Oct. 8, 2008
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — University of Iowa junior JoAnn Hamlin and sophomores Kachine Alexander and Kelsey Cermak must feel a bit outnumbered at women’s basketball team functions. The 2008-09 Hawkeye roster is dominated by experience (five seniors) and youth (four freshmen), leaving a combined junior-sophomore representation of three.
UI head coach Lisa Bluder unveiled her most recent edition of Hawkeyes to the media Wednesday inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The veterans and rookies are already mixing together as one.
“The seniors have definitely taken us under their wings,” said freshman Kelly Krei of nearby City High School in Iowa City. “Every position from one to five has a senior so they’re able to help us out and show us what to do in practice.”
Senior point guard Kristi Smith and senior forward Wendy Ausdemore were Iowa’s top two point-producers a year ago. Smith, who was named first team all-Big Ten Conference, averaged 13.3 points and 3.2 assists per game while shooting 79.6 percent from the free throw line and making 53 three-point field goals. Ausdemore, an honorable mention all-Big Ten performer, averaged 11.6 points per game and made a team -high 78 three-point field goals.
“The freshmen fit in with all of us,” Smith said. “This is almost the exact same situation when I was a freshman. Everything has been going good so far.”
In the off-season, Smith said that Bluder presented the three captains — Smith, Ausdemore and Hamlin — a book to read on leadership. She said the incoming group of Krei, Hannah Draxten, Shante Jones and Kamille Wahlin haven’t needed any motivation out of the text book.
“They’re all eager to learn,” Smith said. “It has been enjoyable.”
Enjoyable is a word that also described the 2007-08 season for the Hawkeyes. Iowa compiled a 21-11 record and shared the Big Ten Conference regular-season championship with Ohio State at 13-5. The Hawkeyes advanced to the NCAA Tournament in Norfolk, Va., where they fell six points shy against Georgia, 67-61.
“There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about this year. We return three key players from last year — Kristi Smith, who I think is the best point guard in the Big Ten Conference. Wendy Ausdemore, who is ranked as the best three-point shooter in the Big Ten Conference. Megan Skouby, who has had the most experience of any center in the Big Ten Conference. Those are three very key positions. We also have the addition of Kachine Alexander back to our team. We have JoAnn Hamlin back. We have four freshmen that I feel will contribute almost immediately for our basketball team.”
UI head coach Lisa Bluder
“There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about this year,” Bluder said. “We return three key players from last year — Kristi Smith, who I think is the best point guard in the Big Ten Conference. Wendy Ausdemore, who is ranked as the best three-point shooter in the Big Ten Conference. Megan Skouby, who has had the most experience of any center in the Big Ten Conference. Those are three very key positions. We also have the addition of Kachine Alexander back to our team. We have JoAnn Hamlin back. We have four freshmen that I feel will contribute almost immediately for our basketball team.”
Skouby averaged 9.2 points and shot 50.4 percent from the field last season. Hamlin saw action in all 32 games, averaging 3.7 points and 3.1 rebounds per game. Alexander played 18 games a year ago, before sitting out to concentrate on academics.
The Hawkeyes have to replace five graduated seniors who pulled down nearly half of the team’s 37 rebounds per game.
“I don’t think teams do remarkable things without special seniors,” Bluder said. “We have five special seniors again this year. I think we have this unique combination right now of successful experience and youthful enthusiasm. If we can get those two things to blend together, I think we’ve got a really, really good product on our hands.”
Few things will be handed to the Hawkeyes this season. Twenty of the 29 regular-season games are against opponents that were in postseason play in 2008. Last season’s team championship was nice, but now it’s time to continue moving forward.
“The only difference is it gives kids confidence,” Bluder said. “It gives them proof that what we did last year works, so let’s continue doing those same things. But truly, that’s over and now we’re ready to start again. This group wants its own legacy here.”
“Lindsey and Nicole have had some injury problems,” Bluder said. “Lindsey’s having a little bit of foot pain again. We just hope to get her pain free so that she can be able to really show everybody what she can do in her senior year.”
Iowa hosts back-to-back exhibition games on Nov. 2 and Nov. 9 against Quincy and Upper Iowa. The official season-opener is Sunday, Nov. 16, against Texas State with a 2:05 p.m. tipoff inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The first road test for the Hawkeyes will be Tuesday, Nov. 18, at Kansas in a game that will be shown on ESPN.
The UI and Carver-Hawkeye Arena will serve as one of 16 first and second-round hosts for the 2009 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship. Games will take place Sunday, March 22 (6 p.m./8:30 p.m.) and Tuesday, March 24 (8:30 p.m.). The last time Iowa City hosted a first and second-round site was in 1998.
“What that means is if we are selected — and I’m not going to say if — when we are selected, we will be playing at home in the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament,” Bluder said.