Kaifes makes up for lost time with a newfound voice

Claire+Kaifes+%2810%29+is+working+her+way+back+into+the+Marquette+womens+basketball+rotation+after+being+out+for+the+entire+2021-22+season+with+a+Torn+ACL+injury.+

Photo by Isabel Bonebrake

Claire Kaifes (10) is working her way back into the Marquette women’s basketball rotation after being out for the entire 2021-22 season with a Torn ACL injury.

During last season, senior guard Claire Kaifes sat on the bench every game.

Despite losing playing time due to an ACL injury, Kaifes said she was able to gain something in her time off the court: a bigger voice.

“Being able to see everything (on the court) while being out, I could go over to someone who’s maybe struggling and tell them what I saw,” Kaifes said. “That branches out to the team as well, creating relationships, having more in-depth relationships than maybe I had before.”

Assistant coach Tasha Taylor said that Kaifes finding a louder voice has not only helped her but is aiding the the four first-year players on this Marquette team.

“She (Kaifes) has to help them along the way and teach how we do things around here and how we operate,” Taylor said. “That’s going to be huge for her, that’s going to be important with her energy, her being able to use her voice, that’s huge for our underclassmen.”

Besides the newfound voice, Taylor said Kaifes leads through her toughness and grit.

“Not too often many players want to take charges or want to get on the floor and get their knees dirty a little bit,” Taylor said. “It’s always good to have a player that’s willing to do it because then it becomes contagious and if you can get that one player to do it the next player is going to do it.”

That type of attitude has spread to some of Kaifes’ teammates.

Junior guard Rose Nkumu said that during the team’s open practice Oct. 24, seeing Kaifes dive on the floor for a ball made her want to do the same.

“We’re really competitive with each other, she got the loose ball and the charge. Those are two categories on our point board that both of us are equally competitive with,” Nkumu said. “When one gets a charge the other one tries to get one or a loose ball, but it’s good competitiveness.”

With the type of player and person Kaifes is, Nkumu called her one of the best leaders on the team.

“She’s always the one who’s in your ear and on the floor. She’s always hyping you up down the line, high-fiving everybody and it’s just a great aspect to have in a teammate being the one who’s the energizer bunny that’s always hopping around just making sure everyone has great spirits,” Nkumu said.

During her rehab process, Kaifes was also able to work with Taylor to be ready when she was finally cleared for full practice. Whatever the drill, Taylor said that Kaifes did was willing to do the work to get back onto the floor.

“One of the things Claire did a great job of was she bought into it, even the things she was uncomfortable with, she bought into it and she brought it along the way with the things she worked on,” Taylor said.

When Kaifes takes the floor in the season opener Nov. 7, it will have been nearly a year and nine months since the last time she was able to suit up.

“It’s going to be amazing; I’m so looking forward to it. It’s been over a year now that I haven’t been able to play,” Kaifes said. “It’s going to be amazing to be on the court with my teammates and seeing what we can do this year.”

Head coach Megan Duffy said she is thrilled to have Kaifes back in the rotation for her ability to play in a variety of ways.

“Claire is a little bit like Chloe in some ways of our utility players. She can guard different positions, very high basketball IQ. She’s always in the right spots. You hear her voice a lot fixing things on the court,” Duffy said. “She’s got a great presence in the locker room and the big thing for Claire is just getting the rust off from her ACL injury and getting more time on the court in live game situations.”

Regardless of what her role will be, Kaifes said she is ready to help her team in any way possible to win games.

“Whatever Coach Duffy puts her faith in me to do, I will 100% try to do to the best of my ability,” Kaifes said.

This story was written by Jackson Gross. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @JacksonGrossMU.