With the 2022-23 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’ll start off our run of reviews with the guy on the roster that saw the least amount of court time this season.......
Freshman - #21 - Forward - 6’11” - 220 pounds - Wellington, New Zealand
Ben Gold Traditional Stats
Ben Gold Fancy Stats
The key here is reasonable. For example, if we take a peek at T-Rank’s projections for the Marquette roster this season, Ben Gold isn’t even mentioned as a contributor worth identifying. By default, this should put a lid on reasonable expectations for Gold.
However, part of this is that low recruiting ranking. Like I said, usually no one expects all that much from guys who come into college around that ranking neighborhood, and so an algorithm like T-Rank’s is basically — and justifiably! — ignoring Gold. We’ll get into my personal opinions about what Gold might be able to do in a second because I think it all falls into “get excited” reasons, but that’s not this category.
I think that if we look back in April and say “hey, look, Gold was a productive member of Marquette’s rotation this year,” then that’s a good year for him. Productive doesn’t have to actually have points and rebounds or anything attached to it, we’re just talking about a “hey, I liked what he did, looking forward to more with improvement next season” level of productivity.
Why You Should Get Excited
I think Ben Gold might just be Marquette’s most surprising performer this season.
New Zealand is, at least right now, a top 25 national team according to the FIBA rankings. Part of that is going to be based on results from before Gold got the call up to the national team. But part of that, maybe a large part of that, is based on the wins that the Kiwis earned with Gold on the roster. And that’s not just “on the roster,” but in the last two games, that’s “being asked to provide New Zealand with real minutes and real production to clinch a spot in the World Cup.” Which, by the way, they clinched their spot in the World Cup as a result of the last two games that Gold played in and there’s still two games of the qualifying round to go.
This is a legitimate basketball outfit, and they took one look at Ben Gold and said “that is a dude that we are going to rely on to qualify for the World Cup” and it worked! This has to mean something relative to Gold’s ability to contribute to the Golden Eagles immediately.
The question is where exactly he fits in. Is it going to be at the 5, earning minutes behind Oso Ighodaro? Someone has to play 10-ish minutes a game there because Ighodaro can not be expected to play all 40 minutes every night. Is it at the 4, which might be Marquette’s biggest question mark in the rotation right now? Are we talking about starter-level minutes, or just backup role minutes? Can Gold guard smaller forwards and let the Golden Eagles play extremely big but still very agile?
My instinct is, based on some footage of drills and practice coming out of the McGuire Center, is that playing the 4 seems to be the most likely pathway for Gold to get minutes this year. If he can reliably hit corner threes, something we keep seeing him trying in video footage from the practice gym, then that’s going to turn into a lot of minutes for him.
I don’t know if I have a points and rebounds type of prediction to toss in here, but I feel very confident that Marquette fans are going to feel very good about seeing Ben Gold on the floor this season.
There’s the obvious one: He’s a freshman.
Worse, there’s the sub-option to the obvious one: Ben Gold is a freshman big man. He’s the second heaviest player on the team, tied with David Joplin for that spot behind Olivier-Maxence Prosper. At 6’11”, he’s the tallest player on the team, beating out Oso Ighodaro and Keeyan Itejere, both of whom are 6’9”.
Someone has to play those back up minutes behind Oso Ighodaro, at least 10 minutes a game, maybe a little bit more. Because he’s large, Gold has to be a candidate for them..... but what if he can’t defend the way that the coaching staff needs at that spot? What if they get what they’re looking for from Keeyan Itejere or, maybe in a small ball situation, from Zach Wrightsil? Where do Gold’s minutes come from then? Can he defend in space and cover the Baylor Scheiermans and Zach Freemantles of the world? If his agility is one step too slow right now, I don’t know where or how Gold gets minutes. Head coach Shaka Smart made it very clear by way of David Joplin last season that defending is what gets you on the court. While Gold’s offense is potentially gamechanging because of what he physically brings to the table, if he can’t defend a spot on the floor, then we might not be seeing a lot of him.
It’s hard to say a bad thing about a freshman campaign that involved appearing in every single game. That’s our starting point for Ben Gold as we look back on the 2022-23 season. He got off the bench for five minutes against Radford in the opener, and from there, he played at least two minutes in every single game the rest of the way.
As you might expect from how I’m very completely softpedaling this right now, yes, Gold was limited to a “hey, we need you to go take up some space while someone takes a breather” spot in the rotation. Sometimes it was in place of Oso Ighodaro, sometimes it was in place of Olivier-Maxence Prosper as we got to see the Golden Bear (get it, Gold + Oso) lineup more than a few times this season. That’s good news for Gold, as it means that the coaching staff was willing to trust him with a variety of assignments this season.
At the end of the day, though, Gold wasn’t asked to carry a heavy load for this team. That’s how you end up with just 286 minutes total played across 36 games. He never played more than the 19 minutes he tallied up in the home game against Butler on February 4th, and he only got into double digits on the offensive end twice. That’s fine! In fact, it might be better than fine, as we’ll never know what Marquette’s plan was for Zach Wrightsil. Maybe this was a season where we actually saw more of Ben Gold than anyone was really expecting to happen last May after Wrightsil announced his transfer. If that’s the case, then this was a more than okay season from the big New Zealander.
In fact, it was arguably a little bit better than his season long stats make it look. In 20 regular season Big East games, Gold knocked down 39% of his three-point attempts, which is a whole hell of a lot better than the 18% he was shooting from out there in MU’s first 11 games of the season. In Marquette’s 15 toughest games of the season, at least according to KenPom.com’s Tier A metric, Gold shot over 41% on 17 attempts. That’s exactly what you want from a guy popping off the bench for six-ish minutes a night in those games on average. Give a starter a break, be a threat that has to be respected, throw a curveball at the defense, and hold up your end when it’s MU’s turn to get some stops.
Speaking of the defensive end of the floor, Ben Gold’s not going to be winning any kind of awards for his 18 total blocks this season. However, he was maybe sneaky good at being a rim protector. Sure, standing 6’11” did a lot of the work for him, but the fact of the matter is that he posted a block rate of 7.2% according to KenPom. That’s pretty dang good stuff, especially when you consider that Oso Ighodaro had one of the 15 best shot blocking seasons in Marquette history.... and his block rate was just 5.5%. That ranked Ighodaro at #127 in the country according to KP, and if Gold had the minutes to qualify for a national ranking, he would have been in the top 60, right alongside Purdue’s Zach Edey at 7.19%. That’s a good omen for what Gold might be able to contribute to the team in the future now that he’s gotten his feet wet at the high major Division 1 level.
When a guy plays single digit minutes for almost all of his games in a season, it’s hard to single out a game and say “oh, yeah, that was his best one.” There’s just not a lot of contests where you sit back and think about how Ben Gold made a big difference for the Golden Eagles, which has nothing to do with how well he was doing in any particular game, by the way. We could go with his season high 12 points against Connecticut, but Gold didn’t sub into that game until it was already 17-4, and the sequence that probably stands out in your mind — Gold scored eight points on three straight possessions late in the first half — started when he subbed in with the score standing at 37-17. I mean, yeah, it was really cool to see, but it also didn’t make any impact on the result there and also that was pretty much it for what he did in the game. It’s kind of the same thing for the Central Michigan game, his only other double digit scoring output. Gold didn’t score until early in the second half, and while he did score nine straight for Marquette... it started with MU up 22.
I think I’m going to go with Gold’s season high in minutes, which came in the National Marquette Day home game against Butler. MU never ran away and hid with that one on their way to a 60-52 victory over the Bulldogs, and yes, Gold only scored two points, grabbed two rebounds, and came up with two steals. Not much to write home about, but the coaching staff did trust him for 19 minutes, his biggest PT number of the season. That’s good news, and hopefully he can build on that kind of trust next season.
Just like it’s a challenge to come up with a best game in situations like this, it’s a little hard to score a season like this. Ben Gold wasn’t actively a drain on Marquette at any point, you never had a problem with him being out there, he always seemed to be contributing in a positive manner..... but that’s about the extent of it. Maybe individual plays knocked your socks off, maybe he hit a shot at a big spot here and there to thrill you, but we’re trying to grade a 36 game season, and how do you judge “competent with flickers of brilliance that make you intrigued about the future”?
We set Gold’s reasonable expectation at “productive member of the rotation,” and actually called that potential a good year for him. I think it’s safe to say that he hit that standard at the very least, so I’m going to give him a 7 for his freshman year. Maybe a little bit better than we expected, but nothing that left you texting your friends to tune in to watch the big Kiwi immediately.