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2021-22 Marquette Men’s Basketball Player Preview: #23 David Joplin

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We turn our attention to the freshman from the Milwaukee area who is at MU because of Shaka Smart.

Syndication: Journal Sentinel
Sure, why not use the picture from David Joplin’s commitment to Marquette?
Curt Hogg / Now News Group via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The 2021-22 college basketball season is right around the corner, so let’s get into the Marquette Golden Eagles basketball roster and take a look at what to expect from each player this season. We’ll be going through the players one by one: First MU’s freshmen in alphabetical order, then the two underclassmen transfers, then the two super-seniors on their extra year of eligibility, and then finally the three returning players, going in order of average minutes per game last season from lowest to highest.

We’re going to organize our thoughts about the upcoming season as it relates to each player into categories, as we always do:

  • Reasonable Expectations
  • Why You Should Get Excited
  • Potential Pitfalls

With that out of the way, it’s time to talk about the third and final freshman who is joining Marquette after originally committing to Shaka Smart while he was still at Texas......

David Joplin

Freshman - #23 - Forward - 6’7” - 215 pounds - Brookfield, Wisconsin

I think it’s safe to say that David Joplin created the biggest hullabaloo amongst Marquette fans out of the three freshmen who elected to follow Shaka Smart from Texas to MU. That’s just what happens when Marquette goes from not even bothering to seriously recruit a local top 125 prospect — his high school is just 14 miles from the McGuire Center — to the new head coach easily convincing said local top 125 prospect to follow him from Austin to Milwaukee in less than three weeks. Do I understand why Steve Wojciechowski and his staff apparently had no interest in recruiting Joplin for the past three or four years? No, I do not, and any time spent trying to figure that out is time spent worrying about a past that does not matter any longer.

David Joplin is currently rated as a four-star prospect by the 247 Sports Composite system, and he is ranked #120 in the country. That’s down six spots from when Joplin announced his commitment to the Golden Eagles. To be clear, there’s not really that much difference between #114 and #120, but a drop is a drop. 247 says that Joplin is the #21 power forward prospect in the country and the fourth best prospect in the state behind Patrick Baldwin, Jr., Tyrese Hunter, and Brandin Podziemski. The internal setup at 247 really likes Joplin, setting him up at #82 in the country. Interestingly, that only moves Joplin to #21 amongst power forwards and keeps him at #4 amongst Wisconsin prospects.

Rivals also says that Joplin is a four-star prospect. They tab him as the #94 prospect in the country and #18 amongst power forwards. I’m not sure what’s dragging Joplin down to #120 in the Composite, as ESPN also rates him as a four-star power forward. Then again, the Worldwide Leader does say he’s #28 at the position, so maybe that explains the drop to #120. ESPN also has Joplin at #5 in the state, but they’re also still counting Arizona prep school attendee Michael Foster as a Wisconsin kid.

We turn now to WisSports.net for details about how Joplin’s senior season at Brookfield Central went. The team went 19-6, reaching the WIAA Regional finals before bowing out to Wauwatosa East. Joplin averaged 25.6 points per game for the Lancers, shooting a robust 53% from the field and 37% from behind the arc on just under five attempts per game. He was a double-double machine, averaging 10.5 caroms per contest, and in his free time, Joplin averaged 2.0 assists, 1.0 steals, and 1.9 blocks per game. That’s not just “well, he’s a senior” stuff, as he averaged 23.2 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game as a junior, as well as chipping in 17 points per game on a team that won a Division 1 state title during his sophomore season.

Reasonable Expectations

I am going to try and hold it together in this section. We’re talking about what’s reasonable for Joplin as a freshman at Marquette this season and nothing else. For example, the cold hard computer algorithm that’s running T-Rank says that Joplin is projected at 2.3 points, 0.5 rebounds, and 0.5 assists while playing just a bit over six minutes a game. That is, quite honestly, not very much of anything.

Part of the issue, I think, is just merely how the algorithm assesses the components of the roster and how Joplin fits into the rest of it. I think the algorithm honestly has a point here, because the biggest question for Joplin is how his playing style works at the Division 1 level. For the last two years of high school, he’s been something of a battering ram to the tune of 20+ points and 10+ rebounds a night.... but at some point, 6’7” and 215 pounds is just way too much for the average high school defender or honestly even some of the above average high school defenders to deal with.

But it’s going to be much harder for Joplin to be physically imposing at this level, so that’s where questions of fit come in. Can he play the 5 and spell Kur Kuath in the post? Is he agile enough to play the wing and suction some minutes away from Marquette’s relatively inexperienced backcourt? Is he going to be stuck picking up whatever minutes at the 4 that Justin Lewis doesn’t want, and that’s how you get about six minutes a night for him?

I think the reasonable viewpoint on Joplin is maybe a little bit more than T-Rank is projecting just because of Shaka Smart talking an awful lot about physical conditioning for his team. He’s going to want them to play as hard as absolutely possible at all times, and that is probably going to mean a lot of guys are going to get decent minutes off the bench. Maybe that’s just 10 minutes a night for Joplin and an appropriate stats boost, but Smart’s rotation plan is more likely to help than hurt any of the freshmen in terms of playing time.

Why You Should Get Excited

I mean, come on. Look at the smile on the kid’s face when he unzipped his jacket to reveal the Marquette T-shirt back in April. That was about three weeks after Shaka Smart left Texas, the school that Joplin had committed to play at back in August of 2020 and signed with three months later. He was set to go to Austin to play for Smart.... until Smart wasn’t there any more.

He was in Milwaukee, a 15 minute drive from Joplin’s high school. Sure, all of the three freshmen that came along with Smart made their choices quickly, but look at the glee on Joplin’s face when he got to tell the world that he’s going to play at the Big East school in what amounts to his home town?

How can you not be excited for him? How can you not think that he’s going to absolutely tear it up from Day 1? How can you expect anything other than becoming The Guy in town, letting all the other kids within an hour’s drive of Marquette that they want to come play for Shaka Smart and be a part of what’s being built on North 12th Street?

I don’t have any inside info about what Smart and his staff really think about Joplin or how they’re going to use him on the floor this season and going forward. This one is just gut instinct. I’ve got a good feeling about David Joplin in a Marquette uniform.

Potential Pitfalls

Friend Of The Show Alan Bykowski was at the season ticket holder open practice about two weeks ago. I want to share two tweets.

Let’s circle back to the part where I was talking about physical conditioning leading to minutes.

The good news is that Joplin looks physically imposing, something that can not be said about the other new guys on the team. No judgment or criticism, but there’s a lot of lanky dudes on this roster.

The bad news is that while Joplin is more than happy to fire up shots in practice — and it’s unclear whether or not Smart thinks that’s a good thing — he was also not at the physical conditioning point where Smart even wants him on the floor at all. “He has to earn his jersey for the opener” is a pretty strong statement to make in front of Joplin and the fans at the same time no matter what he’s saying to Joplin behind closed doors.

With that said, I don’t have a lot of worry about Joplin actually getting to the time mentioned in Alan’s tweet. Going from eight minutes to six is hard, cutting 15 more seconds is nothing. It’s also been another two weeks since then and there’s still exactly two weeks until the opener from the day this is publishing.

But, the question about all of this is whether or not Joplin is ready to contribute at the levels that Smart and his assistants want. They wouldn’t be pushing Joplin in terms of conditioning if they didn’t expect a lot from him..... but if he just can’t get there, that’s going to mean he’s just not going to get a chance to play a bunch of minutes.

There’s also the possibility of a minutes crunch like I was talking about earlier. I didn’t even mention Olivier-Maxence Prosper when trying to hammer out what minutes go where, and the lanky Canadian could easily be in competition with Joplin for playing time. Combine that with “not quite physically ready” and “is a freshman” and you have a very nice “sporadic role player at best” starter kit.