Lisa Bluder At Big Ten Basketball Media Day

Oct. 28, 2010

Lisa Bluder: I just want to congratulate Kachine Alexander for being named to the preseason team. It’s a great recognition for her. With this conference being such a tremendous conference with so many great players coming back, I just think it’s a tremendous honor for her, and I’m happy for her. It’s a different situation for us coming in. I don’t know that we’ve ever been picked to finish second in the Big Ten, and we know obviously it’s all preseason, really garbage and trivia. But at the same time it really has to change the mentality of our team. Our team is used to kind of sneaking up on people and kind of people taking us lightly, and now our attitude has got to change. We worked on that this summer, going from being the hunters to being the hunted. It’s a different attitude that I think an athlete has to have. An athlete earns that and I think our team earned it last year, but now you have to live up to it and that’s the most difficult part. We’re excited to begin the year. Here it is, Big Ten Media Day. That means it is right around the corner. I think our team is starting practices earlier this year, and we’re ready to put on the uniform and get ready to go.

Q. When you look at last year, the way you started out both with injuries and in on court performance, how were you able to kind of get the team to move forward, move past those problems, and then have the kind of season that you had?

Lisa Bluder: There is a number of things. We started out last place in the Big Ten. We were 1 6. It was pretty dismal. But at the same time in those six losses, we were right there. We had an overtime loss. We had several of those losses on the road by just a couple of points. So we knew we were right there, and we knew we had a talented group, but we were constantly battling, changing starting lineups and people another person drops and who’s going to be it this week. We had freshmen taking on roles they had never expected that they were going to be in. The beautiful thing is that they grew up earlier than most freshmen grow up, and it was about a third of the way or midway through the Big Ten season when the light bulb kind of came on with them that no, I don’t have to be a freshman, I don’t have to be a typical freshman, I can be something special here and there’s no reason for me to wait around for that. I’ve earned it now. Really it was an attitude of, okay, I’m willing to step up and be good, and they gained a lot of confidence, and once that confidence started rolling, it just kept getting bigger and bigger.

Q. I hate to be Debbie downer, but can you talk about Taylor’s injury and how she’s handling it, how you’re handling it. Obviously it’s tough to go through three ACL tears in 20 months. And with the injuries to her and Trisha, just how that changes the makeup of the team right now.

Lisa Bluder: Yeah, you’re right. We’ve had two injuries, significant injuries already this season. Unfortunately we lost Theairra Taylor for the season, and Theairra was looking so good again. She’s such a great athlete, and she’s just never been able to show anybody at Iowa what a great athlete she is. She hasn’t been in the lineup consistently. Last year she fractured the eye socket, missing some games, and then missed the games with the ACL the rest of the way. I just feel so bad for Theairra. It is tough to come back after three ACLs. I don’t know how many people have ever done that. We haven’t even talked about it with Theairra yet. In my mind it’s totally her decision. I’m not going to encourage her to come back, and obviously if that’s what is driving her, we’d love to have her back. But at the same time it’s not something that we’re going to push hard for. How is she handling it? She’s unbelievable. She is so positive. I think her parents are suffering much more than she is right now. I think they’re really upset. But Theairra is handling it absolutely beautifully. She comes to every practice. She’s smiling, she’s enthusiastic, and she’s encouraging everybody from the sidelines. So she’s doing tremendous, probably better than her coaches are doing. Trisha Nesbitt, again, that’s a tough loss for us, and we hope we might have Trisha back for the year. We don’t know yet. We really just don’t know. We’ve heard everything from a couple of months to six months out with this, so we just don’t really know what to expect. But that is definitely a blow because she was our backup point guard, a very important position for us on the team.

Q. Related to that, how is Hannah Draxten doing? She’ll have a more important role now, and how do you adjust your rotation for when Kamille gets spelled?

Lisa Bluder: Hannah Draxten has been great. She had back surgery during the end of the season last year for a herniated disk, and she is playing pain free, and so she’s tremendous. We’re very thankful to have her back because she can really play the two or the three for us. Right now it looks like she’ll be back in at both of those positions for us. Our plan right now for spelling Kamille Wahlin is to go with Jamie Printy. She is a very good point guard. It’s what she played all through high school. It’s kind of what she wanted to play when she came to Iowa, so now she’s going to have an opportunity. It’s not the best case scenario. You don’t want to back up a starter with another starter, but it’s a situation that she’s the best person for the job, and so we will be doing that. So we’ll probably have to give her a little more release at the off guard with Hannah Draxten, with Kalli Hansen a junior college transfer that we have from Kirkwood that will play our two, three and four position for us, as well.

Q. Every year is a new year. How do you capture that spirit that your team had throughout last year? It never carries over, you have to do it again, and how do you do it?

Lisa Bluder: You do have to start it all over again, you’re right. You can’t sit back as a coach and think, oh, that magic is going to happen again. Really with our team, so much with the personalities of the women on our team, and luckily we have all those personalities back. Unfortunately, Trisha Nesbitt was a big part of that. She’s such an enthusiastic and positive human being, and I hope with her being out we don’t lose some of that. I’ve talked to her about, even from the sidelines, that you mean so much to this basketball team. I think she understands that. And all of us know our team is not dotted with All Americans, that’s not what our roster is. We’re kind of a blue collar group that has to work extremely hard, play great team basketball, have that team chemistry, and they all know that, they understand that. They understand to be successful we have to emulate the same things that we did last year and embrace the same enthusiasm and love of the game and love for each other that we had last year. That’s the only way that our team is going to be successful because our margin for error isn’t great.

Q. Ohio State is a giant road block for everybody. Just looking at them, do they have weaknesses or are they stronger than ever? How do they appear to you?

Lisa Bluder: You know, I haven’t really sat around and studied Ohio State a lot in the last couple of months. They have everybody coming back. They’re a great program, a successful program, Player of the Year on their team. I mean, it’s natural. They’re a great basketball program. I don’t think that everybody is going to lie down to Ohio State. I think they’re going to get everybody’s best shot, just like they have in the past. And so, yes, they’re the leader and they deserve to be. They’ve put together a program that deserves that type of respect. But we’re looking forward to playing them. We have them twice this year. We didn’t have them at home last year, so I think our team is looking forward to that.