The first thing that jumps out about the Hawkeye women’s basketball team is consistency.
The last five years, Lisa Bluder’s teams have won 21, 21 20, 22 and 19 games. They’ve also finished in the top half of the Big Ten, were Co-Big Ten champs in 2007-08 and made it to the NCAA tournament all five years.
One of the best things Lisa Bluder and her coaching staff do is develop great leaders and this team has three seniors that will lead the Hawks.
You start with Morgan Johnson, a 6-5 center who coach Bluder says is one of the best centers in the country.
Morgan, who was second team All-Big Ten last year, led the team with 70 blocked shots last season and shot .549 percent from the floor which not only led the Hawks, but the Big Ten.
If Morgan gets the ball inside of 10 feet, it’s money in the bank.
Jaime Printy, coming off a knee injury, will be a major factor on how far the Hawkeyes go.
The 5-11 senior from Marion was leading the team in scoring (16.9), steals (2.0) and free throw percentage (.888) before she got hurt against Wisconsin.
Jaime will have to wear a brace during the season, which might slow her down, but shouldn’t affect her shooting. She has averaged over 35 percent shooting from behind the arc in her three years at Iowa.
Trisha Nesbitt is finally healthy for the first time in a long time and she adds quickness, defense and is a great vocal leader on and off the floor.
Last summer in the Game Time League, she was driving around everyone, smiling and having fun again.
“It just feels good to be healthy,” said Trisha at media day last week. “It almost feels like I’m coming in as a freshman again. I can be aggressive in whatever I do. I’m trying to take whatever role the coaches want me in, helping the freshman and doing what I can to help the team. ”
One brace goes on Jamie and one comes off for Theairra Taylor, the 5-11 junior from Minnesota.
Theairra might be the best athlete on the team as she was all state in Minnesota in basketball and won the 200 meters in track as a sophomore.
“I hope I’m a little bit quicker,” said Theairra. “I feel better. We’ve never had this many healthy bodies. It’s really competitive and everyone knows there are some open spots.”
Sophomore Samantha Logic will be starting at the point this year and I have no doubt will be one of the best before she graduates.
Samantha is a natural leader and took over the Game Time League last summer, where her team won the championship. She averaged 17.6 points, 9.0 rebounds and 7.6 assists and was named league MVP.
Samantha led the Hawks in rebounding last year (7.1), assists (4.4) and was unanimous selection for the Big Ten all-freshman team.
Sophomores Melissa Dixon (5-8) and Bethany Doolittle (6-4) will also get a shot to crack the starting lineup.
Bethany had a big summer in the Game Time League as she led the league in scoring with 19.2 points per game.
Coach Bluder said Bethany is playing so well that she will see time at the power forward position.
That will be a tough match-up for other teams with 6-5 Morgan Johnson at the post and 6-4 Bethany right beside her.
Melissa played in 24 games last year, with eight starts when Jaime went down. She scored in double figures in five games with a career-high 22 against Michigan.
The five newcomers include junior college All-American guard Kathy Thomas (5-6). Kathy showed great quickness in Game Time and can shoot from the outside. She will back up Samantha at the point.
The four freshmen will add good size and depth for the Hawkeyes.
Coach Bluder said Kali Peschel (6-1) has the best shot of breaking into the rotation. Kali can play the 2, 3 or 4 spot, is a good outside shooter and can handle the ball.
Kayla Timmerman (6-3) and Nicole Smith (6-4) will play the center position although Nicole is still recovering from a knee injury.
Claire Till (6-0) was a two-time all-state pick from Dubuque. Coach Bluder said Claire is an excellent offensive rebounder.
Who will start?
The coach said Samantha Logic and Morgan Johnson would be her first choices and likes Bethany at the 4 spot.
“I have a lot to choose from,” said Lisa. “Isn’t that a great problem for me? I have not had this problem in a long time. We might actually have to do some coaching.”
If that’s the case, look for the Hawks to contend for the Big Ten championship and make a good run in the NCAA tournament.