Nov. 10, 2009
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IOWA CITY – Legendary UCLA coach John Wooden once said, “I’d rather have a lot of talent and a little experience, than a lot of experience and a little talent.” That is the motto that Head Coach Lisa Bluder is using with the 2009-10 Iowa women’s basketball team.
The Hawkeyes graduated one of the most successful senior classes in Iowa history last year, including the trio of Kristi Smith, Megan Skouby and Wendy Ausdemore, who became the first trio from the same class to eclipse the 1,300 career point mark in Big Ten history. All three players finished their careers ranked in the top 10 in career scoring at Iowa, while Smith ranked third in assists, Skouby second in blocks and Smith and Ausdemore first and second in three-point percentage, respectively. But, Bluder believes the level of talent on her current squad can make up for the lack of experience.
“Everybody knows we are going to have a young team,” Bluder said. “But, we have a lot of talent on the court. The team will gain that valuable experience throughout the season, and they are a fun group to coach.”
The 2009-10 edition of the Hawkeyes features only three players who have more than two years playing experience. JoAnn Hamlin is the lone senior on the team, with Kachine Alexander and Kelsey Cermak being the only two juniors. The other nine players are either freshmen or sophomores.
“Everybody knows we are going to have a young team. But, we have a lot of talent on the court. The team will gain that valuable experience throughout the season, and they are a fun group to coach.”
Head Coach Lisa Bluder
Iowa’s freshmen class will be looked upon for immediate production. The class is made up of five players, one at each position. Bluder believes the class has the potential to make some noise in the Big Ten.
“I would compare this class to the one that just graduated,” Bluder said. “They come to Iowa with some pretty high honors. If they can make it to as many NCAA Tournaments as the class that just left, I would consider that pretty successful.”
Even though Iowa doesn’t return a large number of returning starters, that doesn’t mean the few they have back aren’t poised for success. Alexander was a second team all-Big Ten selection last year, and ranked second in Big Ten rebounding at 9.7 boards per contest. She also became the first Big Ten player to ever post two triple-doubles in the same season, when she accomplished the feat twice in four games. In the offseason, Alexander has worked on her shooting range to become a more complete player.
“When it comes to Kachine, she has a level of competitiveness you just can’t coach,” Bluder said. “Some players either have that, or they don’t, and Kachine has it. It really shows through her rebounding. Her motor never stops and she has that next gear. Kachine has worked very hard in the offseason and we are looking for her to be a team leader this year.”
Kachine Alexander returns for her junior year.
Hamlin is another player returning with starting experience from a year ago. Hamlin, who is a two-time co-captain, was slowed by injuries at the beginning of last year, and finished averaging 7.6 points and 6.0 rebounds per contest. Bluder is quick to point out how hard Hamlin is working during her senior season.
“I’m really pleased with JoAnn’s efforts so far,” Bluder said. “She looks confident and very strong. She has become very dominant in the paint. That’s what you want out of your post players. She is taking ownership of the paint, and has really picked up her offensive skills.”
Sophomore Kamille Wahlin also returns to Iowa’s backcourt, but this year as the point guard. The majority of Wahlin’s minutes her freshman campaign were at shooting guard, but with the graduation of Kristi Smith, Wahlin is more than ready to assume her role as the floor general.
Wahlin was named to the all-Big Ten Freshmen team last season, averaging 7.6 points while collecting 87 assists, which was third-best on the team.
“Kamille has flowed naturally into the point guard position for us,” Bluder said. “She has played point guard for most of her basketball career, and she is excited to have that position back. Kamille did an excellent job as a freshman adjusting to her role as the shooting guard, but we are ready for her to lead the team. She has really embraced that role, and we are very happy to have her as our point guard.”
The rest of the lineup is yet to be determined, but Bluder is happy to have experience back at important positions.
“We were lucky in that last year, we had a wealth of experience returning,” Bluder said. “But, this year, we return players in anchor positions like the post and point guard. That’s important to have if you want to be successful.”
Draxten, the 6-0 guard/forward combo player, has long-range shooting potential, and has worked on a quicker release in the offseason. Draxten made 23 three-pointers last year which ranks fifth among freshmen in Iowa history.
“Hannah is another player who worked hard on her shot during the offseason,” Bluder said. “We are looking for her to contribute even more as a sophomore.”
Krei, an Iowa City native, has been hampered by a stress fracture during preseason practice, but is expected to make a full recovery. The 6-2 forward is a versatile player who could log important minutes for the Hawkeyes.
“I think Kelly can have a great sophomore year,” Bluder said. “She made strides last season, and she works very hard in practice. Hard work always pays off.”
Printy and Taylor are just two of the freshmen who are looking to make an immediate impact. Printy, from nearby Linn-Mar HS in Marion, will most likely take the role that Wahlin had during her freshman season. Printy has primarily played point guard, but could shift to the shooting guard spot. Printy is known for her long-distance shooting, and could help Iowa from outside the arc.
“We can easily play Jaime at a wing position because of her size and athleticism,” Bluder said. “She is very open to playing wherever we need her, just to get your best players on the floor.”
Taylor is another question mark for the Hawkeyes. The St. Paul, MN, native suffered an ACL injury in her last high school basketball game, and is still waiting to see if she will recover in time to play a full season as a freshman. Taylor is an impressive athlete as a 5-11 guard, who has the ability to hit the deep jump shot, or penetrate to the basket.
“Theairra is an extremely talented basketball player,” Bluder said. “She has missed some time due to the knee injury, but her talent alone will definitely put her in the rotation if she gets healthy.”
Nesbitt, a 5-7 guard out of Ames, IA, will primarily serve as Wahlin’s back-up at point guard. Nesbitt enjoyed a successful high school career at Ames HS, and has proven early on that she is capable of handling the point guard duties in Black and Gold.
“Trisha will see a lot of playing time,” Bluder said. “We expect Kamille to play a lot of minutes, but Trisha will get on the court, as well. Being that No. 2 point guard is a very important position in our system.”
Both Machado and Johnson will get minutes in the paint, either with Hamlin or coming off the bench.
Johnson is a 6-5 center from the Kansas City area, and was the “Miss Show Me Basketball” award winner, given to the top player in the state of Missouri. She was also named the Kansas City Star’s Scholar Athlete of the Year.
“Morgan is a very hard worker,” Bluder said. “She will gain valuable experience on the court this year, and it will be fun to watch her mature as a freshman. She is full of raw talent.”
Machado, a 6-0 forward from Pontiac, MI, is another player with “raw talent,” and Bluder likes the tenacity she brings to the court.
“Gabby is still working on the fundamentals, but has a very high talent level,” Bluder said. “She has had some blocks in practice that we haven’t seen in the gym for a while.”
Coach Bluder is also looking for junior Kelsey Cermak and sophomore Shante Jones to add depth at both the forward and guard positions. Cermak, who is a team co-captain, played in 17 games last season, with Jones logging minutes in 10 contests.
“Both Kelsey and Shante are working hard for us during practice,” Bluder said. “They are both skilled players who are competing hard for playing time. Competition is always great to have, and it’s making everyone work even harder to gain playing time.”