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2022-23 Marquette Men’s Basketball Player Preview: #21 Ben Gold

We start off our run of Player Previews with the tallest of the three freshmen, although that’s not how we sorted them.

Marquette freshman Ben Gold
What can the Golden Eagles expect from Ben Gold this year?
Marquette University

The 2022-23 college basketball season is right around the corner, so let’s dive 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 roster one by one: First MU’s three freshmen in last name alphabetical order, then the lone transfer on the squad, moving on to the guy coming of a redshirt freshman year, and then finally the returning active players from last season, 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 first of the three freshmen, which happens to be the guy coming from the furthest distance to Milwaukee.....

Ben Gold

Freshman - #21 - Forward - 6’11” - 220 pounds - Wellington, New Zealand

Would you like a “You are old” update for the day? Ben Gold was born on April 26, 2003, 21 days after Marquette, led by Dwyane Wade, played in the program’s third ever Final Four game.

Gold hails from New Zealand, and he came onto the basketball radar by way of his entry to the NBA Global Academy in Australia. He’s the first Kiwi player to ever join that Academy, and then by default, the Academy’s first New Zealand player to sign with a Division 1 program. He got a chance to show what he can do at the G-League Showcase back over the winter, stepping in to play for the NBA Latin American Academy team. Gold put together a 22 point, 8 rebound performance against the Africa Academy team, so that’s a pretty great example of what he can do against relatively similar age players.

That’s not Gold’s only notable big time basketball experience before suiting up for Marquette this winter. He got the call up to the New Zealand national team and has played in four games of World Cup qualifying. In those four games, he’s averaging 8.5 points and 4.5 rebounds per game in 15.2 minutes an outing. He was a much bigger component of New Zealand’s most recent two games in the second round of qualifying against Saudi Arabia and Jordan. In those two, he averaged 14 points, 7.5 rebounds, and an assist in 21 minutes of action. Last year, he had a 22 point, eight rebound outing against NBA Academy Africa

I want to make this clear: This is the senior team World Cup qualifying, not the junior teams like U18 or something like that. Gold went out there and put up those numbers against the best basketball players that India, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan could possibly throw at him. Sure, we can chat about the FIBA rankings for all of those teams if you really want to quibble about this, but Gold is out there holding his own against grown men who are fighting for a chance to play in the World Cup in August and September of 2023.

With that in mind, I want to point out to you that 247 Sports ranks Gold as the #194 prospect in the class of 2022. That makes him the #44 power forward in his class and the third best prospect coming out of Australia (I know, not really, but work with me here) behind Tyrese Proctor (#23, at Duke) and Joshua Ojianwuna (#85, at Baylor). Generally speaking, I don’t think anyone usually expects a lot out of guys who are barely in the top 200.

Reasonable Expectations

The key here is reasonable. For example, if we take a peek at T-Rank’s projections for the Marquette roster this season, Ben Gold isn’t even mentioned as a contributor worth identifying. By default, this should put a lid on reasonable expectations for Gold.

However, part of this is that low recruiting ranking. Like I said, usually no one expects all that much from guys who come into college around that ranking neighborhood, and so an algorithm like T-Rank’s is basically — and justifiably! — ignoring Gold. We’ll get into my personal opinions about what Gold might be able to do in a second because I think it all falls into “get excited” reasons, but that’s not this category.

I think that if we look back in April and say “hey, look, Gold was a productive member of Marquette’s rotation this year,” then that’s a good year for him. Productive doesn’t have to actually have points and rebounds or anything attached to it, we’re just talking about a “hey, I liked what he did, looking forward to more with improvement next season” level of productivity.

Why You Should Get Excited

I think Ben Gold might just be Marquette’s most surprising performer this season.

New Zealand is, at least right now, a top 25 national team according to the FIBA rankings. Part of that is going to be based on results from before Gold got the call up to the national team. But part of that, maybe a large part of that, is based on the wins that the Kiwis earned with Gold on the roster. And that’s not just “on the roster,” but in the last two games, that’s “being asked to provide New Zealand with real minutes and real production to clinch a spot in the World Cup.” Which, by the way, they clinched their spot in the World Cup as a result of the last two games that Gold played in and there’s still two games of the qualifying round to go.

This is a legitimate basketball outfit, and they took one look at Ben Gold and said “that is a dude that we are going to rely on to qualify for the World Cup” and it worked! This has to mean something relative to Gold’s ability to contribute to the Golden Eagles immediately.

The question is where exactly he fits in. Is it going to be at the 5, earning minutes behind Oso Ighodaro? Someone has to play 10-ish minutes a game there because Ighodaro can not be expected to play all 40 minutes every night. Is it at the 4, which might be Marquette’s biggest question mark in the rotation right now? Are we talking about starter-level minutes, or just backup role minutes? Can Gold guard smaller forwards and let the Golden Eagles play extremely big but still very agile?

My instinct is, based on some footage of drills and practice coming out of the McGuire Center, is that playing the 4 seems to be the most likely pathway for Gold to get minutes this year. If he can reliably hit corner threes, something we keep seeing him trying in video footage from the practice gym, then that’s going to turn into a lot of minutes for him.

I don’t know if I have a points and rebounds type of prediction to toss in here, but I feel very confident that Marquette fans are going to feel very good about seeing Ben Gold on the floor this season.

Potential Pitfalls

There’s the obvious one: He’s a freshman.

Worse, there’s the sub-option to the obvious one: Ben Gold is a freshman big man. He’s the second heaviest player on the team, tied with David Joplin for that spot behind Olivier-Maxence Prosper. At 6’11”, he’s the tallest player on the team, beating out Oso Ighodaro and Keeyan Itejere, both of whom are 6’9”.

Someone has to play those back up minutes behind Oso Ighodaro, at least 10 minutes a game, maybe a little bit more. Because he’s large, Gold has to be a candidate for them..... but what if he can’t defend the way that the coaching staff needs at that spot? What if they get what they’re looking for from Keeyan Itejere or, maybe in a small ball situation, from Zach Wrightsil? Where do Gold’s minutes come from then? Can he defend in space and cover the Baylor Scheiermans and Zach Freemantles of the world? If his agility is one step too slow right now, I don’t know where or how Gold gets minutes. Head coach Shaka Smart made it very clear by way of David Joplin last season that defending is what gets you on the court. While Gold’s offense is potentially gamechanging because of what he physically brings to the table, if he can’t defend a spot on the floor, then we might not be seeing a lot of him.