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2022-23 Marquette Men’s Basketball Player Preview: #23 David Joplin

Finally we get around to talking about a guy that we saw play for Marquette last season.

NCAA Basketball: UCLA at Marquette Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The 2022-23 college basketball season is right around the corner, so let’s dive into the Marquette Golden Eagles men’s 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 lone Wisconsinite that we’re writing a preview for this year.....

David Joplin

Sophomore - #23 - Forward - 6’7” - 220 pounds - Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Here’s the good news about David Joplin’s freshman year at Marquette: He played in every game! That can be hard for some freshmen to accomplish, and starting with eight minutes out of the gate against SIU Edwardsville, he got off the bench for each and every contest all year long.

Here’s the bad news about David Joplin’s freshman year at Marquette: He averaged just 6.9 minutes per game and cleared 10 or more minutes just nine times. After the December 4th matchup against Wisconsin, his fourth straight game with at least 11 minutes played, Joplin would not play at least 10 minutes in back-to-back contests until MU’s last two games of the season.

There’s a silver lining to the bad news, though. Marquette head coach Shaka Smart was very open and honest about Joplin’s playing time as the season went along. Item #1 limiting him? The coaching staff wasn’t comfortable with the level of defensive intensity that they were getting from Joplin, at least not in comparison with what they were getting from other components of the roster. Item #2 limiting Joplin is said components, as Smart pointed out that minutes for Joplin were going to pretty much come exclusively at the expense of taking Justin Lewis off the floor. Given how Lewis was playing all year long, it’s hard to criticize the coaching staff for turning to the Milwaukee native and saying “hey, look, it’s not you, it’s him.”

One of those impediments to Joplin’s playing time is gone now, as Lewis elected to pursue a professional career after the 2021-22 season ended. The other one? Well, it remains to be seen how the coaches feel about Joplin’s ability to defend the way that they need him to defend.

Reasonable Expectations

Last year, Shaka Smart loved to point out how great Joplin was at scoring from all over the floor in practice. That is potentially great news for Joplin’s playing time this season. The Golden Eagles have lost their top two scorers from last season in Lewis and Darryl Morsell as well as the #4 guy on the list, which was Greg Elliott. Kam Jones is the only returning MU player who averaged more than seven points a game last season.... and he averaged 7.4 a night.

In other words, someone has to score for this team this season. If the coaching staff is enamored with Joplin’s ability to put it through the net in practice, it stands to reason that’s going to get him some serious minutes this season. The removal of Lewis in front of Joplin on the depth chart can’t exactly be slowing down those chances, either.

With that said, the T-Rank algorithm isn’t enamored of Joplin’s potential this season. For whatever reason, the algorithm is picturing him pretty much doing the exact same thing as last year in terms of minutes and points and rebounds. Shaking the tree to remove Emarion Ellis and his stress fracture recovery from the playing time picture does boost Joplin up to about 12 minutes a game, roughly twice what he did last year.

I’m a little bit more bullish on what he can accomplish than the algorithm projects. Depending on how rotations shake out, I could see Joplin splitting time with Zach Wrightsil to cover the minutes left behind by Lewis’ departure. I don’t know if I want to quite assign “20 minutes a night and all that entails” to him as a reasonable expectation, though. Let’s call it 15 minutes on average, and thus seven points, three rebounds, and an assist? Feels like a good sophomore year number here.

Why You Should Get Excited

No one had a greener light to shoot it last season than David Joplin. He played 222 total minutes and attempted 88 field goals, 59 of which were behind the arc. It is 100% clear that the coaching staff trusted Joplin to fire away from the moment that he checked into a game. It, uh, just didn’t go that well. Inside the arc, sure, yes, hard to beat 59% unless you’re a seven-footer. Outside? Blech. No one wants to see Joplin connect on just 29% of his three-point attempts ever again, and the less said about only hitting 24% against Big East teams, the better.

But they were letting him shoot it over and over and over again for a reason. I said it earlier, Shaka Smart loved to bring up that Joplin was the leading scorer on the team in practice. Clearly he’s draining shots from everywhere if that’s the case. If he can translate that from the Kasten practice gym at the McGuire Center to Fiserv Forum.... I don’t want to go so far as to say All-Big East performer, but Most Improved Player? That’s an easy candidacy if Joplin’s shots are going down.

If he can make use of his size — Joplin’s the fifth tallest guy on the team at 6’7” and the second heaviest behind only Olivier-Maxence Prosper — to create mismatches to drag big guys outside and pound smaller guys inside and zip past slower guys for easy buckets? Hooooooboy, the possibilities are tantalizing, and you should probably go gather up as much David Joplin stock as you can acquire, post-haste.

Potential Pitfalls

He has to defend. Maybe that might mean trying to slow down UConn’s Adama Sanogo for a possession or three. Maybe that means chasing around Xavier’s Zach Freemantle. I honestly and legitimately believe that Joplin has the biggest upside of anyone on this roster, at least as defined as “can make the biggest jump from last year to this year”.... but he has to prove that he can be a nightmare for opposing offenses to go against. I don’t want to say that he wasn’t showing it last year, because his minutes were going to be limited by Justin Lewis merely being Justin Lewis. But the message has been sent loud and clear and out in public: Joplin has to defend as hard as he possibly can if he wants to play.

He also has to hit his shots. It’s one thing if you miss a shot if you’re going to play two minutes here and three minutes there in a game to let Justin Lewis catch his breath on the bench. If you’re playing five, six, seven minutes at a stretch and 12, 15, 17 total in a game and shooting 28.8% from long distance, that’s a one-way trip to “Maybe you shouldn’t be playing” town. Marquette is going to have other and better options on offense if that’s the case. Maybe Joplin’s problem last year was just that he only got to shoot once or twice and never got into a rhythm. Maybe playing longer stretches will let him find his happy place behind the arc. But if his first 59 collegiate attempts are proof of concept, it’s probably not going to be a great sophomore year for him.