24 Hawkeyes to Watch: Kali Peschel

Oct. 26, 2015

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Editor’s note: 24 Hawkeyes to Watch is a feature released Wednesday, July 29, highlighting one athlete from each of the 24 intercollegiate sports offered by the University of Iowa. More than 700 talented student-athletes are currently busy preparing for the 2015-16 athletics year at the UI. Hawkeyesports.com will introduce you to 24 Hawkeyes who, for one reason or another, are poised to play a prominent role in the intercollegiate athletics program at the UI in the coming year.

By DARREN MILLER
hawkeyesports.com

IOWA CITY, Iowa — If you need proof that senior Kali Peschel is ready to lead the University of Iowa women’s basketball team, look at what she did during six games last March.

On three occasions she scored in double figures (13 against Nebraska on March 6, 12 against Ohio State on March 7, and 12 against Baylor on March 27) while shooting 56.7 percent from the field (17-of-30) and a whopping 61.1 percent from 3-point range (11-of-18).

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“I hope Kali picks up right where she left off,” UI head coach Lisa Bluder said. “That’s when she was playing the best basketball of the season. She was coming off the bench and knocking down 3s and playing good defense.”

Peschel, a captain along with junior Ally Disterhoft, is the most experienced of the three seniors on the 2015-16 Hawkeye roster. For Iowa to duplicate last season’s 26 wins and Sweet 16 appearance, it will be paramount that Peschel step up and blaze a trail on and off the court. Three of the graduation losses — Melissa Dixon, Bethany Doolittle, and Samantha Logic — combined to average 42.3 points, 12.4 rebounds, and 10.7 assists a game. All three are playing professionally.

“They set the bar; they were great role models and I took so much away from all of them as players and individuals on and off the court,” Peschel said. “Being able to be with them and see how they led and worked with the team has helped me be the leader and captain that I am this year.”

Peschel played in all 34 games last season, starting three times in November. She averaged 5.1 points and 2.9 rebounds while shooting 45.7 percent from the field and 79.1 percent from the line. Peschel was second on the team for 3-point accuracy at 43.4 percent behind Dixon, the school record-holder in 3-pointers made in a season and career.

Her success rate from long range has come a long way since the 6-foot-1 forward set foot on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. As a freshman Peschel made 9.1 percent of her 3-point field goals and as a sophomore she made 16.3 percent.

“It was a rough start, that’s for sure. As a freshman and sophomore my 3-point percentage was never great,” Peschel said. “I would focus on myself a lot at those times and I would be hard on myself and couldn’t get over the fact if I missed a shot.

“This past year I focused on, `You’re not making it for yourself, you’re making it for the team.’ I think that’s what a lot of other players did, too, and that’s why we had such a great offensive year. You didn’t shoot for your own stats, you shot for the betterment of the team and wanting to get the win. I focused on playing for my teammates rather than myself and that helped a lot.”

The up-tempo Hawkeyes averaged 79.5 points in 34 games last season, the highest total in school history. They scored 90-or more points six times and 100-or more points three times. A key was unselfishness: five different players led the team in scoring at one time or another.

“It was anyone’s game to go off, you were all happy and proud for that person who had the great game,” Peschel said. “If you didn’t, you knew the next game was yours and you had that next opportunity, so it made for great team basketball. We had so many assists (614) and points off turnovers because we passed the ball well. It was awesome basketball and a fun year.”

Peschel’s task is to get eight underclassmen — four sophomores and four freshmen — to continue that team-first mentality.

“This past year I focused on, `You’re not making it for yourself, you’re making it for the team.’ I think that’s what a lot of other players did, too, and that’s why we had such a great offensive year. You didn’t shoot for your own stats, you shot for the betterment of the team and wanting to get the win. I focused on playing for my teammates rather than myself and that helped a lot.”
Kali Peschel
UI senior forward

“They are going to get minutes and are learning a lot from the upperclassmen who have been there and done that,” Peschel said. “They listen well. Hopefully we can drill it in their head as much as possible. They all want to play and win as much as anyone else so things look good with this team.”

Peschel is from Sauk Centre, Minnesota, where she started for the varsity girls’ basketball team as an eighth grader. In summer prior to her senior season Peschel suffered an ACL injury and was limited to 11 games, playing four minutes and sitting three every contest. Still, the Mainstreeters advanced to the AA state championship, falling to Providence Academy, 46-40.

Peschel’s father, Donny, was boys’ basketball coach at Sauk Centre for 18 years before assisting with the girls’ team when Kali was on the roster. Kali spent most of her childhood participating with and against boys.

“We didn’t have girls programs offered for elementary kids, so I joined my dad’s camps and played with the boys,” Peschel said. “I loved it, couldn’t get enough, and always wanted to go to the gym with him. Most of my friends were boys and I wanted to be in the gym with them and be running around. My parents would sign me up for all the boys’ camps.”

For a self-proclaimed home body, Peschel has done her share of traveling. In fourth grade she joined Alexandria Aces, a basketball-handling performance group that entertained at high school, college, and NBA games. They made appearances on Good Morning America and America’s Got Talent.

In the summer of 2015 she studied for six weeks in Spain, came home four weeks, then joined the Hawkeyes on an 11-day trip to Italy.

“It was an awesome summer and it is totally credit to the University of Iowa and the coaches letting me be able to go over there, entertain Spanish, and figure that out,” Peschel said.

By playing three games in Italy, the Hawkeyes received a preseason opportunity to see how the 2015-16 team will mesh. For Peschel, that means more responsibility than coming in as a sixth player and provided a key defensive stop.

“I envision her being a big cog in our offense,” Bluder said. “Last year it was bonus when we got production out of Kali and now we are counting on her. That’s the way she has looked in practice, summer, and now. She knows the expectations are different for her this year as far as productivity on the offensive side. She is making an impact for us, looking for her shot, and looking to take the ball to the hole a lot harder than she did before.”

The Hawkeyes tip off the season with an exhibition game against Upper Iowa on Nov. 8 at 2 p.m. (CT). They host the annual Hawkeye Challenge from Nov. 13-15.

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