MOLINE, Ill. — Iowa women’s basketball coach Lisa Bluder has two open scholarships and one potential recruit that intrigues her. But Bluder said Tuesday before an I-Club gathering at the iWireless Center that she would be perfectly content to hang on to her scholarships for another year, confident that her young players from last season are ready to take a big step forward.
“There is one player that we’re kind of talking to, but we’ll know in the next couple of weeks,” Bluder said. “Most likely, we’re going to hold them (the scholarships).”
The one player is believed to be Kathleen Doyle, a 5-foot-10 point guard who was named Illinois Miss Basketball this year and originally had committed to Nebraska. However, when Cornhuskers coach Connie Yori resigned last month, Doyle reopened her recruiting and has listed Iowa, Indiana, Vanderbilt and Nebraska as her potential destinations.
Bluder, whose team is coming off a 19-14 season that ended with a first-round loss in the WNIT, suddenly found herself with two spots to fill when sophomore guard Whitney Jennings and little-used freshman Tagyn Larson announced plans to transfer. Jennings was a starter who averaged 9.6 points, 3.0 assists and a team-leading 1.3 steals per game last year. She ended up going to Butler.
Nevertheless, Bluder is optimistic that her returning core can mesh with an incoming class of four freshmen and get the Hawkeyes back to the NCAA Tournament, where they had appeared for eight consecutive years before this winter.
Bluder highlighted the inexperience of last year’s team, which started two freshmen, two sophomores and junior star Ally Disterhoft, who led the team with 17.1 points per game.
The rookies both played pivotal positions and were rewarded for strong seasons by being named to the Big Ten Conference’s all-freshman team.
Center Megan Gustafson led the Hawkeyes in field-goal percentage (.554), rebounds (225) and blocked shots (58).
Point guard Tania Davis added a team-leading 3.4 assists per game.
Bluder believes both are ready to make bigger contributions.
“I think you see the biggest jump between freshman and sophomore years,” Bluder said.
“Tania, her biggest adjustment has to be in leadership. As a freshman, she kind of held back a little bit vocally, and as a point guard you’ve got to be the leader on the floor. You’ve got to organize everybody, so I need her to be more vocal. I need her to be a more consistent 3-point shooter (26.3 percent last year).
“Megan just needs to continue to work on her post moves and her post defense. That’s her biggest weakness right now is post defense.”
Iowa’s returning players will be bolstered by a recruiting class of point guard Makenzie Meyer of Mason City, forward Amanda Ollinger of Linn-Mar, wing Bre Cera of Wisconsin and point guard Alexis Sevillian of Michigan.