Hawkeyes to Host First Practice Saturday

Oct. 9, 2007


 

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    The Iowa women’s basketball team will hold its Media Day tomorrow (Wednesday) at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The Hawkeyes will hold their first practice Saturday at 7:30 a.m.

    Despite the individual records and accolades established, the Iowa women’s basketball team was extremely disappointed with the end results a year ago. The Hawkeyes failed to reach the post-season for the first time in Head Coach Lisa Bluder’s seven-year tenure and the team has expectations to return to the NCAA Tournament and contend for a Big Ten championship.

    “Our expectation every year is to be playing in the NCAA Tournament,” said Bluder. “Since we didn’t accomplish that last year, we feel even more driven to return this year, especially having a team with five seniors. I think whenever you have seniors, there’s an added incentive to have excellence and success. Our team definitely feels that way. I feel something different with this team and it’s because of the senior leadership.”

    Leadership, experience and depth are three strong characteristics of the 2007-08 Iowa Hawkeyes. Although the Hawkeyes return everyone from last season, Bluder thinks the team will have a very different look, in a positive way.

    “In addition to having a wealth of experience returning, we add four new players in freshmen Kelsey Cermak and Kachine Alexander and experienced leaders in sophomore JoAnn Hamlin and senior Johanna Solverson,” commented Bluder. “We have a great blend of experience plus veteran players that now have the opportunity to compete.”

    Solverson, who becomes Iowa’s second student-athlete to receive a sixth year of eligibility, returns after missing the last two years with consecutive ACL injuries. Before her setbacks, the Lake Zurich, IL, native averaged 8.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.7 steals. Since her arrival on campus in 2002, Bluder has seen Solverson develop into a leader.

    “She has matured a lot,” said Bluder. “The one thing that stands out in my mind is that her teammates voted her captain this year, which speaks volumes to the confidence they have in her and what she is going to bring to our team this year.”

    Hamlin transferred to Iowa after playing her freshman year at Kansas State. The 6-3 forward/center started 31-of-33 games for the Wildcats, averaging 10.0 points and 4.6 rebounds playing against strong competition in the Big XII Conference. The addition of Hamlin bolsters Iowa’s frontcourt. Bluder sees Hamlin having an immediate impact on the league and believes her competitiveness will assist this year’s Hawkeye squad.


    “Our expectation every year is to be playing in the NCAA Tournament. Since we didn’t accomplish that last year, we feel even more driven to return this year, especially having a team with five seniors. I think whenever you have seniors, there’s an added incentive to have excellence and success. Our team definitely feels that way. I feel something different with this team and it’s because of the senior leadership.”
    Head Coach Lisa Bluder


    “She’s strong, an excellent rebounder and can run the floor and get out for fast breaks really well,” said Bluder. “She also has a very nice shooting touch around the basket and can extend out to 3-point range. I think what makes her most difficult to defend is that she hates to lose.”Adding four players to Iowa’s returning experienced letterwinners gives Coach Bluder one of her deepest Iowa teams.

    “As long as we stay healthy I feel we have the potential to be very deep,” said Bluder. “We have two people at every position and it hasn’t been that way recently. We’ve had to use players at multiple positions in the past and I don’t think it’s going to be that way this year.”

    Junior Wendy Ausdemore led Iowa in 3-pointers a year ago.

    Anchoring the returnees are junior all-Big Ten performers Wendy Ausdemore, Megan Skouby and Kristi Smith.Ausdemore returns for her junior year after being named to the all-Big Ten third team and breaking four school records a year ago. After a slow start, the 6-2 small forward finished strong and was the team scoring leader during conference play (15.2). The improvement she made from her freshman to sophomore year was staggering. Ausdemore made 40 more 3-pointers (62), averaged 5.9 points (12.7) better and dished out 31 more assists than her freshman campaign. The Neola, IA, native was one of three Iowa sharp-shooters, converting 90 percent (55-61) from the foul line and 42 percent (62-149) from 3-point range. Her 3-point percentage ranked 14th-best in the country.

    Ausdemore wasn’t the only starter to make significant strides from her freshman to sophomore year. Smith, Iowa’s 5-6 point guard, earned third team all-conference laurels after leading the Hawkeyes in scoring (13.4), assists (124), free throws made (109) and attempted (127) and 3-point field goal percentage (.495, 45-91). The native of Thornton, CO, became the first underclassman to amass over 400 points and 100 assists in a single-season.

    Bluder has always enjoyed coaching a scoring point guard and looks for more of the same from Smith in 2007-08.

    “Kristi’s scoring ability is one of her strengths,” said Bluder. “I want her to continue to look for her shot. I think Kristi’s ability to score is highly impressive because she can score a number of ways. She did a really good job of leading our team last year. She grew up quite a bit from her freshman year. I believe she can get even better. I think she can dictate what the offense is doing and really take control on the floor.”

    Junior Kristi Smith is Iowa’s floor general.

    Bluder believes Iowa had the best sophomore class in the Big Ten and Ausdemore and Smith had a huge part to do with that.”The jump Kristi and Wendy made from their freshman year was amazing,” commented Bluder. “Both are tremendous 3-point shooters and incredible offensive threats. Both grew so much, confidence-wise, from their freshman to sophomore years and understand what it takes to succeed.”

    One area of emphasis the coaching staff would like to improve this season is the transition offense.

    “With the added depth this year, we concentrated on our transition offense during summer practices and I think we can become a even more up-tempo team,” said Bluder.

    In addition to pushing the ball up the floor, the team focused on improving its defense and rebounding in the off-season. According to Bluder, the team made a number of defensive changes to its player and zone defenses.

    “We definitely need to improve our defense and rebounding,” Bluder said. “We can be so much better in those areas and they will help us win games and contend for a Big Ten championship. We needed to make changes and the players were excited about the changes. They’ve done a good job of being excited about learning and instituting them.”

    Improving the defense and rebounding means Iowa’s frontcourt will need to improve on their numbers from last year. Returning are centers Skouby and Stacy Schlapkohl and forwards Krista VandeVenter, Nicole VanderPol and Jenee Graham.

    Skouby, the Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2006, returns for her junior year after being named MVP of the WBCA Classic and Hawkeye Challenge and earning honorable mention all-Big Ten recognition. The 6-6 center averaged 13.2 points and 4.5 rebounds last year, despite suffering a broken bone to her non-shooting hand midway through the Big Ten schedule.

    “I look for Megan to have a really good year,” commented Bluder. “Megan received all-Big Ten honors a year ago, but she can get better and grow. I think she understands that. She was injured at a crucial time last year, and was never really at her best after that. Again, if we can stay healthy and if Megan continues to understand how good she can be, I think she can be an all-Big Ten first team performer.”

    Junior Megan Skouby is a two-time all-Big Ten honoree.

    VandeVenter and Graham will be in their final season in an Iowa uniform. VandeVenter, who was Iowa’s leading rebounder entering last season, suffered a shoulder injury and missed the first seven games. The Osseo, MN, native returned and had a productive year, averaging 7.7 points and 6.2 rebounds. VandeVenter underwent successful surgery to repair her injured shoulder in late March, and according to Bluder is on track to be back for competitive workouts in October.”Krista has missed and will miss a lot of individual time, but I really don’t think that will impact her,” Bluder said. “Being a senior, I believe she will pick up right where she left off prior to her injury.”

    While VandeVenter was sidelined last year, Graham picked up the rebounding slack. The 5-10 forward, led the Black and Gold in rebounding (7.8) and posted double digit rebounds 11 times.

    Schlapkohl and VanderPol spent a majority of last season coming off the bench, but did receive some starts throughout the year. Schlapkohl, who was a team captain last season, started 14 games and finished the season averaging 5.9 points and 2.5 rebounds.

    VanderPol started five contests and concluded the season averaging 5.2 points and 2.9 rebounds. The Grundy Center, IA, native played her best basketball in February, posting career highs in seven statistical categories in the last two games. She also earned the team’s Coaches Award, which is emblematic of the player who represents the team on-and-off the court in a positive manner and demonstrates a tremendous work ethic.

    As a team, Iowa ranked second and fifth in the country in 3-point field goal accuracy and free throw percentage, respectively. With everyone returning, Bluder expects the Hawkeye’s excellent perimeter shooting to continue.

    Adding depth to the Hawkeye perimeter are senior Abby Emmert and sophomore Lindsey Nyenhuis. Nyenhuis, an off guard, drained 39 triples last season to rank third on the team. She averaged 4.7 points as a reserve. Emmert averaged 3.8 points last year and sank 10 treys. Emmert, who can play point or off guard, joins Solverson as Iowa’s captains for 2007-08.


    “I see more balance within our conference and a lot of returning experience. It’s going to be a very competitive conference this year. I believe we have an excellent chance of doing well.”
    Head Coach Lisa Bluder


    Bluder believes the Big Ten is balanced as ever and sees the race for the championship being wide open.”I see more balance within our conference and a lot of returning experience,” said Bluder. “It’s going to be a very competitive conference this year. I believe we have an excellent chance of doing well.”

    In addition to the balance across the league, the landscape of the Big Ten has changed as four teams have changed head coaches.

    “Coaches have styles they play and with four new coaches in the league we have to have to figure out their style of play and how they coach,” commented Bluder. “I think it’s going to be difficult preparing for those teams. Usually you only have one new coach entering the league. With so many, there’s going to be a lot of adjustments that need to be made.”

    Iowa hosts 18 games in 2007-08, more than ever before. Bluder believes with the talent on this year’s roster coupled with an attractive home slate, Hawkeye fans can expect a fun atmosphere at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

    “I see our marketing office having a bigger role this year in getting more fans in the seats and establishing a fun environment in the arena,” said Bluder.”

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