Oct. 22, 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 — Kalli Hansen has a simple mentality when approaching the 2011-12 University of Iowa women’s basketball season; it’s now or never.
Hansen joined the Hawkeyes last season as a junior college transfer from Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where she won back-to-back national championships. With only two years of eligibility remaining after her junior college career, Hansen knew her Division I career would short and sweet.
Hansen will only have two seasons to help Iowa reach its ultimate goals of a Big Ten championship and a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. With one of those years already behind her, Hansen feels a sense of urgency entering her senior season.
“I’d love to end my career at Iowa with a Big Ten championship ring,” Hansen said. “We also want to go a lot deeper in the NCAA Tournament. But, the biggest thing is just working hard every day and getting better as a team.”
Transitioning from junior college to Division I is much harder than just playing at a higher level on the court. Hansen only has two years to show what she can do at the top level in NCAA women’s basketball, not to mention joining a new team halfway through her career.
“I’d love to end my career at Iowa with a Big Ten championship ring. We also want to go a lot deeper in the NCAA Tournament. But, the biggest thing is just working hard every day and getting better as a team.”
Senior Kalli Hansen
“It was tough,” Hansen said. “It was an entirely new philosophy with new coaches. Little things like the coach’s vocabulary or the way you do things day-to-day is different. The coaches and players helped the transition a lot and were very welcoming.”
That process was even more difficult for Hansen, who started her career as a Hawkeye with a shoulder and back injury that sidelined her for the first four games. Not only was Hansen having to mesh with new teammates, she was battling injury as well.
“I missed a lot of the conditioning at the beginning,” Hansen said. “The season became just me trying to get in shape. Things were difficult, but it was a good experience.”
Once healthy, her skills were obvious. Hansen’s most memorable game in her first year at Iowa was at Minnesota. She netted seven points, including a game-tying 3-pointer and two free throws that gave Iowa the lead in the final three minutes of the contest. Those clutch shots helped the Hawkeyes pick up their first Big Ten win of the season.
“It was an amazing feeling,” Hansen said. “It felt great to help the team win. I really hadn’t shot that much in a game, so that 3-pointer going in was kind of crazy.”
Hansen grew up Olin, Iowa, only an hour away from Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City. She grew up a Hawkeye fan and is now living out the dream of wearing the black and gold.
“It’s a dream come true to play here,” Hansen said. “Being from a small town, not a lot of people thought that I could come to Iowa and play. It’s a blessing to be a Hawkeye and to go out there every day and play.”
Hansen realizes this is her last shot to help the team she grew up admiring win a Big Ten title and make noise in the NCAA Tournament. She couldn’t write a better script.
“If we went out with a bang and won the Big Ten and went to a Sweet 16 or Elite 8 it would be an amazing thing,” Hansen said. “I’ve had a great time so far but that would be the highlight of my career.”
Iowa hosts Winona State in an exhibition game on Nov. 6 before facing Harvard on Nov. 12 in the first round of the Hawkeye Challenge.