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2023-24 Marquette Men’s Basketball Player Preview: #21 Ben Gold

What happens if the big Kiwi can take up a bunch of OMax’s minutes this season?

Marquette’s Ben Gold Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

The 2023-24 college basketball season is right around the corner, so let’s dive into the Marquette 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 — we’re skipping Caedin Hamilton because he will be redshirting this season — and then moving on to 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, we kick off our series of previews for returning players with a look at the sophomore who might hold the key to MU’s ceiling this season......

Ben Gold

Sophomore - #12 - Forward - 6’11” - 245 lbs. - Wellington, New Zealand

The big New Zealander had pretty much the freshman year that we could have expected from him going into it. He earned regular playing time every single minute, he made himself a threat that had to be respected shooting the ball, he showed flashes of brilliance at times, and he was sneaky good on the defensive end, at least in terms of blocking shots on the interior. We weren’t expecting a whole lot from him, but we got enough to say “hey, that was pretty good, let’s see what you grow into next year.”

It’s a relatively low bar for Gold relative to growing from last season. While he did appear in every single game last year, he ended up averaging just 7.9 minutes per game, and his other stats are as you might think that they are: 2.7 points, 1.0 rebounds, half a block per game. things went a little bit better for him in MU’s 20 game Big East schedule: 3.4 points, 1.2 rebounds, 0.6 blocks per game in 8.3 minutes a night. He shot just 30% from downtown for the whole season, but that was up to 39% in regular season Big East games.

Reasonable Expectations

The door is open for Ben Gold to do big things for Marquette this season.

Last year, in his review, we noted that head coach Shaka Smart deployed Gold as a backup to both Oso Ighodaro and Olivier-Maxence Prosper. As you may be aware, Prosper was a first round NBA Draft pick, and he’s on the roster for the Dallas Mavericks right now. As such, there’s a big spot for Gold to start vacuuming up minutes left behind in Prosper’s absence.

With that said, he’s not the guy who projects to take OMax’s starting spot. That pathway most likely belongs to David Joplin, but the fact of the matter is that Gold provides the Golden Eagles with a little bit more height and size than Joplin does. If getting a little bit bigger is something that MU needs, then that’s going to tip the scales towards Gold getting playing time.

However, we have to acknowledge the fact that the preseason algorithm says that Gold is projected for six minutes a night and 2.9 points and 0.5 rebounds to go with that. If he can play a little bit more like Big East Season Ben Gold than Season Average Ben Gold, I think he can easily beat those computer projection numbers, but it’s going to come down to whether or not he can get the chances to do it.

Why You Should Get Excited

Ben Gold’s per 40 minute numbers in Big East play: 16.5 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 1.0 steals, 2.7 blocks.

Ben Gold’s per 100 possession numbers in Big East play: 23.6 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.4 steals, 3.8 blocks.

Yes, he did not do much for Marquette last season. But Gold also had some really nice moments where he was doing an awful lot of really nice things. It’s just that he was limited in minutes because he was playing behind either A) one of the most uniquely talented players in the country or B) a guy who was ultimately headed towards a spot on an NBA roster this fall. No one’s faulting anyone on the coaching staff towards leaning towards Ighodaro and Prosper.

But in a world where Prosper’s not there any more... what if Gold’s capable of sustaining that kind of production with real minutes behind it?

Maybe it’s not going to be even 20 minutes a game. But if he’s starting to trend towards 10 or 15 minutes a game and can keep that offensive production up, and being dangerous on defense in the paint as well? Man, that sounds like an awful lot of fun to watch.

After all, Shaka Smart said over the summer that the coaching staff thinks that Gold is an awful lot better than Gold thinks he is. We can debate about exactly what the head coach means when he says that kind of a thing out loud in public, but if the basic concept is true, there’s a lot of untapped potential for the Kiwi.

Potential Pitfalls

Well, we have to start this portion of the program out by discussing Gold’s shin splints that kept him from playing during the team’s trip to Italy in August. He’s a 6’11”, 245 pound guy, so anything that relates to his legs not holding up to their end of the bargain is, of course, slightly concerning.

With that said, according to pictures from Marquette, Gold wasn’t wearing his walking boot any more by the end of the month. That’s a good sign, but he has been wearing a compression sleeve on the same leg in preseason workouts. Keep an eye on that going forward.

The other thing that we have to worry about is Gold’s defense. Yes, I know, we mentioned his ability to block shots pretty well, but that’s not the full and sum total of defense, even at his size. Turning our attention to Hoop Explorer, Marquette was better on both ends of the court when Gold was off the floor last season. It was a less than six point per 100 possession difference on offense, but it was a nearly seven point shift on defense. More importantly, it was a shift amongst very nice offensive numbers but a shift from “this is good” on defense to “yeah, it’s below average, but I guess that’s fine if we’re scoring that much.”

Gold has to be better than that. Yes, there’s more going on to cause those numbers than just what he’s doing, sure. But if the coaching staff looks at whatever breakdowns they like to look at and see that they have better defensive options/better defensive production than what they’re getting from Gold, they’re going to go in a different direction. If that’s the case, we might end up seeing a lot more of 2022-23 Ben Gold Minutes in 2023-24.