Oct. 14, 2009
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — Lisa Bluder knows that her 10th University of Iowa women’s basketball team isn’t on too many preseason watch lists. Of course, neither were the 2007-08 or 2008-09 squads, and both of those won 21 games and advanced to the NCAA tournament.
“I don’t think right now we’re on the top of too many people’s radar screens,” Bluder said at a media day press conference Wednesday inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “That’s OK, because really the last two years we haven’t been there. We’ve ended up at the top or toward the top of the Big Ten Conference.”
Bluder begins her 10th season as head coach of the Hawkeyes. Not only have her teams compiled 169 victories, but four times they have won 21 or more games and they have qualified for six NCAA tournament appearances.
“We have plenty of reasons to be optimistic and plenty of reasons to expect this team to be good by year’s end,” Bluder said. “One of those is that we do return three people that started for some part of the year.”
Junior Kachine Alexander started all 32 games a year ago, when Iowa finished 21-11 overall, 13-5 in the Big Ten Conference. Senior JoAnn Hamlin played in 27 games and started 18 times, and sophomore Kamille Wahlin played in all 32 games, starting 14 times.
Hamlin is the only senior on the roster. Last season she averaged 7.6 points and 6.0 rebounds per game, while making a team-high 49.1 percent of her field goals (83 of 169). She was second on the team with 23 blocked shots.
“JoAnn is in her fifth year of basketball now, so she has a lot of maturity,” Bluder said. “Her maturity and her leadership are going to help us immensely throughout the year.”
Iowa has graduated 10 seniors the past two seasons, including five from a year ago. Those five combined for 56 percent of the Hawkeye point total in 2008-09 and 33 percent of the rebounds.
A highly-touted freshman class has arrived. That group includes Iowa natives Jaime Printy (Linn-Mar) and Trisha Nesbitt (Ames), along with 6-foot-5 post player Morgan Johnson from Platte City, Mo., 6-0 forward Gabby Machado from Pontiac, Mich., and 5-11 guard Theairra Taylor from St. Paul, Minn.
“We add to the mix five freshmen — a very good recruiting class,” Bluder said. “We’re excited about blending those five women into our team. I love freshmen. I think freshmen bring out the teacher in any coach. I love the youthful enthusiasm.”
Taylor tore an ACL during her final high school game and her status for the 2009-10 season is unknown.
“We have plenty of reasons to be optimistic and plenty of reasons to expect this team to be good by year’s end. One of those is that we do return three people that started for some part of the year.”
UI head coach Lisa Bluder
“We don’t completely know at this point how much she’s going to be able to contribute this year,” Bluder said. “I feel much more comfortable with it right now than I did a couple months ago. She’s come back from rehab very, very well.”
Alexander was named second team all-Big Ten Conference by league coaches and third team by the media as a sophomore. She averaged 10.0 points per game and led the team in both assists (3.8) and rebounds (8.8). Yes, rebounds…even though she stands just 5-9. Bluder considers Alexander one of the top five players in the league.
“Kachine has always been an extremely hard worker,” Bluder said. “As you can tell on the floor, she plays with a lot of passion, a lot of emotion and sets the tone in practice. Those are all things you expect in your upperclassmen and your leaders.”
Alexander and Hamlin are team captains.
The Hawkeyes begin practice Friday, Oct. 16, and their first game is an exhibition contest against Washburn (Kan.) University on Sunday, Nov. 8, at 3 p.m. inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Iowa opens the regular season against Santa Clara on Saturday, Nov. 14, in the first round of the Hawkeye Challenge.
“This year’s schedule is extremely difficult,” Bluder said. “Fifteen of our games will be against teams that were in last year’s postseason play. So again, a great schedule.”
Completing the Hawkeye roster are junior Kelsey Cermak (Norwalk, Iowa) and sophomores Hannah Draxten (Fergus Falls, Minn.), Shante Jones (Dayton, Ohio) and Kelly Krei (Iowa City, Iowa). Draxten averaged 3.2 points and 2.0 rebounds in 30 games as a freshman. Krei averaged 14.5 minutes of playing time in 27 games (2.8 ppg, 2.3 rpg).