Back before the 2020-21 college basketball season started, the NCAA announced that all winter sports athletes would be extended an extra year of eligibility. At its heart, the policy intended to advise the winter sports athletes that if they wished to sit out the 2020-21 season due to health concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic, they could and still play their four years worth of eligibility. If you played during the 2020-21 season, you still get the extra year anyway for a fifth season of competition.
If you’re a redshirt senior and you want to return to school for a sixth year of college, then you can do that, too. That’s what Marquette women’s basketball forward Lauren Van Kleunen will be doing, as she announced her return for the 2021-22 season on Thursday night.
Van Kleunen had her most productive season as a redshirt senior in 2020-21. She averaged a career best 13.2 points per game while averaging a career high 28.5 minutes per outing. She was just ever so slightly off (5.8) her career best in rebounds (5.9/game), and LVK chipped in 1.8 assists along with career highs in steals (1.0/game) and blocks (0.4/game), too. She didn’t do it much this past season, but Van Kleunen was a terrifying three-point shooter when she did let it fly, knocking in 48% of her 21 attempts in 26 games.
If you like thinking about things with fancy math, Van Kleunen was so dangerous in the post and the midrange for the Golden Eagles that she ranked #386 in the country in effective field goal percentage per HerHoopStats.com while only hitting 10 three-pointers all season. She was a major part of Marquette’s performance as one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country, ranking #371 in her personal offensive rebounding rate according to HHS. LVK ranked #325 in the country in PER and #372 in Win Shares per 40 minutes as calculated by Her Hoop Stats.
Quite simply, Lauren Van Kleunen’s development as a low post dominant force after the Marquette coaching change from Carolyn Kieger to Megan Duffy has been a major part why Duffy has been so successful in her two seasons in charge, and LVK’s evolution as a scorer this past season played a big part in Marquette’s consistency after the departure of Isabelle Spingola and Altia Anderson following the 2019-20 season.
And now she’ll be back to do it again. Van Kleunen currently ranks #30 on Marquette’s all-time scoring list with 1,034 career points after adding 344 to her career total this past season. Doing that again would vault her up to #16 all time, pushing Clare Barnard out of the way. Averaging 13.2 points per game across a full 32 game season like Marquette played in 2019-20? That would be #14 all time, slipping past Danielle King and Amani Wilborn. A return to the court also will give LVK a chance to get into Marquette’s top 15 in rebounding. She wrapped up 2020-21 with 584 career rebounds, still 60 caroms short of Barnard’s 15th best career total. If LVK just recreates this past season of 152 rebounds, that would push her to 736 in her career and into 12th place all time just past Sarina Simmons.
Is she probably going to shatter the Marquette record for games played in a career to do these things? Sure! Stop complaining, it’ll be fun.
Here, look at the Marquette roster for now.
This is the second update to this chart that I’ve made on Wednesday, as Purdue guard Karissa McLaughlin announced that she would be grad transferring to Marquette earlier in the day. Officially, Van Kleunen’s return to Marquette does not occupy a scholarship spot. The NCAA gave teams the ability to go past their scholarship limit to provide for an extra year for 2020-21 seniors. That means Megan Duffy could, in theory, still add one more player to the roster. Marquette is going to have 15 women dressed next year, or at least projects that way right now, and as I pointed out after McLaughlin’s commitment, Duffy only really played eight women regularly last season. With LVK back, I really don’t see Marquette adding another transfer because whoever that would be probably wouldn’t get much playing time with the way the roster currently looks.
That’s without even discussing the possibility of Selena Lott also returning for another go-round with Marquette. The door is open for the senior from New York, as Duffy had said during the season that she would be welcomed back just like LVK is now. The decision is up to Lott, of course, and the fact that she might have a future in the WNBA has to play a part in that decision. The WNBA is requiring players to opt in for the 2021 draft and the deadline for that is Thursday, April 1.... which is tomorrow. ESPN had Lott as a third round pick in the draft about a week ago, which might put Lott in a position to be drafted but could make it hard to earn a spot on a roster. Van Kleunen’s return to Marquette raises the ceiling on what the Golden Eagles could be next season. We’ll have to wait and see if Lott ratchets things up an extra foot or so.