With the 2021-22 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 grad transfer half of MU’s two-headed monster in the middle.......
Graduate Student - #35 - Forward - 6’10” - 215 pounds - Biemnon, South Sudan
Kur Kuath Traditional Stats
Kur Kuath Fancy Stats
** — Notes a national top 500 ranking per KenPom.com
WHAT WE SAID:
At the bare minimum, Kur Kuath is going to be the defensive anchor of the Golden Eagles. The man can flat-out block the basketball and is one of the elite rim protectors in the nation. His 1.5 blocks per game were third best in the Big 12, and his block rate led the conference and was top 30 in the country.
Defensively you can do many exciting things with Kuath, he’s athletic and long enough to switch onto more agile wings, and you don’t have to feel terrified if he ends up guarding on the perimeter. He’s clearly best suited when acting as a deterrent at the rim, but he’s got enough flexibility to execute more creative rotations and looks.
On offense, his game is more limited. Thanks to a slenderer frame, he struggles to create his own shot, and he doesn’t have much of a traditional back-to-the-basket post-game. But he is an excellent weapon to have when paired with a guard who can find him. He runs the rim well, is a prime target for lobs, and when allowed to go right at the rim, he has the reach, leap, and strength to attack the rim with power.
Overall, if all you’re asking of Kuath is to be a defensive presence and glass cleaner and an occasional and opportunistic point getter, he’s going to do just that and historically has done it really well. His limitations only become a problem if the rest of the lineup doesn’t supplement him. This can be frustrating, but as a rotational forward/center, who probably won’t lead the team in minutes any game this season… it’s hardly insurmountable.
Reasons to Get Excited
Kuath is a big play monster. His highlight tapes show a player who does high-energy things, and his stats indicate he’s a player who excels at things that gets crowds excited. Dunks, blocks, offensive putbacks, particularly of the dunking kind, and things of that nature. He has shown a shooting touch but hasn’t done enough to prove it’s a regular part of his game, so you hope he shows it more. But at this point, you can reasonably expect a highly impactful player on defense and moderately impactful on the offensive end in the right situations.
Another tool in his utility belt is he is an above-average offensive rebounder. He has a knack for finding the ball off the rim and putting it back with style. His 9.8% Offensive Rebound rate last season was good for 208th in the country last year, and he only improved as the year went on, improving that rate to 11% in conference play, 10th best in the Big 12. So while as we will come to discover his offensive game is limited, his ability to extend plays and create second chances is a mitigating skill set.
There are also lots of small things that make him a big you feel comfortable having on the floor, even with small ball or more guard/wing-oriented lineups. He’s mobile, versatile, and better when given opportunities to use his agility rather than when he’s planted in place. More than anything his rim protection ability makes you feel less worried of smaller lineups getting exposed on drives to the rim, he will force teams to think twice before coming inside.
He has an inkling of an ability to be a shooter as well. While he only went 2-for-7 last season from deep, he did take jumpers from the elbow regularly and hit at an encouraging clip. At OU, it wasn’t really his job to be that kind of player, but it is interesting to know that there may be that skill set waiting in his back pocket if called upon just in case.
Kuath is a veteran player with a ton of experience and game minutes to lean on. The only problem is that in all that playing time and experience, he hasn’t exactly ascended into a player you feel really confident in to be your “guy.” At the JUCO level, he was that guy, but he just never broke through in his three years as a Sooner.
Now that’s asking a lot of a guy, and honestly, that’s only a reason to be worried if you’re getting your expectations out of line. It’s going to be very much a matter of managing expectations with this player. He’s really good at what he does, but what Kuath does is somewhat limited, and now in his sixth college basketball season, it’s not productive to imagine he grows so significantly that that changes in a short period.
He isn’t a great rebounder for a big man, especially on the defensive end which, unfortunately, due to volume outweighs his knack for grabbing offensive boards. He needs the assistance of other playmakers to create offensive opportunities for him, and there is a chance he gets bullied by more physical bigs.
It stands to reason that he could rise to the occasion if given time and an expanded role, which he’s likely to get at Marquette. Considering how young this team is, you could need him to stay competitive for long stretches if the younger players aren’t as consistent. It maybe shouldn’t be counted on or expected, but pleasantly surprising is an excellent middle ground here.
There are lots of little whispers of things that could improve his game tenfold. If he cleans up the defensive glass more consistently, that relieves a lot of pressure. If he reintroduces a midrange or outside jump shot as an even moderate threat, that reduces a ton of pressure off his offensive game.
Kuath will only be in Milwaukee for one season, but it could be an exciting one based on his style of play and the role he’ll be placed in. He’ll be easy to cheer for, that much is for sure.
I think I can say this with relative confidence: If you were somehow disappointed or something in that vein with what Marquette got from Kur Kuath this season, then I have to highly suspect that there’s something wrong with you.
What we thought we were getting: An experienced big man who could anchor the defense, patrol the paint and rim with authority, provide a security blanket for MU’s inexperienced perimeter players, and otherwise do his job as directed by the coaching staff.
What we got: An experienced big man who could anchor the defense, patrol the paint and rim with authority, provide a security blanket for MU’s inexperienced perimeter players, and otherwise do his job as directed by the coaching staff.
Heck, we didn’t even have to worry about whether or not Kuath could expand his game into the areas occasionally showed at Oklahoma, because it appears that the coaching staff said “hey, you’re not absolutely awesome at that stuff, stop doing it and focus on doing the stuff that you are absolutely awesome at doing.” Maximize strengths, minimize weaknesses, exactly the kind of thing that coaches are supposed to be doing.
The end result? Kuath was the #25 most efficient player in the country this season per KenPom.com with his offensive rating north of 125 for the season. He did this without attempting a single three-pointer, something that goes a long way towards helping that. Take Cornell’s Keller Boothby, who finished the year at #1 in ORtg: 111 attempted threes this season. Making 50% of them probably helped him be the most efficient player in the country. Kuath didn’t have that in his back pocket to help his numbers out, but he still got into the top 25 in the country, which I think is neat.
One of the reasons that he did that? Kur Kuath was a much better offensive player than we give him credit for. I mentioned this in the Oso Ighodaro review: We could generally sum up the role split between Kuath and Ighodaro at the 5 this season as “Kuath is the defense, Ighodaro is the offense.” That was for good reason, and we’ll talk about it more in a second. But we can’t ignore the fact that Kuath shot Seventy-One Point Three Percent from the field this season. Sure, he took 77% of his shots at the rim per Hoop Math, and that generally makes things really easy for you to make a lot of shots, and it shows with his 74% field goal percentage there. But Kuath shot 16-for-26 on shots grouped as two-point jumpers this season, and boy howdy, I will happily take a dude who shoots 62% away from the rim every day of the week and twice on Sundays. At one point this season, Kur Kuath went six straight games without missing a shot, finishing up that stretch 16-for-16. Officially, that streak was actually 18-for-18, because Kuath made his first two shots of the next game as well. Did this streak unfortunately coincide with Marquette’s late season swoon? Yeah, it did, but that just means that you can’t exactly blame Kuath’s offense for coming up short there.
Heck, we’re stuck wondering how much more Kuath could have done on the offensive end if Shaka Smart had decided to make offensive rebounding an emphasis this season. How many buckets were denied Kuath this year because the Golden Eagles effectively abandoned the offensive glass and elected to get back on defense?
And speaking of defense..... man, it was fun to watch Kur Kuath swallow souls this season. Kuath finished the 2021-22 season with the fifth most blocks in any single Marquette season, with only three years of Jim McIlvaine and Faisal Abraham’s 1997 campaign in front of him. Put it another way: Kuath is one of just three human beings to ever swat at least 80 shots in a season for MU. It was the most blocks that Marquette hoops has seen since Abraham had his 84 in 1997, and it landed as the third most blocks by any Marquette senior.
Kur Kuath was doing things that almost no one has ever done for Marquette in the past, and it’s been 25 years since anyone did anything similar. Heck, think about it this way: Kur Kuath was so effective at blocking shots this season that he finished the year just 19 blocks away from the all-time Marquette career top 10. In one season. 19 away from Ousmane Barro’s even 100 for his MU career across one season in Conference USA and three in the Big East. We have to wonder if Kuath could have gotten to 100 this season if his block rate didn’t dip by a percentage point in Big East play. It was still the second best rate in the entire league, so it’s not like he was suddenly bad as the season went on, but it definitely seems that conference opponents knew to stay away from Kuath if they could. That’s a different kind of block, though, one where you alter a shot not by being there but by the team refusing to come near you in the first place.
I think we could go a lot of directions here. Heck, if you really wanted to, you could make an argument for MU’s NCAA tournament game, because Kuath finished that one with six points, five rebounds, and five blocks in just 17 minutes. I’d at least listen to you try to convince me that Kuath had the best game out of anyone in a Marquette uniform in that game.
There’s probably better options, though. Kuath’s season high for blocks was seven, and he got that twice. Once was in the home blowout against Providence, and he added nine points, five rebounds, an assist, and a steal there. That’s pretty good, and considering that the Friars shot just 36% inside the arc, you can probably argue that Kuath was the MVP of that game. The other one was the road win against Seton Hall as he terrorized the Pirates in something of a response to Ike Obiagu putting up seven blocks in Milwaukee. Six points, three rebounds, two assists on top of the blocks in 25 minutes there.
Kuath’s scoring high for the season came at home against Georgetown as he went a perfect 7-for-7 from the field in the middle of his 18-for-18 streak to get 15 points along with four rebounds, two assists, and three blocks in 19 minutes. I think that might be our answer here, as he also got KenPom.com game MVP honors for that one, and as you can see from the recap, some of his buckets were kind of important to the Golden Eagles along the way.
I think this is an easy 8 for Kuath, and if you wanted to lean over to a 9, I wouldn’t argue with you. He was exactly as advertised, he was exactly what Marquette needed this year, and he did it at what can easily be described as a historic clip. It wasn’t HOLY CRAP, WOULD YOU LOOK AT WHAT THIS GUY IS DOING stuff, which would push him along up to a 10, but that’s not a knock, it’s just saying “let’s reserve some scoring for epic performances.” Kur Kuath was only a Golden Eagle for one season, but it was a fun season, and he was a big part of the reason why it was fun to watch Marquette every night. We give Kuath a big Anonymous Eagle THANK YOU for everything he did — including getting stitches during a game and still checking back in to keep playing — this season and wish him nothing but the best in whatever comes next for him.