Excellent prospects if they can stay healthy? Definitely.
The casual observer will most likely be able to judge how 11th year head coach Lisa Bluders Iowa Hawkeye squad is doing by perusing the weekly injury reports.
While all teams have injuries, the Hawkeyes are suffering through a second straight year of the injury bug.
People say we are snakebitten, Bluder said. We had four people out last year (in fact, Iowa recruited two walk-ons last season, one of whom has returned to the team this year) and this year we have three already. But that is how it goes. This year we only have 12 scholarship players and three are hurt already. Next year we will have 15 and probably no one will get hurt and there will be those other kinds of issues.
ACL injuries continue to be part and parcel of the womens basketball landscape and the bug is hitting Bluders team hard again this year as promising sophomore guard Theairra Taylor went down during a preseason practice with an ACL tear. This is the third such injury in 20 months for Taylor and is certain to sideline the former Miss Minnesota Basketball finalist for the season. Taylor first tore her left ACL in 2009, while playing in the final game of a distinguished high school career. Last December, 10 games into her freshman campaign, Taylor tore the ACL in the opposite knee in Iowa's game against South Dakota and was out for the remainder of the season. She had been cleared to play this season went down before tearing both the ACL and the lateral miniscus in her left knee during workouts. The three-peat raises questions as to whether or not she will ever play competitive basketball again.
|Photo Caption: Out again this season is promising recruit Theairra Taylor who went down in practice with her third ACL tear (second to the left knee). Taylor had just been cleared to play after tearing her right ACL last season in action against South Dakota.|
|Photo Credit: Courtesy University of Iowa|
Also sidelined, at least for the time being, is sophomore guard Trisha Nesbitt who averaged over 16 minutes a game last season off the bench and averaged 2.5 ppg. Nesbitt ruptured the plantar fascia in her right foot, and Bluder was unsure as to when Nesbitt would be able to return. She will be in a cast for at least four weeks, and Bluder has told the press that it will be "a bonus" if Nesbitt is able to return at all this season
One of the keys to the Hawkeye 2010-11 season was going to be how quickly junior guard Kalli Hansen, who helped lead her Kirkwood Community College team to a 75-2 record for her two years while averaging 9.3 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game last year, could adjust to the speed of Division 1 play. Hansen was first team All-American and was the team MVP at Kirkwood, where she set team record for three-pointers in a single game with seven. She was also valedictorian of her high school class. Unfortunately Hansen, who Bluder said was competing for a starting spot, will be hampered by a back injury when the season opens.
Bluder is getting used to playing with a smaller deck, as Taylor went down last season in her 10th game and several other Hawkeyes had playing time affected as well. But, the reality is that the No. 22-ranked (AP poll) Hawkeyes finished fast last season, mounting a late season rush to make the NCAA tournament and finish with a 20-14 record.
In fact, all five starters from that strong finish return and are currently healthy, including senior shooting guard Kachine Alexander (16.0ppg, 98 assists, and 10.4 rebounds/game) who was hampered early last season by a leg stress fracture. Despite the injury, and playing only 27 games, Alexander was named the teams best defensive player and recorded a team-leading 42 steals.
|Photo Caption: On a brighter note, senior guard Kachine Alexander, who was hobbled by a stress fracture much of last season but still managed to lead the team in rebounds and steals, is back and apparently healthy. Alexander was named to the Preseason All-Big-Ten squads by both the conference's coaches and the media, and Iowa has been picked in both polls to finish second in the league.|
|Photo Credit: Courtesy University of Iowa|
Junior guard Jaime Printy logged the most minutes of any Hawkeye last season while leading the team in points scored (501, 14.7 ppg) and contributing 99 assists. Sophomore center Morgan Johnson also started all 34 games in 2009-10 and was second to Alexander in rebounds with 217 (6.4 avg) and junior guard Kamille Wahlin led the team in minutes played and tossed in 14.2 ppg from her guard position. Kelly Krei (6-2, jr, f) was third on the team in minutes played, scoring at a 8.7 clip and was 3rd on the team in rebounds with 161 (4.7 average)
Even with the injuries, look for a strong season from the Hawkeyes. Johnson has gotten stronger and Printy exceeded expectations during the late season run last year and has continued strong into this season. We are approaching things differently this year, Bluder said. We gave the girls some T-shirts with a target on the back to enforce the mentality that, because we are returning everyone, we will be the hunted, rather than the hunter and that requires a whole new attitude. Last year, about one-third of the way into the Big Ten season, a light bulb came on with many of our freshmen and they decided they didnt have to play like freshmen and things took off. Our goal this year is to keep that momentum, win the Big Ten title (Iowa lost to Ohio State, 66-64, in the championship game in 2010) and to go deeper than the second round in the NCAA.