Marquette Wire

GOLDSTEIN: Women’s basketball will be great next year, but what about after that?

Photo by Olivia Qualls

Photo by Olivia Qualls

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Women’s basketball is undoubtedly going to be a top BIG EAST team next year. All five regular starters from this season — Danielle King, Allazia Blockton, Natisha Hiedeman, Erika Davenport and Amani Wilborn — will be rising seniors coming off a year of averaging over 10 points per game. Barring significant injury, the Golden Eagles will be in the NCAA Tournament for the third consecutive season.

Everything beyond 2018-’19 is less clear. Kieger will basically be working with a clean slate once that senior core graduates in 2018. Assuming Kieger fills all seven open scholarships with freshman recruits, just under half that team will be newcomers. Such a team would almost assuredly be the youngest in the BIG EAST and possibly the youngest in the country.

It may seem silly to even attempt to look this far out, but it’s necessary in order to determine whether the team’s identity is going to shift in the era immediately following that first excellent recruiting class.

To answer that question, it’s worth looking at why the current crop of soon-to-be-seniors has been so successful. Kieger didn’t just recruit great players; she had a coherent vision for how they’d fit together on the court. There aren’t too many coaches or sets of players that can make a four-guard lineup work. Marquette can pull it off because all the guards in the starting lineup are adept at scoring from multiple levels, which prevents defenses from keying in on one scorer. Check out how far Wisconsin’s zone is spread out on this play.

via GIPHY

Meanwhile, the bench provides different assets than the starting five. Selena Lott, a rising sophomore guard, is a lockdown defensive player who still has a long way to go on her shot. Isabelle Spingola, a rising junior, took 83.8 percent of her shots from beyond the arc. Soon-to-be redshirt sophomore Lauren Van Kleunen can work it inside a little bit, but hasn’t shown herself to be the consistent driving threat that the current starters are, although it’s possible that this is merely because she hasn’t had to yet.

If anything, the post-2019 Marquette will at least temporarily be defined more by its bigs than its guards. Myriama Smith-Traore will probably slide into Davenport’s role. She only played 11 games her freshman year but led the stat of Wisconsin in defensive rebounding during her senior year of high school.

Ohio State transfer Tori McCoy is a talented 6-foot-4 two-way threat and former McDonald’s All-American. Her status is unknown after being diagnosed with a rare kidney disease that requires dialysis. Chloe Marotta, an incoming freshman forward, also faces uncertainty after missing her senior season with a torn ACL.

Class of 2019 recruit Destiny Strother, a guard out of Flint, Michigan, has some experience in the backcourt, but based on the limited highlights available, she looks like more of a catch-and-shoot wing player as opposed to a true guard.

This creates a conundrum for Kieger. Marquette’s future teams have clear evidence of talent, but with a much different identity than the current one. Kieger has repeatedly stated her love of pushing the tempo, which requires multiple players who are quick in transition and pass the ball well. The rising seniors are ideal for that. Any one of the guards can facilitate the offense or score 20 points, and Davenport runs the floor with fluidity not usually seen in centers.

However, that may be missing after the 2018-’19 season. Instead, the roster seems to favor a more halfcourt-oriented approach with offense running through the wing players, a radical departure from Kieger’s current style.

Fans hoping to get a better idea of what the future holds for Marquette women’s basketball should closely watch the recruiting scene. The summer before a player’s senior year of high school is typically the most important time when it comes to getting looks from colleges, and Marquette has room for a lot of players.

Milwaukee Academy of Sciences guard Shemera Williams could give Marquette its floor general and help rebuild Kieger’s run-and-gun offense. She averaged 42.1 points per game her junior year, and ESPN ranks her 47th in the country. Getting her would give Marquette its floor general for the next four seasons. Minnesota, Kansas State, Wisconsin and DePaul are all vying for the 2019 guard, per WisSports.

Going forward, it will be interesting to see whether Kieger and her staff try to rebuild what this vaunted senior class did or go in a different direction. The future beyond next year carries uncertainty and opportunity in equal measure.

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