Lisa Bluder will start her 10th season as head coach of the Iowa Hawkeye women with her youngest basketball team ever.
The Hawks will have one senior (JoAnn Hamlin 6-3), two juniors (Kelsey Cermak 6-1 and Kachine Alexander 5-9), four sophomores (Kamille Wahlin 5-8, Shante Jones 5-9, Kelly Krei 6-2 and Hannah Draxten 6-0) and five freshman (Trisha Nesbitt 5-7, Morgan Johnson 6-5, Theairra Taylor 5-11, Jaime Printy 5-11 and Gabby Machado 6-0).
It’s kind of ironic that the men have the same makeup for their team.
“We have plenty of reasons to be optimistic and plenty of reasons to be good by year's end,” said coach Bluder. “One of those is that we do return three people that started last year.”
Kamille started the last half of the season at the shooting guard and will move over to the point this year.
Kamille said playing with All-Big Ten Kristi Smith helped her get ready for this year.
“I think I learned how to handle the pressure of different defenses and how to communicate on the court a little bit better,” said Kamille, who was named to the All-Big Ten freshmen team.
Kachine started every game last year, was named second team All-Big Ten and was the first Big Ten player ever to record two triple-doubles in a single season.
Kash averaged 10 points, 8.8 rebounds and four assists while being one of the top defenders on the team.
JoAnn started 18 games last year before an ankle injury sidelined her for five games. She averaged 7.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and had four double-doubles last year.
She will start out at the post but could play at power forward if Morgan Johnson keeps improving.
Hannah has a chance to play the small forward spot if she continues to improve her outside shot. She hit 23 three-pointers last year and shot over 90 percent from the free throw line.
“Over the summer I really worked on my shot and now it’s really feeling more comfortable,” said Hannah. “I can definitely see a difference.”
Kelsey Cermak and Kelly Krei will also get a shot at both forward positions.
Kelsey had some back problems last year but was academic All-Big Ten while Kelly played in 27 games and shot 81 percent from the free throw line.
Shante Jones had a breakout summer in the Game Time league in North Liberty. She not only scored inside and out but played solid defense.
“I knew the summer was the time to work on my game so I took that time to work on my shot and work on my endurance and getting my dribbling skills down pat,” said Shante, who was MVP her senior year in high school.
Shante can play the two or three position and is a pretty good ball handler.
The Hawkeyes will have to rely on two or three of the five freshmen to contribute to a winning season.
Morgan Johnson and Jaime Printy should get some early looks at center and shooting guard.
A lot will depend on how fast Morgan develops. If she can hold her own at center that could move JoAnn Hamlin over to the power forward spot, which will give Iowa a bigger lineup.
“Playing against Jo has helped me so much this summer,” said Morgan. “She’s an amazing teacher and she’s just taught me so much about the game and so much that I need to work on this season.”
Jaime is a great outside shooter and a good ball handler.
“In high school I played a lot of point guard but it’s fun to not have to bring the ball up all the time and just look for shots and give your teammates more shots,” said Jaime, who was the youngest player ever (at age 15) to commit to the Hawkeyes.
When Kamille penetrates the lane, Jaime should have some open looks.
Both Morgan and Jaime also excelled in the classroom with 4.0 grade point averages.
Trisha Nesbit and Gabby Machado will add depth in the guard and forward positions.
Trisha showed great quickness this summer in Game Time and Gabby has good size as she averaged 23 points and 14 rebounds in high school.
Theairra was one of the top recruits coming out of Minnesota before tearing her ACL. She is a great athlete with good quickness averaging 18.6 points and 8.0 rebounds in high school. She also ran the 200 meters in track in 2007.
It will be interesting to see who Coach Bluder picks as the starting five and if it stays that way all year.
If I had to guess I would start with Kachine, JoAnn and Kamille then maybe Hannah and Jaime.
Morgan, Kelsey and Kelly will get some time and when Theairra is at full speed she should be fun to watch.