Oct. 15, 2003
At their annual media day staged Wednesday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, UI women’s basketball coach Lisa Bluder and her squad made their excitement for the upcoming season clear.
The coach believes that between the strong leadership of her three seniors, Jennie Lillis, Becca McCann and Kristi Faulkner, and two promising underclassmen in Lindsay Richards and Deb Remmerde, the Hawkeyes are poised for a return appearance to the NCAA tournament.
Bluder and the Iowa women’s basketball team hope to produce that kind of two-pronged attack against one of the toughest schedules available this season.
“The No 1 reason I’m optimistic about this team is senior leadership. Our senior class is outstanding. I’ve always believed that you can have good teams without great senior leadership, but you can’t have great teams unless you have great senior leadership.”
Head Coach Lisa Bluder
“The No 1 reason I’m optimistic about this team is senior leadership,” Bluder said. “Our senior class is outstanding. I’ve always believed that you can have good teams without great senior leadership, but you can’t have great teams unless you have great senior leadership.”
Lillis, a 6-foot, 1-inch forward originally from Urbandale, Iowa, begins her senior year ranked ninth in career scoring with 1,299 points, tenth in rebounding with 647 boards, 13th in steals (134) and third in blocks (88).
“She’s one of the best leaders I’ve ever had the opportunity to coach,” said Bluder. “She’s a person who loves the game, loves the university, loves her team mates and loves her coaches. She has the epitome of a winning attitude and the desire to win.”
There’s no doubt Lillis leads the next episode of “Bluder’s Bunch”. And that fits her just fine.
“I have no problem being a leader,” she said. “I’ve done it since my sophomore year. I think the one thing that I’ve definitely learned over the last two years is how to be a better leader. You just have to give it everything you’ve got all the time.”
But Lillis does have strong support in her co-captains – Faulkner and McCann.
Faulkner posted the team’s highest scoring average last season, nailing 52 three-pointers and hitting 145 free throws, setting a new school record. She scored in double figures 29 times, including scoring 20 points or more in 11 games. She also posted career highs in points twice (29) and rebounds twice (8).
Like Lillis, Faulkner doesn’t see any issues with being the team’s go-to person.
“It’s exciting,” she said. “It’s responsibility, but we’ve been at the University of Iowa for four years now and it’s something we’ve learned. You learn what you need to do to succeed and overcome difficult times.”
Sophomore point guard Lindsay Richards certainly knows difficult times.
Her season ended last year with a torn ACL in her right knee that required surgery and months of rehabilitation. Prior to her injury, Richards had played eight games averaging 4.5 points and 3.6 assists.
Now, she looks to be the Hawkeyes’ starting point guard.
“I’m hanging my hat on Lindsay Richards,” Bluder said. “I have the utmost confidence in her as our point guard. She was brought here to lead this team and be the coach on the floor and she will do that.
“She has tremendous knowledge of the game; she sees the floor well and understands what needs to happen.”
The 5-foot, 7-inch Richards, a Barrington, Ill.-native, was a two-time Nike All-American and a two-time Chicago Tribune All-State selection in high school. In her abbreviated season last year, she had 36 points, 13 rebounds and 29 assists.
“I’m thrilled to be back on the court again,” Richards said. “I have some tremendous expectations. [My knee] is doing very well, and I’m feeling good about it. I feel 100 percent back to where I was. Hopefully, I am a little more progressed than I was last year because of my experience.”
But perhaps the biggest story out of the Hills Bank Media Day is that of the team’s sole freshman recruit, Deb Remmerde.
A 5-9 guard out of Rock Valley High School in Iowa, Remmerde is the state’s high school all-time scoring leader, “Miss Basketball” and the Class 1A State Tournament MVP.
Remmerde’s work ethic in achieving those accolades while in high school is uncanny.
Practicing every chance she could in an indoor basketball facility built by her father on his farm, Remmerde’s goal since the fourth grade was to play collegiate hoops.
Deb Remmerde is Iowa’s only freshman this season
“I think it was about fourth or fifth grade when I decided that this was something I love. This is something I want to do,” she said.
In just eight weeks at Iowa, Remmerde has built a reputation that far exceeds that of an average gym rat.
“I’ve seen she has a great work ethic,” commented Faulkner. “It’s great to see someone that motivated and that passionate about basketball. That means a lot. It affects everyone else too. It makes you want to be in the gym more and it brings a lot to the team.”
Remmerde easily admits she’s not well-rounded, but she doesn’t mind being branded with that moniker.
“It’s God, family and basketball for me,” she said. “I’m not well-rounded. That’s me. That’s how I’ve always been. It doesn’t bother me at all. It’s just what I like to do.”
Barry Pump, hawkeyesports.com