By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Kathleen Doyle, the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year, concluded her collegiate women’s basketball career in Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. She will begin her professional career less than 10 miles away in Hinkle Fieldhouse as a member of the Indiana Fever.
On April 17, Doyle was the 14th overall selection and the second player chosen in the second round of the WNBA Draft.
“I’m an energy person and in my role, I feed off energy,” said Fever general manager and women’s basketball Hall of Famer Tamika Catchings. “We were waiting and waiting, hoping Kathleen would still be available at 14. We loved her leadership and the way she played. She can bring another level of energy to our team.”
During her 123-game career with the University of Iowa, the 5-foot-9 Doyle scored 1,537 points (12.5 points per game) with 706 assists (5.7 assists per game). The latter statistic is what caught the eye of Fever head coach Marianne Stanley.
“She is a terrific facilitator as a point guard,” Stanley said. “She is close to six assists per game and that’s phenomenal for a career.”
Doyle handed out a season-high 199 assists as a sophomore (6.6) with the Hawkeyes and added 189 last season (6.3).
The Fever were ninth in the 2019 WNBA standings, the first team left out of the playoffs with a 13-21 record. Of the 36 players chosen in the 2020 WNBA Draft, Stanley believes the Fever selected the most competitive in the second round.
“The thing that is really impressive about Kathleen is No. 1, she is a great leader and a feisty competitor,” Stanley said. “She is as competitive a player as I have seen in this draft. I’m excited about how she will fit in with what we already have, and she is somebody who will get people fired up when they see us play.”
A passionate, emotional leader, Doyle led Iowa to 96 victories from 2016-20, including a Big Ten Tournament championship in 2019 in Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Doyle was named to three All-America teams last season after averaging 18.1 points per game and leading Iowa to a record of 23-7. She set career highs by shooting 44.1 percent from the field, 79 percent from the line, and making 37 3-point field goals.
In the weeks leading up to the draft, Doyle was “doing well.” Then draft day arrived, and she said the hours went slow.
“I’m glad (Indiana) chose me,” Doyle said. “(Coach Stanley) wants to build a championship culture and I’m a huge culture person. I have a team-first mentality and I’m willing to do anything to help the team win. I think she saw those values on display at Iowa and I think they wanted to take a chance on me. I’m hoping to make it count.”
The selection of Doyle marks back-to-back seasons that an Iowa player has been drafted into the WNBA. Center Megan Gustafson, who benefitted from many assists from Doyle over the years, was selected 17th by the Dallas Wings in 2019. Fourteen Hawkeyes have been drafted into the WNBA.
Because of renovations to Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the Fever will play home games in 2020, 2021, and part of 2022 in Hinkle Fieldhouse, home of Butler University. Doyle and the Hawkeyes went through shoot-around there prior to the Big Ten Tournament in March. The fieldhouse hosted Indiana State High School basketball championships until 1971, including the 1954 title game between Milan and Muncie Central, which inspired the movie “Hoosiers.”
“Hoosiers is one of my favorite movies,” said Doyle, who is from LaGrange Park, Illinois, less than three hours from Indianapolis. “I’m excited to play in Hinkle and it’s nice being that close to home. Family is important to me, so being able to have people come easily and see me is special. I could have ended up anywhere across the country, but this is a city I’m relatively familiar with and being close to home is pretty awesome.”
The Fever added two other players in the 2020 Draft: forward Lauren Cox of Baylor in the first round and guard Kamiah Smalls of James Madison in the third round.
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the WNBA is postponing the start of the regular season originally scheduled for May 15.
“I know what you know,” Doyle said, when asked about reporting to the Fever. “They haven’t given me any information about that yet. It’s a weird time right now.”