Sept. 6, 2007
Editor’s note: 24 Hawkeyes to Watch is a feature released Thursday, Aug. 2, highlighting one athlete from each of the 24 intercollegiate sports offered by the University of Iowa. More than 700 talented student-athletes are currently busy preparing for the 2007-08 athletics year at the UI. Hawkeyesports.com will introduce you to 24 Hawkeyes who, for one reason or another, are poised to play a prominent role in the intercollegiate athletics program at the UI in the coming year.
IOWA CITY — Wendy Ausdemore has gone from raising pigs on a small farm in Neola, Iowa, to raising eyebrows on one of the largest athletic stages in the nation.
Ausdemore, a junior forward for the University of Iowa women’s basketball team, has shown steady growth as a collegian after being named Iowa’s Miss Basketball in 2005. That sport has taken the former valedictorian at Tri-Center High School from competing in towns like Woodbine, Avoca, Underwood and Logan to venues in San Francisco, Indianapolis, Denver, Kansas City and Greece.
“I graduated with 47 kids in my class and my high school team rotated six girls and we felt lucky to get the numbers we had,” Ausdemore said. “Coming to the University of Iowa I was nervous at first. I was jumping up a level and the pace of the game was faster and the players were bigger, but the transition was very smooth. That’s why I picked Iowa because I felt so comfortable here.”
In high school Ausdemore was a four-time team most valuable player and was named first team all-state as a junior and senior. She was selected the Class 2A state tournament MVP her senior year after pouring in 31 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in the championship game. Ausdemore was also a state of Iowa scholar, class president and a member of the national honor society.
“Wendy is a fabulous athlete and a tremendous basketball player,” UI Coach Lisa Bluder said. “She is a tremendous leader and an excellent student.”
If you were to stereotype a hard-working rural Iowa farm girl, Ausdemore would come to mind. She grew up cleaning hog pens in a barn, where the reward was spending a few moments with the baby pigs.
“I always helped dad with the chores,” Ausdemore said. “It was kind of like, `Don’t ask questions, you’re doing it whether you like it or not.’ I helped in the field and drove tractors. I didn’t know anything else and I loved it.”
“Being a small-town Iowa girl, there was nothing better than being able to play at the University of Iowa.”
UI junior Wendy Ausdemore
Even by the slim chance it is in the cards, life as a fulltime farmer will have to wait. There is still a court career for Ausdemore that is loaded with promise and potential. Last season she established Iowa single-season free throw records for all games (55 of 61, .902) and conference only contests (39 of 40, .975). Ausdemore sank six three-point field goals against Penn State on Feb. 18, 2007 and her 62 treys in a season are third-most in UI history. The soft and accurate touch from the line and behind the arc could be expected from a pint-sized guard, but Ausdemore is listed at 6-foot-2 and played inside most of her prep career.
“My senior year of high school my coach told me that I would have to start shooting more three-pointers,” Ausdemore said. “That’s when I really started working on shooting from outside. (In college) I like the quick little post-up and then get out (of the lane).”
The accolades are piling up and Ausdemore’s numbers are proof of progress. Last season as a sophomore she led the Hawkeyes in scoring (15.2), free throw percentage (.975) and three-pointers (40) in Big Ten play. She was named all-Big Ten third team by the coaches and honorable mention by the media. Ausdemore finished 14th in the nation in three-point field goal percentage (.416) and on top of that, was named academic all-Big Ten and second team academic all-district.
“Wendy is a player who deserves to have a lot of confidence,” Bluder said. “She is effortless when she shoots the ball and that comes from countless hours of practicing her trade.”
There was no sophomore jinx for Ausdemore after averaging 6.8 points and 2.6 rebounds and sinking 20 three-point field goals as a freshman. In fact, 2006-07 was a breakout season. She started all 30 games, shot 43.9 percent from the field, 90.2 percent from the line and averaged 12.7 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. Ausdemore scored a career-high 29 points against Illinois on Feb. 15 and set personal bests for minutes played (44) and rebounds (11) against Minnesota on Jan. 25.
“I feel that I’ve adjusted pretty well to the college game,” Ausdemore said. “I’m happy with where I’m at because I’ve improved a lot in those first two years and I feel more confident now.”
Iowa was 17-12 in 2005-06 and dipped slightly last season to 14-16. The absence of postseason play didn’t sit well with Ausdemore and her teammates.
“Our goals are definitely the postseason,” Ausdemore said. “We also need to be up there at the top of the Big Ten.”
The Hawkeyes continued to bond as a team and get bonus practice opportunities during a May 23-June 2 tour of Greece. For Ausdemore, it was more than a basketball road trip.
“It was amazing,” she said. “For me it was the first time out of the United States. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience seeing the different culture and the scenery was beautiful.”
Thessaloniki, Greece is a long way from Carver-Hawkeye Arena; Iowa City is a three-plus hour haul from Neola. But regardless of her location, Ausdemore remains as grounded as a root in the soil of a Greek orchard, or a stalk of corn in western Iowa.
“Being a small-town Iowa girl, there was nothing better than being able to play at the University of Iowa,” Ausdemore said.
Bluder, the second winningest coach in school history with a seven-year record of 127-87, is also a product of the Hawkeye state. She graduated from Linn-Mar High School and the University of Northern Iowa.
“We have a wide recruiting area,” Bluder said. “But it is always a little more special when you have an Iowan wear the Iowa uniform. It’s special for the player, it’s special to the fans and it’s special for me because I’m an Iowa girl, too.”
Ausdemore spent the past summer in Iowa City taking a class and fine-tuning her jump shot. Excelling as a Division I basketball player requires year-round dedication. Plus, it keeps Ausdemore away from farm chores at home.
“Dad’s putting up a grain bin and he said he was going to wait until I got home,” said Ausdemore with a laugh. “I said, `You can go ahead and start. You don’t have to wait for me.'”
Besides, Ausdemore’s mission is to continue building monstrous numbers while the Hawkeyes construct a dominant women’s basketball program.
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