Emily Kiser has been Michigan's "silent assassin" throughout the beginning of the season. Tess Crowley/Daily. Buy this photo.

Graduate forward Emily Kiser’s success has always come quietly.

Last season, she occupied the frontcourt with generational star Naz Hillmon, so her accomplishments largely went unnoticed. She posted a career-high 16 rebounds in a crucial victory over Indiana, boosting Michigan to first place in the Big Ten at the time. But, as was often the case, Hillmon’s performance stole the spotlight.

Now, without Hillmon, Kiser’s accomplishments are even greater, yet they are still done on the quiet side. She reaches milestone scoring feats — such as marking and tying a career-high at 25 points both against Saint Francis (PA) and Western Michigan — without drawing much attention. Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico called her a “silent assassin” after the Saint Francis game, noting that even she didn’t realize Kiser had a career night until seeing the box score.

But that’s exactly what Kiser’s efficiency in the paint allows her to do. She catches the ball close to the basket, takes a step or two and finishes quickly off the glass, often leading to impressive stat sheet numbers that don’t really draw focus during fast-paced games.

“I think it is her style of play that you don’t even realize that it’s happening,” Barnes Arico said Wednesday after the win against Western Michigan. “She’s just involved in so many things that you don’t really see her as just getting the ball and we’re just feeding her the ball. She’s a great passer. She gets other people involved. She’s a great rebounder. She’s a great defender. She’s affecting the game in so many other ways.”

Like Barnes Arico acknowledged, Kiser isn’t only a scoring threat this season. She’s averaging 21.7 points per game, but her passing also facilitates the offense. Barnes Arico praises her as one of the best passers on the team. Kiser’s court vision — in combination with her height and reach — allows her to find her teammates in the post or on backdoor cuts.

“I think in a lot of the offensive sets we run, I get put in that position quite a bit to deliver some of those passes,” Kiser said. “I knew what we were looking for, just because (Western Michigan) play(ed) a switching defense. It’s really important to know where people are going to be before they’re there.”

Kiser’s anticipation of her teammates’ movements was especially apparent against Western Michigan. She found them in the paint on cuts to the hoop or on the perimeter lined up for 3-pointers, tallying a team-high eight assists in the process, taking on the role of “point forward.”

“Emily has a super high basketball IQ, and I think you saw that not only this game, but all the games,” senior guard Maddie Nolan said. “With her assists, knowing when to shoot it, when to pass it out. And you see it on defense every night, but I think that’s a big aspect of her game that doesn’t necessarily always get attention.”

Kiser’s high basketball IQ is partly a product of spending three years primarily on the bench, learning from the great post players before her in Hillmon, Halle Thome and Hailey Brown. She is a student of the game, and that knowledge is now helping her pass the tests necessitated by a starting role.

Against Western Michigan, Kiser’s offensive production accounted for over one-fourth of the Wolverines’ 99 points. Her assists accounted for 18 points, and she had seven offensive rebounds. If she continues this scoring clip, Kiser will soon be hard to ignore.

Soon, she will start drawing the double-teams that were reserved for Hillmon last year, much like she did against the Broncos on Wednesday. Those double-teams should allow Kiser to further open Michigan’s perimeter offense with her passing.

“Early in the second quarter, they started doubling her because she started the game on fire,” Barnes Arico said. “And then we talked about … skip it to your shooter, and then Maddie was able to get going. So I think when you have an inside presence like that, that is calling for a double team — which they were after Emily got hot — it opened things on the outside for us.”

Kiser has had three straight dominant performances to start the season, however quietly they may have come. And while Nolan, sophomore guard Laila Phelia and fifth-year guard Leigha Brown are mentioned as players to watch in the Big Ten, Kiser’s name is still undervalued.

But that may be a blessing for Michigan. The Wolverines — a team that loves the underdog mentality — have been overlooked this season. And Kiser especially so. 

If her production continues at her career-best rate, though, she won’t be overlooked much longer — even if her scoring continues to show up on the stat sheet quietly.