season went on.

Several reasons, actually. The production is only one aspect of it. Taylor’s body language while compiling these stats is another. When you watch her play, you can see her body act in a manner that says that every single ball that comes off the rim for a rebound belongs to her already. It’s just a matter of time before that becomes actual truth, and on the rare occasions when that doesn’t transpire, you can see her take personal offense to someone in a different uniform ending up with the rebound. Don’t even get me started on how great it is to see Taylor react to blocking a shot.

This season, Taylor was part of a four-headed monster in Marquette’s two-post system. MU loses one of those heads as Altia Anderson’s collegiate career has wrapped up. Whether head coach Megan Duffy makes use of her incoming freshman bigs to fill that spot or whether the Golden Eagles go with a different system remains to be seen. What we do know for sure is that Taylor will be asked to do a little bit more to make up for the loss of Anderson, and I for one am totally here for it.

Nirel Lougbo

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

Nirel Lougbo Traditional Stats

Games Min FGM FGA FG% 3PTM 3PA 3P% FTM FTA FT% OReb DReb Reb Ast Stl Blk Fouls Pts
Games Min FGM FGA FG% 3PTM 3PA 3P% FTM FTA FT% OReb DReb Reb Ast Stl Blk Fouls Pts
32 14.0 0.7 1.8 36.8% 0 0.1 25.0% 0.1 0.4 30.8% 0.6 1.6 2.2 1.2 0.7 0.3 1.2 1.5

Nirel Lougbo Fancy Stats

Usage Rate eFG% FTRate OR% DR% Total Reb Rate ARate TORate Blk% Stl% Foul Rate
Usage Rate eFG% FTRate OR% DR% Total Reb Rate ARate TORate Blk% Stl% Foul Rate
11.0% 37.7% 10.2% 5.4% 12.4% 9.2% 14.3% 38.2% 2.0% 2.4% 4.5%

It would appear that Nirel Lougbo won the “well, someone else has to play serious minutes” lottery for the Golden Eagles this season.

With two guards and three forwards in the group of returning players available to head coach Megan Duffy, it was clear that Marquette was going to need multiple freshmen guards to get real playing time this past season if the Golden Eagles were going to be successful. This is purely from a “Selena Lott and Isabelle Spingola can’t play 40 minutes every night” perspective more than anything else. While Jordan King admirably took on the duties needed from a starter in the backcourt, Lougbo effectively filled the role of “first guard off the bench” for Marquette.

As you can see from the lack of marks for a top 500 national ranking on Her Hoop Stats here, Lougbo didn’t particularly stand out in any direction this season. But that’s okay! She played in every single game, averaging 14 minutes per outing. She proved her value to Duffy early in the season when she started and played 40 of 45 minutes in MU’s overtime loss to Northwestern when Selena Lott was sidelined with an injury. From there, it was clear that Lougbo was going to be a rotation player for the Golden Eagles. Sometimes she played a lot (five non-starting appearances with 20 or more minutes) and sometimes matchups dictated that she only played a little (11 appearances with less than 10 minutes), but Lougbo was always a gamer and ready to play her part.

The thing to watch for next year is her turnovers. A turnover rate of 38% in a backup guard is bad, given their reduced opportunities. If Lougbo wants to keep getting playing time as she advances in her collegiate career and Duffy continues to bring in quality backcourt components, she can’t be seen as a liability in ball control.

Claire Kaifes

Freshman - #10 - Guard - 5’11” - Shawnee, Kansas

Claire Kaifes Traditional Stats

Games Min FGM FGA FG% 3PTM 3PA 3P% FTM FTA FT% OReb DReb Reb Ast Stl Blk Fouls Pts
Games Min FGM FGA FG% 3PTM 3PA 3P% FTM FTA FT% OReb DReb Reb Ast Stl Blk Fouls Pts
24 8.4 0.4 1.3 28.1% 0.1 0.5 15.4% 0.2 0.2 83.3% 0.7 0.8 1.4 0.6 0.2 0.1 0.7*** 1

Claire Kaifes Fancy Stats

Usage Rate eFG% FTRate OR% DR% Total Reb Rate ARate TORate Blk% Stl% Foul Rate
Usage Rate eFG% FTRate OR% DR% Total Reb Rate ARate TORate Blk% Stl% Foul Rate
10.9% 32.2% 13.6% 9.7%*** 9.7% 9.7% 12.1% 22.2% 1.5% 1.3% 4.4%

*** - Denotes a top 500 national ranking by HerHoopStats.com

Claire Kaifes is a good example what you like to see in a freshman on your roster. It takes her a minute or two to figure out how things work on the Division 1 level, but by the end of the year, she’s playing regular minutes for you. More minutes from Kaifes means fewer minutes from the other guards, and that means less fatigue. Less fatigue means more efficiency. It’s a win all around for everyone involved.

Also: Can we talk about the fact that Claire Kaifes is apparently an offensive rebounding savant? Okay, okay, #489 in the country in rate per Her Hoop Stats is juuuuuuuuuuuuuust across that top 500 line, but for a 5’11” guard, that’s just making good use of your time.

It’s good that Kaifes was able to add something to MU’s overall offensive efficiency by way of extending possessions, because her shooting never quite came together this season. An effective field goal percentage of 32% is no bueno on any level, and that was down to just 28% in Big East games. Struggles to shoot the ball is a recurring theme for all of Marquette’s freshmen guards that played rotation minutes this season. That’s not a big problem, as MU focused on getting the ball to their forwards inside for buckets or just taking it to the rim in general. However, without Isabelle Spingola next season, and with just one more season for the stellar Selena Lott, MU is going to need women in this particular recruiting class to step up and hit shots down the road. If they can’t, Duffy’s going to have to look at new recruits to get the job done.

Taylor Valladay

Freshman - #5 - Guard - 5’7” - Chicago, Illinois

Taylor Valladay Traditional Stats

Games Min FGM FGA FG% 3PTM 3PA 3P% FTM FTA FT% OReb DReb Reb Ast Stl Blk Fouls Pts
Games Min FGM FGA FG% 3PTM 3PA 3P% FTM FTA FT% OReb DReb Reb Ast Stl Blk Fouls Pts
20 4.3 0.3 0.5 60.0% 0.1 0.1 33.3% 0.1 0.2 25.0% 0.2 0.5 0.7 0.3 0.0 0.0 0.2 0.7

Taylor Valladay Fancy Stats

Usage Rate eFG% FTRate OR% DR% Total Reb Rate ARate TORate Blk% Stl% Foul Rate
Usage Rate eFG% FTRate OR% DR% Total Reb Rate ARate TORate Blk% Stl% Foul Rate
11.7% 65.0% 22.2% 5.9% 11.7% 8.8% 12.2% 42.9% 0.0% 0.0% 2.4%

I said at the top of the page that some of these player reviews are going to be glances instead of anything resembling an in depth look. Taylor Valladay’s is the first one where we start having an inability to take a deep look because there’s just not that much depth to look at. She played in just 20 games all year, and 24 of her 86 minutes came in two contests: 11 minutes against Milwaukee and 13 against Villanova. Other that that, she played more than five minutes just four other times this season.

It is what is. When you have five returning players and six freshmen, some of the freshmen are going to end up on the back end of the rotation, and Valladay’s spot ended up in that back end. The giant knee brace that she wore all season also probably did not help, as this year marked Valladay’s return to the court after a knee injury ended her high school career sooner than she would have preferred. If she was a step slower, or a twitch slower because her knee just wasn’t quite up to the task right now, then that does explain an awful lot of why she ended up down a ways in Duffy’s rotation.

Generally speaking, Valladay didn’t play any notable minutes when games were on the line, so it’s hard to make any real commentary about what she did well or needs to improve. All we can say is that hopefully she gets more opportunities down the road.

Destiny Strother

Freshman - #13 - Guard - 5’9” - Flint, Michigan

Destiny Strother Traditional Stats

Games Min FGM FGA FG% 3PTM 3PA 3P% FTM FTA FT% OReb DReb Reb Ast Stl Blk Fouls Pts
Games Min FGM FGA FG% 3PTM 3PA 3P% FTM FTA FT% OReb DReb Reb Ast Stl Blk Fouls Pts
16 2.9 0.3 0.8 41.7% 0.2 0.6 44.4% 0.0 0.1 0.0% 0.1 0.2 0.4 0.2 0.2 0.0 0.3 0.9

Destiny Strother Fancy Stats

Usage Rate eFG% FTRate OR% DR% Total Reb Rate ARate TORate Blk% Stl% Foul Rate
Usage Rate eFG% FTRate OR% DR% Total Reb Rate ARate TORate Blk% Stl% Foul Rate
15.6% 58.3% 25.0% 5.6% 9.3% 7.3% 14.8% 13.3% 0.0% 3.3% 5.4%

And now to Destiny Strother, who had an even smaller impact on Marquette’s season than Taylor Valladay did. A total of 46 minutes played this season, with nearly a quarter of that (10 minutes) coming in the MU home game where they jumped out to a 23-4 lead on Xavier at the end of the first quarter. I guess it’s encouraging that she played just 16 minutes in non-conference play and then played 30 minutes over the next 21 games, but y’all are smart people who can figure out that average.

I’m admittedly a little surprised that Strother didn’t play more for Marquette. It seemed like she had the ability to knock down three-pointers from her exhibition game/open gym performances, and that bore itself out during the regular season. Of course, 4-for-9 across four games with an attempt is not something that can base a whole lot on, but we are talking about situations where Strother was coming off the bench late in games and knocking down shots to the tune of 44%. That’s not nothing.

With Marquette only shooting 34% as a team (admittedly #62 in the country per Her Hoop Stats, but you get my point here), it would seem that having another shooter on the floor would have been a good thing for the Golden Eagles. An extra floor spacer leads to more — wait for it — space for Duffy’s high/low post system, but for whatever reason, Strother didn’t get the chance. Presumably there’s a reason for that within the context of the coaching staff and game plans, but given her rare appearances, we can’t really make any solid guesses as to what that actually was.