Rose Nkumu takes on her big season after ‘buying in’ first year

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Photo by Isabel Bonebrake

Sophomore guard Rose Nkumu (3) in Marquette women’s basketball’s 89-65 win over North Dakota Dec. 11.

If you ask Marquette women’s basketball head coach Megan Duffy what she thinks of sophomore guard Rose Nkumu’s latest success, she’d tell you she is someone who has “bought in from day one.”

“For her, it was getting to know the college game, the grind of it and get some experience. She has been someone over these last couple weeks where it’s all starting to click” Duffy said. 

Nkumu said she has been playing basketball since second grade.

Once I got to middle school and started taking basketball a little more seriously, I was really motivated to use that as an opportunity to go a really well-known university with a great basketball program,” Nkumu said. 

“Thankfully my AAU (amateur athletic union) circuit helped me to accomplish my goals of playing Division I basketball here at Marquette.” 

Nkumu, who hails from Iowa City, Iowa, said she chose Marquette for its competitive and winning culture along with the proximity it provides her family with to attend games.

“I wanted to make sure that they had access to me,” Nkumu said. “It was a great distance for me and for them.” 

The adjustment period from high school to the Division I level posed a challenge for Nkumu last season as she averaged 0.7 points, 0.7 assists and 0.3 rebounds in 15 games played.

Nkumu told the Marquette Wire in November there were two big things that she saw at the forefront in her adjustment period.

“Coming in from high school last year to college, it’s a different mindset of how fast the game is and how much you have to control on the court,” Nkumu said.

Nkumu said following the season she spent time learning from former Marquette guard Selena Lott, junior guard Jordan King and Duffy, who was a point guard herself.

“Getting the opportunity to watch them and learn from them was really essential for me to get my mindset for the summer, of knowing when and where I need to get the ball to my teammates,” Nkumu said. 

Nkumu has worked a lot on moving the ball around the court and her play-making skills.

When we played pick up (basketball) it was a lot of chemistry that was forged over those few weeks (as well as) just working on my own game of being able to knock down shots when I may not be guarded as heavily as some of the other teammates.”

Now in her second season in Duffy’s program, the 5-foot-7 guard has seen a bigger role in the guard rotation with King and graduate student Karissa McLaughlin.

After coming off the bench in 11 of the team’s first 12 games, Nkumu earned her first collegiate start Jan. 12 against DePaul.

In the Golden Eagles’ 88-85 overtime win, Nkumu logged a career-high in points and rebounds with eight and seven, respectively.

She said it was a matter of preparation and being ready for any opportunity when your name is called.

Coach Duffy always talks about having the confidence to be ready whenever your name is called in whatever situation that the team may need,” Nkumu said. “I think that is the biggest thing she has instilled in us this year, strength in numbers.”

Nkumu would go onto earning starts in each of Marquette’s next two game, averaging 5.5 assists, 4.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.0 steals.

Sophomore forward Liza Karlen said she has seen Nkumu grow both on and off the court from a player and leader standpoint. 

She has definitely taken on a more verbal role just in helping out her teammates. This year she has a better handle on just what it really takes to be a point guard for our program, she knows what she has to do to be on the court and have a huge presence,” Karlen said. 

Karlen said she believes Nkumu taking on a more vocal role among the team has helped first-year forward Makiyah Williams and the rest of the sophomores.

McLaughlin said Nkumu is up there for being one of the more passionate players on the team.

“She is the perfect image of buying into what her role is on the team and what Marquette needs from her,” McLaughlin said. “She wants this team to be successful more than anyone. I am super proud of her for stepping up and filling that point guard role for us.” 

As for Karlen, she said she is not surprise to see Nkumu having success. 

“(After) not playing a ton of minutes last year, then coming in this year and getting a starting position, she has been through it all and stayed true to the process through the ups and downs,” Karlen said. 

Karlen said Nkumu’s loyalty is seen at all times.

Rose is a super loyal person and it stands to her personality more than the basketball side,” Karlen said. “She is always staying true to herself, to her friends and us as teammates.”

With the second half of the BIG EAST regular season beginning, Nkumu said her goals for the remainder of the season is continuing to grow closer with her teammates and honing in on their “strength in numbers.”

Every season is a great opportunity to work on my own game as well as help my teammates work on theirs. It has been really great during practice for all 13 of us getting to build that chemistry,” Nkumu said.  “Just keeping that winning culture here at Marquette and the success of our postseason runs as well.”

This article was written by Kelly Reilly. She can be reached at kelly.reilly@marquette.edu or on Twitter @kellyreillyyy.