Last season, freshmen Tori Jankoska and Aerial Powers led MSU in scoring and made an immediate impact on a season that culminated with a Big Ten title. This year, another freshman has the chance to follow in those footsteps.
Freshman guard/forward has impressed head coach Suzy Merchant so far, and in her first collegiate game, she was included in the team’s starting five.
“It was a great feeling, getting my name called out there and just starting as a freshman was a crazy experience,” Lumpkin said. “I’m thankful for the opportunity.”
Lumpkin did not waste her opportunity, scoring 10 points while also dishing out three assists in the season opening exhibition win against Grand Valley State on Sunday . In 28 minutes, Lumpkin shot 5-7 from the field .
Heading into the season, Merchant understood the talent and scoring that Lumpkin could bring. Merchant said earlier this year that Lumpkin is the freshman who has “adjusted the quickest” to the pace of the college game.
“I knew Jas was gonna play,” Merchant said. “Athletically, she’s certainly extremely gifted. She did a really nice job for us, played within herself, didn’t force too much.”
Lumpkin managed to stay calm and composed, despite starting in her first game at MSU. She channeled the slasher that she is capable of being, and had numerous strong drives to the hoop in the first half.
“I did get nervous in the warm-ups but after that everything just settled down,” Lumpkin said. “If you think too much or get too nervous, that’s when you start to mess up. So I just tried to take it all in and do what I needed to do to help the team.”
Lumpkin, a four-year letterwinner at Joliet Catholic Academy in Illinois, averaged 18 points per game her senior year. She will be playing alongside Jankoska and Powers, two very good scoring players themselves, so Lumpkin may be asked to fill in different roles on the court.
“I just want to be a person they can look to to score as well,” Lumpkin said. “The starting five, everybody on that floor can score in different ways, so I just want to contribute the best way I can. If they need me to bring more energy in the game, then that’s what I have to do.”
Although MSU has yet to play a regular season game, Merchant has noted that Lumpkin can improve in a few other areas of her game.
“I’d still like to see her rebound better, but I did think she did a nice job in the scrimmage that we played against Toledo a week ago and then tonight,” Merchant said after the exhibition win. “She does a nice a job and has a nice feel for the game. She’s going to be impactful for us. I’d like to see her pick it up defensively a little bit more, but that’s the whole team right now.”