July 26, 2011
Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa — UI head coach Lisa Bluder preaches defense every day at practice to her Hawkeye women’s basketball team. Bethany Doolittle has heard the message and loves every minute of it.
Doolittle, a 6-4 freshman center from Oakdale, Minn., prides herself on the defensive side of the ball. Blocking shots is her specialty.
“I like to block shots,” Doolittle said. “It’s always fun to get out there and swat some shots. Blocking shots can swing the mood of the game. If you can get a big block it can really help build momentum on the next play.”
You can tell Doolittle enjoys swatting opponent attempts by one quick glance at her statistics. Doolittle set Hill-Murray High School records for single-season (134) and career blocks (348).
Blocking shots isn’t Doolittle’s only asset on the court. Her slender frame allows her to run by bigger players, using speed to her advantage.
“My quickness as a post is probably my biggest asset,” Doolittle said. “I’m not a huge frame, but I’m quick and can get up and down the court.”
When making a decision on what school to attend, Doolittle looked at style of play. She noticed Bluder and the Hawkeyes running up and down the court, pushing the ball and putting points on the board. Doolittle wanted to play in that kind of system.
“It’s fun to be able to run on teams and have your way with them with speed,” Doolittle said. “Iowa’s style of play was a big part of my decision. The coaches want to play quick, and I enjoy playing that style. I want to have the chance to get up and down the court.”
Doolittle will get plenty of chances to run the court in a short amount of time. She adds immediate depth in the post, something Iowa lacked last season.
Morgan Johnson, Iowa’s 6-5 starting center, saw the majority of minutes in the post, with senior Kelsey Cermak playing out of position just to give Johnson a rest during games. Doolittle gives the Hawkeyes a chance to have a more consistent attack in the paint.
Doolittle has used her first summer on campus to learn from Johnson, who was forced into a starting role as a freshman when JoAnn Hamlin was sidelined for the season with a blood clot in her leg.
“It’s really nice working with Morgan,” Doolittle said. “She’s been in my position and has a lot of experience. Morgan can be one of my mentors and teach me how to get stronger and become a better post player. She’s always offering comments on the court, giving me suggestions on what to try amd always gives me feedback on how to improve my game.”
One reason it’s easy for Doolittle to learn from Johnson is their similar playing style. Both are quick, athletic post players who can play inside and outside.
“We are pretty similar,” Doolittle said. “We both can run and we both have inside and outside games. That’s another reason I think we are going to work well together. We have the same type of game.”
Doolittle also has something in common with three other teammates — her home state. Doolittle is the eighth player from the state of Minnesota to play for Bluder at Iowa. The current roster includes a total of four players from the Land of 10,000 Lakes (Kamille Wahlin, Theairra Taylor, Hannah Draxten and Doolittle).
Doolittle consulted with the other Minnesota natives on her visits to the Hawkeye State.
“It definitely was a plus,” Doolittle said. “Knowing that people from your home state are at Iowa and enjoying it is nice. The players from Minnesota came up to me and told me how nice it was at Iowa. They made it a point to talk about how nice the people are at the university.”
Style of play and other Minnesotans were two of Doolittle’s deciding factors when choosing Iowa, but the coaches and players were the major selling point.
“The people at Iowa helped me make my final decision,” Doolittle said. “The coaches and players were so nice on my visit. Meeting the coaches for the first time was a big part of my decision. They were all so nice and personable.”
With a 6-5 Johnson and a 6-4 Doolittle on the roster, Bluder has the chance to put a pair of twin towers on the court at the same time. While that hasn’t been addressed, Doolittle likes the possibility.
“They haven’t said anything,” Doolittle said. “But that would be pretty cool.”