With the 2020-21 season long since in the books, let’s take a few moments to look back at the performance of each member of YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles this year. While we’re at it, we’ll also take a look back at our player previews and see how our preseason prognostications stack up with how things actually played out. We’ll run through the roster in order of total minutes played going from lowest to highest, and today we move along to the freshman from the Milwaukee area.......
Freshman - #23 - Forward - 6’7” - 215 pounds - Brookfield, Wisconsin
David Joplin Traditional Stats
David Joplin Fancy Stats
I am going to try and hold it together in this section. We’re talking about what’s reasonable for Joplin as a freshman at Marquette this season and nothing else. For example, the cold hard computer algorithm that’s running T-Rank says that Joplin is projected at 2.3 points, 0.5 rebounds, and 0.5 assists while playing just a bit over six minutes a game. That is, quite honestly, not very much of anything.
Part of the issue, I think, is just merely how the algorithm assesses the components of the roster and how Joplin fits into the rest of it. I think the algorithm honestly has a point here, because the biggest question for Joplin is how his playing style works at the Division 1 level. For the last two years of high school, he’s been something of a battering ram to the tune of 20+ points and 10+ rebounds a night.... but at some point, 6’7” and 215 pounds is just way too much for the average high school defender or honestly even some of the above average high school defenders to deal with.
But it’s going to be much harder for Joplin to be physically imposing at this level, so that’s where questions of fit come in. Can he play the 5 and spell Kur Kuath in the post? Is he agile enough to play the wing and suction some minutes away from Marquette’s relatively inexperienced backcourt? Is he going to be stuck picking up whatever minutes at the 4 that Justin Lewis doesn’t want, and that’s how you get about six minutes a night for him?
I think the reasonable viewpoint on Joplin is maybe a little bit more than T-Rank is projecting just because of Shaka Smart talking an awful lot about physical conditioning for his team. He’s going to want them to play as hard as absolutely possible at all times, and that is probably going to mean a lot of guys are going to get decent minutes off the bench. Maybe that’s just 10 minutes a night for Joplin and an appropriate stats boost, but Smart’s rotation plan is more likely to help than hurt any of the freshmen in terms of playing time.
Why You Should Get Excited
I mean, come on. Look at the smile on the kid’s face when he unzipped his jacket to reveal the Marquette T-shirt back in April. That was about three weeks after Shaka Smart left Texas, the school that Joplin had committed to play at back in August of 2020 and signed with three months later. He was set to go to Austin to play for Smart.... until Smart wasn’t there any more.
He was in Milwaukee, a 15 minute drive from Joplin’s high school. Sure, all of the three freshmen that came along with Smart made their choices quickly, but look at the glee on Joplin’s face when he got to tell the world that he’s going to play at the Big East school in what amounts to his home town?
How can you not be excited for him? How can you not think that he’s going to absolutely tear it up from Day 1? How can you expect anything other than becoming The Guy in town, letting all the other kids within an hour’s drive of Marquette that they want to come play for Shaka Smart and be a part of what’s being built on North 12th Street?
I don’t have any inside info about what Smart and his staff really think about Joplin or how they’re going to use him on the floor this season and going forward. This one is just gut instinct. I’ve got a good feeling about David Joplin in a Marquette uniform.
Friend Of The Show Alan Bykowski was at the season ticket holder open practice about two weeks ago. I want to share two tweets.
Let’s circle back to the part where I was talking about physical conditioning leading to minutes.
The good news is that Joplin looks physically imposing, something that can not be said about the other new guys on the team. No judgment or criticism, but there’s a lot of lanky dudes on this roster.
The bad news is that while Joplin is more than happy to fire up shots in practice — and it’s unclear whether or not Smart thinks that’s a good thing — he was also not at the physical conditioning point where Smart even wants him on the floor at all. “He has to earn his jersey for the opener” is a pretty strong statement to make in front of Joplin and the fans at the same time no matter what he’s saying to Joplin behind closed doors.
With that said, I don’t have a lot of worry about Joplin actually getting to the time mentioned in Alan’s tweet. Going from eight minutes to six is hard, cutting 15 more seconds is nothing. It’s also been another two weeks since then and there’s still exactly two weeks until the opener from the day this is publishing.
But, the question about all of this is whether or not Joplin is ready to contribute at the levels that Smart and his assistants want. They wouldn’t be pushing Joplin in terms of conditioning if they didn’t expect a lot from him..... but if he just can’t get there, that’s going to mean he’s just not going to get a chance to play a bunch of minutes.
There’s also the possibility of a minutes crunch like I was talking about earlier. I didn’t even mention Olivier-Maxence Prosper when trying to hammer out what minutes go where, and the lanky Canadian could easily be in competition with Joplin for playing time. Combine that with “not quite physically ready” and “is a freshman” and you have a very nice “sporadic role player at best” starter kit.
Got it right there in that final line, didn’t I? “Sporadic role player at best,” and I’m not even sure that the word sporadic actually applies here.
The good news for David Joplin’s season is that he played in every game as a freshman. There’s a lot of guys all over the country who can’t say that about their first year of college hoops. The bad news is that his median minutes played is 6.5. For almost the entirety of Big East play, Joplin was running around out there for somewhere between two and nine minutes, as he cracked double digits just twice, and both of those were in Marquette’s first four conference games.
We saw flashes of what Shaka Smart likes about him in those scant minutes. He’s got a nose for scoring, and he makes good use of his physicality to do that. Joplin’s probably a better inside scorer than he was trying to be, shooting a very nice 57% on two-pointers. I was shocked to find out that he shot just 29% on three-pointers for the season and just 24% in Big East action. It felt like Joplin made a habit of checking into games, immediately getting open for a three, and making it...... and then checking out relatively soon thereafter. With 59 threes attempted in just 32 games, it’s clear that Joplin at least felt he had the greenest of lights to shoot as soon as he came into the game. It just didn’t work out as much as you would really want it to.
At the end of the day, Shaka Smart made it very clear throughout the year as to exactly what he wanted out of Joplin. There were the repeated comments of things like “Jop knows what he needs to do to get me to put him out there more” and “Unfortunately, Jop plays the same position on our team as Justin Lewis, and sometimes I’d be crazy to take Justin off the floor” and “Jop leads our team in scoring in practice, and we’d love to see more of that on the court during games.” The goals are there, the understanding is there.... but for this season, it just didn’t turn into a major role on this team. That’s how it goes when you’re a freshman sometimes.
I usually hate assigning this to a game that Marquette ultimately lost, because it ends up feeling like I’m accusing the team of letting a guy’s performance go to waste. In this case, though, it’s hard to ignore Joplin’s season high of minutes resulting in him putting a notch in every single column on the stat sheet. In Marquette’s 70-54 loss to St. Bonaventure in the Charleston Classic title game, Joplin went for a season high 10 points on 3-for-9 shooting, including 2-for-6 from long range, plus a season high four rebounds, an assist, a block, and a steal.
I don’t think I can go any higher than a 6 here. Joplin pretty much landed straight on what the T-Rank algorithm thought he would be this season, and I don’t want to ding a guy because I thought that Shaka Smart’s gameplan would lead to a few more minutes per game than it actually did. I liked what I saw from David Joplin this year, to the point where I was actually a little surprised in terms of how low his shooting numbers were at the end of the season. The point is that he looked like a guy who had more to give to his team, but he didn’t actually get to the point where he was doing that. That’s a middle of the road grade from this observer, with a little bit of optimism stapled in that things will be more than a little bit better next season.