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Get To Know A Marquette Basketball Opponent: Radford Highlanders

The Golden Eagles open up the year with a team from the Big South Conference

Radford v Villanova
Dressed to play basketball like a good Scotsman.
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Name: Radford University

Marquette is a French Jesuit explorer. What’s a Radford? Hang on, you’re getting ahead of the outline.

Location: Radford, Virginia, which is in Western Virginia, a little bit west of Roanoke.

Wait, it’s that simple? Well, mostly. There’s a long strange history to untangle, so…..

Founded: 1910 as State Normal and Industrial School for Women at Radford. “Normal School” is old-timey language for “teachers college,” which means that Radford got its start preparing new teachers in the manner that the state of Virginia preferred.

You mentioned a long history? Yes, I did. State Normal and Industrial School for Women at Radford is a very unwieldy name and SNISWR is a terrible acronym as well, but it lasted for 14 years. That’s when the name changed to State Teachers College at Radford, and STCR is a little better. Virginia smooshed STCR together with Virginia Tech in 1943 as part of a consolidation program and allowing Radford to be the women’s campus for the very heavily male VaTech campus in Blacksburg. This lasted less than 20 years before the state spun Radford off as its own campus again as Radford College, and they were elevated to university status in 1979, just seven years after men were admitted for the first time.

Can I ask where Radford the city got its name? Dr. John B. Radford, who was apparently just a very well known doctor and guy in general in the area of Lovely Mount, where he lived from 1836 til his death in 1872. People in that area of Virginia started calling it Radford after his passing due to his influence, and eventually it stuck. It didn’t actually become an incorporated city until 1892 anyway, so there you go.

Enrollment: 6,008 undergraduates this fall, along with 1,710 graduate students for a total of 7,718.

Campus Traditions: We like highlighting unique local customs when we talk about these non-conference opponents. We don’t know much about these schools because we don’t see them very often like we do with the Big East foes. The very first thing I got when I plugged in a Google search to learn about interesting and fun things at Radford is literally a page on their school website titled TRADITIONS WEEK. They have a whole damn week of festivities on their campus, which was in early April last year. This includes:

  • First Year Field Day to celebrate the freshmen wrapping up their first year
  • Halfway There for the sophomores, which apparently includes issuing challenge coins to everyone
  • Junior Twilight, which is kind of what it sounds like and comes with a customized key chain
  • Senior Signing, which also includes some kind of gift and has all the attendant things that you would think that you would need for seniors as they get close to graduation
  • Spring Fling, which sounds like a block party type of deal, but at night.

This sounds neat. I like the idea of a whole week of parties on campus focused around each of the classes.

Nickname: Highlanders

Why “Highlanders”? Apparently because of “the Scottish heritage of Southwest Virginia.” This is the first I’m hearing about this, but also I don’t live in Virginia. I did find something called “Virginia Scottish Games” which has been going for nearly 50 years, but it’s also held in northern Virginia up near Washington, D.C.

Notable Alumni: As you would guess with a school that was a teachers college for the first several decades of its existence, they do not have a gigantic depth of alumni who have risen to national prominence. Jayma Mays portrayed Emma Pillsbury on Glee; Marty Smith is an ESPN personality; Frank Beamer was the long time head coach for Virginia Tech football, and that’s about it for names that a lot of people would recognize.

Last Season: 11-18, 7-9 Big South

Final 2021-22 Ranking: #283

Final 2021-22 T-Rank Ranking: #274

Preseason 2022-23 Ranking: #294

Preseason 2022-23 T-Rank Ranking: #299

Returning Stats Leaders

Points: Josiah Jeffers, 10.0 ppg
Rebounds: Shaquan Jules, 4.6 rpg
Assists: Josiah Jeffers, 2.6 apg

Bigs? Radford has a trio of guys measuring 6’10” in height, and none of the three were on the roster a year ago. Souleymane Koureissi (210 lbs.) and Madiaw Niang (230 lbs.) are both grad transfers from Richmond and Florida Atlantic respectively, while D’Auntray Pierce (200 lbs.) was at Western Wyoming Community College last year. For whatever it’s worth, Niang is the only one who played in Radford’s 114-54 exhibition victory over Mary Baldwin. He had six points, six rebounds, and five assists in 15 minutes off the bench. At 6’8 and 185 pounds, freshman David Vidor is Tall Man not Big Man, but he had a bucket and a rebound in nine minutes in the exhibition.

Shooters? The Highlanders were one of the worst long range shooting teams in the country last year, connecting on less than 30% of their attempts. Josiah Jeffers is the only guy coming back from last season that connected on — and this is not a joke — more than 13% of his three-pointers. Jeffers went 21-for-68 a year ago, and that’s only 30.9%. Generally speaking, Marquette will be just fine if no one hits more than 30% of their threes against them, no matter who the opponent is.

With that said, Radford did shoot 12-for-22 from long distance in their exhibition game. Generally speaking, 54.5% is good. Only two guys who attempted a three ended up not making one, and they were both 0-for-1. Ibu Yamazaki’s 3-for-7 (43%) performance went down as the “worst” performance by a Highlander in that game, as everyone else shot 50% or better. Yamazaki is a 6’7” freshman who played for Japan’s U19 World Cup team in 2021, so he can probably play a little bit. We’ll have to wait and see how much fellow freshmen Kenyon Giles (3-for-4) and Hunter Castleberry (1-for-1) actually play once the rubber meets the road, as neither of them started for the Highlanders.

Onyebuchi Ezeakudo (2-for-3) was at Pitt for four seasons before now, but only really played last season when he hit 38% of his threes. Bryan Antoine started and played 16 minutes, but still went 2-for-3 in his stretch on the floor.

Wait, did you just say Bryan Antoine? Y’all remember Bryan Antoine? The highly touted but oft-injured Villanova player? Yeah, at some point he decided that he just needed a completely clean start and so he left the Wildcats and now he’s at Radford. If he started the exhibition game, I presume he’s on track to start on Monday night at Fiserv Forum. I don’t know how much help Antoine will be on the scouting report since last season was Shaka Smart’s first campaign at Marquette.

Head Coach: Darris Nichols, entering his second season as Radford’s top man. This is his first head coaching job, but he has a Big East connection in his past. Nichols played at West Virginia, crossing over between John Beilein and Bob Huggins during his tenure.

What To Watch For: It’s only been one season in charge for Darris Nichols as a head coach, so it’s a little risky to claim to see any trends. However, if Radford continues to look to play at the same pace that they did last year, Monday night is going to be a tremendous clash of styles. Radford was ranked #326 in tempo last season per, and, uh, Marquette’s going to try to play nearly 10 possessions per game faster than they did last year.

The other thing to keep an eye on is Radford’s dedication to rebounding. Last year, KenPom ranked them at #151 on the offensive glass and #80 on the defensive glass. Marquette’s rebounding was an absolute disaster on both ends of the floor a year ago, although it’s worth debating whether or not the offensive rebounding was by choice in order to focus on getting back on defense. If the Highlanders continue to have that focus on the glass, then they could cause problems for the Golden Eagles if MU hasn’t picked up the pace in that regard.

Radford was also pretty good at forcing turnovers last season. Over 20% of their defensive possessions ended with them taking it away, and that ranked #76 in the country last year per KenPom. MU was pretty solid at maintaining control of the ball a year ago, but we have to admit that Tyler Kolek was prone to losing it a little more than Marquette fans would like to see. It’s possible that Radford’s defensive stylings could be a problem for the Golden Eagles if they focus in a turnover direction again.

All-Time Series: This is the first ever meeting between Marquette and Radford.