Did you guys know that the Marquette women’s basketball season starts in less than a week?! It’s true! In fact, they’ll be the first Big East team to actually play a legitimate game, as their first contest against Fairleigh Dickinson has a Noon Central time start on Monday.
We should probably do some season previewing, huh?
Let’s set the table a little bit. Head coach Megan Duffy and her team are picked to finish sixth in the Big East this season, and senior guard Jordan King is MU’s lone representative on the preseason all-conference team. Last year, Marquette went 23-11 overall, but missed the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2016. That snapped a streak of four straight tournament appearances (it would have been five, thanks for nothing, COVID) that tied the program record for the most consecutive trips to the national championship field. After missing out, MU advanced to the third round of the WNIT, picking up wins over Ball State and Purdue before bowing out to Toledo.
Below you’ll find about 2700 words about all of the returning faces on the Marquette roster this season. We’ll talk about all the new faces on the team in a different article, but we have to set the table with what the Golden Eagles are bringing back first.
Before we get to that, let’s start with who Marquette is missing from last season. Karissa McLaughlin spent just one year in Milwaukee, but she led the team in minutes played while starting every contest. She was the team’s only legitimate outside shooting threat, and averaged 13.1 points while knocking down 42% of her three-pointers. McLaughlin also chipped in just short of two rebounds and three assists per contest. Danyel Middleton elected to transfer to UIC following the 2021-22 season. She turned into a quality bench option for the Golden Eagles as a sophomore last season, so that’s a notable loss in terms of what this team could have looked like this season. She averaged just 3.3 points and 2.3 rebounds, but you need someone capable of surprising the opponent with a double-double like she did at home against DePaul last season. Antwainette Walker was also a notable bench contributor last season before electing to take her COVID bonus season of eligibility at Eastern Kentucky. She added 4.7 points and 3.0 rebounds to the proceedings in 28 appearances for the Golden Eagles a year ago. Nirel Lougbo is the final name I’ll mention in this paragraph, even though she’s still going to be on the bench this season. Lougbo suffered a knee injury at some point between the end of the 2019-20 season and the start of the 2020-21 campaign. She never played in that year, and her knee never got right. She played in just six games for a total of 19 minutes last season, and she has been declared medically disqualified.
I’m giving Lauren Van Kleunen her own paragraph here. As we talked about at the end of last season, her time in Milwaukee was A RIDE, going from redshirting due to blood clots in her first year to remaking her game under Megan Duffy’s direction to returning for a sixth year of college basketball last season. She led the team in scoring at 13.7 points per game and added 6.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists to the show as well. By the time that LVK wrapped up her time as a Golden Eagle, she broke the Marquette athletic department — not women’s basketball, we’re talking about everything — record for appearances in a Marquette uniform. MU will be missing her post play, but also her attitude and energy as well.
Onwards we go to the familiar faces that you’ll see once again this year. They’re divided up into three starters from last season and five bench players, and both groups are sorted by averaged minutes played last season. In fact, we’ll actually wrap up with a player that you didn’t see on the court at all last season, but that will make sense when we get there.
Senior - #23 - Guard - 5’11” - Rockton, Illinois
There’s a couple of big questions looming for King’s fourth season in blue and gold. The first is one that we’ll only answer as the campaign goes along: Is this Jordan King’s team now? It wasn’t last year, not with McLaughlin’s ability to fill up the basket from long range and Van Kleunen’s skill underneath the rim. King is the leading returning scorer though, and that makes her the biggest candidate to take a big jump forward and assume the role as lead dog. Her 11.5 points were a career best, as were her 4.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists and 1.4 steals.
She also knocked down 33.3% of her long range attempts, and that was a career best as well. In fact, that is one of the other questions facing King’s senior season: Is the Jordan King we saw launching threes in the middle of last year the Jordan King we’ll see all season long in 2022-23? Overall, King attempted 57 triples and made 19 of them. I know, it’s not much, definitely not much compared to the 65-for-162 from McLaughlin last season. But in Big East play, King connected on 34.3% of her long range attempts — 12-for-35 — and that includes MU’s run in the Big East tournament. Between January 21st against Xavier and February 16th against DePaul, King went 10-for-18. That’s 55.6%. In MU’s first two WNIT games? 4-for-6, or 66.7%. I don’t think that she can do either of those numbers for a whole season, and no one should. But can she capture most of that magic, and turn into a 37% or 38% shooter on three or four attempts a game? It would go a long way towards making the rest of her offensive game even more dangerous.
Speaking of the rest of her offensive game, Jordan King wrapped up the 2021-22 season at #14 all time on MU’s assists chart. She’s at 355 career helpers, one short of a tie between Beth Crossett and Sharon Flaiz for the 12th most in program history and 10 away from Allazia Blockton’s 11th most ever. If all King does is repeat the 149 assists she had last season, she will become just the fifth Marquette player to ever record 500 assists in a career, falling behind only Carolyn Kieger, Joan Pitrof, Angel Robinson, and Lori Goerlitz on the all time chart. I don’t think she’ll be able to catch Goerlitz at 566 this season, not unless the Golden Eagles’ offense catches absolute fire all season every single time King sends someone the ball. But every assists King puts up this year sends her one more assist closer to Kieger’s record and a shot at breaking it if she comes back for her COVID bonus season of eligibility.
Senior - #52 - Forward - 6’1” - Mequon, Wisconsin
One of the big parts of figuring out whether or not this is Jordan King’s team is figuring out whether or not this is Chloe Marotta’s team. I’ll say this much: Even if King is the lead dog in terms of statistical contribution, Marotta is most likely going to be the heart and soul of this squad, no matter what.
She’s coming off a season that was very clearly her best in a Marquette uniform: 6.9 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists, all three career bests, and her rebounds led the team as well, just barely edging out Liza Karlen. Literally just barely, just 0.1 separated them, and that’s if you round to the nearest tenth. Pretty much the only thing Marotta did not do for Marquette last season was knock down three-pointers, and if that’s just not her game — generally speaking scoring in general is not her best quality as a player — that’s fine. Marotta is a classic “just plays basketball very well” type of player.
She’s going to have an interesting time of things this year. Last year, Marquette had Marotta playing the 3 with Van Kleunen and Karlen taking up the roles in the paint. With no more LVK on the roster and none of the freshman immediately looking like a carry the weight in the paint option, what does that mean for how Duffy and her staff use Marotta? Can someone else step into the role and do some heavy lifting, or is Marotta going to have to focus on getting it done in the paint more this season? Is she still as efficient and productive of a player if she’s not zipping in from the wing to make plays? If she’s not, can she still find a way to be the driving force for this team?
Junior - #32 - Forward - 6’2” - St. Paul, Minnesota
It’s hard to say that Liza Karlen’s second season with Marquette was anything other than a success. She started in 29 of 34 appearances, averaged 10.2 points and just barely missed the team lead in rebounds at 7.2 a night. 1.9 assists per game is just found money at that point, honestly, and she added a block and a steal per game as well.
And yet, based on how her freshman year went and how her sophomore year started out, there is a heavy note of disappointment. Karlen shot 39.5% on three-pointers in her first season in Milwaukee, and I think it’s a safe bet that everyone expected to see the Minnesotan raining in some jumpers last year.
I say everyone because Karlen was readily taking threes to start her sophomore season.... and missing them. 18 straight to start the year, in fact. She didn’t make her first one until Game #10 of the season and she would go just 4-for-19 the rest of the season, and that includes making three of her final six attempts of the year, all after February 24th.
10/7/2/1/1 is a good stat line, I don’t want to take anything away from what she did there. But there is a tinge of a disappointment there, right? With McLaughlin gone, Marquette has no one returning who attempted more than 60 threes last season. Can Karlen regain her form from 2020-21? Can she turn into an offensive weapon all over the floor and create mismatches that the Golden Eagles can take advantage of all year long? Or is Karlen — and Marquette — best served by focusing her energy on becoming the best post player she can possibly be to help balance out the loss of Van Kleunen?
Junior - #3 - Guard - 5’7” - Iowa City, Iowa
Nkumu made a big jump forward as a contributor going from freshman year to sophomore year. She was a valuable rotation piece for the Golden Eagles last year, even starting three times, after appearing in just 15 games for a grand total of 55 minutes in her first year on campus. No one’s going to confuse 1.9 points, 1.7 rebounds, and 1.2 assists with worldbreaking numbers, but that’s not what she was out there to do.
So that’s the question, right? What’s she out there to do this season? With McLaughlin gone, in theory there’s a lot more minutes at guard available for her now, especially if Duffy and her staff want to play Jordan King off the ball a little bit more to boost up her scoring. Does the possibility of Chloe Marotta moving more inside help Nkumu find time on the floor, even with Nia Clark (more on her in a future article) joining the team?
Personally, I think that if Nkumu can turn into a reliable three-point option, Marquette has to find minutes for her. She shot 2-for-5 as a freshman, but missed all four attempts a year ago. She has the potential to be a major threat attacking the rim after goin 16-for-18 from the charity stripe last season, and working in some long distance threat can only make her more dangerous.
Senior - #44 - Forward - 6’2” - Cincinnati, Ohio
It’s possible that the numbers game caught up with Kennedi Myles last season. After averaging nine points and nine rebounds as a freshman for Illinois and then nine points and eight rebounds as a sophomore, it seemed like she could jump right into some rotation minutes for Marquette after transferring in last year.
Annnnd that just did not happen. Or rather, the Marquette coaching staff thought it was going to work out and they became less enthused about what it actually looked like as the season went along. Myles played at least 11 minutes in each of Marquette’s first eight games, including two starts along the way, and then her minutes just kept drifting further and further downwards. She played more than 10 minutes in a game just twice after February 1st, so is that an issue of Duffy decided to ride with Karlen and Van Kleunen at the 4 and and the 5 as much as possible or is that Duffy and her staff stopped trusting Myles to give them productive minutes on the regular. It’s clear that there is a spot in the rotation for her this year with LVK’s departure, but if the coaching staff wasn’t trusting her late in the year, I don’t know how they trust her with a much bigger role this season unless something has dramatically changed.
Sophomore - #24 - Forward - 6’0” - Chicago, Illinois
Junior - #0 - Forward - 6’4” - Copenhagen, Denmark
I’m putting Williams and Okosun together for conversational purposes because their stat lines from last year are effectively the same. 15 games for Williams, 19 for Okosun. 4.9 minutes per outing for both of them, 1.7 points per game for both of them, a notable rebounding advantage for Okosun at 1.6 to 0.7 for Williams.
In Williams’ case, this may just be a case of “well, she’s a freshman and we have upperclassmen who are going to play in front of her and that’s that.” If that’s the case, then we should probably expect to see her start to get at least some kind of rotation role this season. If nothing else, the departures of Middleton and Walker break those rotation roles open for Williams to jump in and claim them as her own.
As for Okosun, her sophomore year was a lot like her freshman year in terms of on the court playing time. A few more minutes played, a few more minutes per game, but nothing that made you say “why is Megan Duffy not playing her more, this is a travesty” either. It must be noted that at 6’4”, she’s clearly going to play a post role on the squad, and from what she’s shown in limited minutes, she’s only going to play a post role. The past two years, those minutes have been largely chewed up by Lauren Van Kleunen and Liza Karlen. One of those women is gone now, so is Okosun ready to grab up at least some of the minutes left behind by LVK’s absence? In extremely limited situations, she has shown a knack for grabbing offensive rebounds, which makes sense because being 6’4” is a big help in the women’s game in that regard. Is that something that will help her get 10 or 12 minutes a night this season?
Redshirt Junior - #10 - Guard - 5’11” - Shawnee, Kansas
We’ve seen two years of relatively quality bench minutes from Claire Kaifes at Marquette. 8.4 minutes a game in 24 appearances as a freshman turned into over 15 minutes a night in 26 games as a sophomore. She wasn’t being asked to carry a load of any kind for the Golden Eagles, but she did show the ability to hop off the bench and knock down threes in her sophomore year. Her field goal attempts were darn near exclusively from long range, but she did connect on 25 of 73 tries for a 34% conversion rate on nearly three attempts a game. That’s definitely a talent that could provide benefits to Marquette.
In fact, I remain convinced that Kaifes missing all of last season with a knee injury suffered in the offseason was a detriment to the Golden Eagles overall. As mentioned earlier Karissa McLaughlin was Marquette’s only reliable shooter all season long, and only Jordan King turning it on later in the year gave MU anything resembling a second shooter. Given how much Marquette relied on cutting to the rim as well as post work by Lauren Van Kleunen, the inability of the rest of the team to stretch the defense out by at least threatening to shoot threes was a big problem! Kaifes could have helped that out at least a little bit, even if we’re just talking about three attempts in 15 minutes a night again.
If she’s healthy now, and 100% recovered from her injury, the only question is whether or not the injury sapped her ability to get free for shots as well as her ability to be able to defend the way MU needs all five of their players on the floor to defend. Remember: Marquette was ranked #50 in the country in defense per Her Hoop Stats at the end of last season. If Kaifes’ mobility fell off just a little bit but enough to cut off whatever advantages she used to have, then that’s going to harm her ability to get back on the floor and help Marquette out on the offensive end.