Bluder: We focused on what we had, not what we didn’t have.
IOWA CITY, Ia. — There is still progress to be made, but Makenzie Meyer’s status is seemingly improving by the day.
The Iowa sophomore, who suffered a left-hand fracture on Dec. 27 and has missed the last six games, had another X-ray on Wednesday that “showed improvement,” Hawkeyes coach Lisa Bluder said Friday. Meyer participated in a “small part of practice,” and Bluder said “there’s a chance” the 5-foot-9 guard returns Sunday at Minnesota.
“We’ve seen her one time in practice, and she did a little bit — so I’m optimistic,” Bluder said. “We’ll have to kind of wait and see. Ultimately, I don’t get to make that choice. It really comes down to our athletic trainer and our doctors."
Bluder said that Meyer will have to wear a protective brace on her left hand for “maybe even another three weeks” upon returning, just as a precaution as she works her way back into game flow. If she doesn’t return Sunday, the next opportunity would be Thursday against No. 8 Ohio State.
Following their recent miniskid, Iowa certainly needs Meyer back healthy. The Hawkeyes may take a game or two to ease her back into her starting spot, but Meyer’s return will immediately inject positivity into an Iowa backcourt that desperately needs some depth.
Starting guards Kathleen Doyle and Alexis Sevillian have averaged 39 and 37 minutes per game, respectively, during Meyer’s absence, and both have experienced off nights shooting as Iowa has dropped three of its last four.
“(The recent struggles) have showed me how important depth is,” Bluder said. “It’s shown me how important Tania (Davis) and Makenzie were to our program. Anybody that loses two out of five starters, I think you’re going to have some growing pains. I don’t think that’s unusual at all.
“I think that we have to take the benefits that we’re getting out of this. We know we’re not going to get Tania back — but we’ll have her back next year — and other people will be better because of the experience they get this year. Amanda (Ollinger) has gotten more playing time than she ever would’ve gotten had those two been here. Zion (Sanders) has gotten playing time. Carly (Mohns) has gotten more playing time and learned an entire new position. So when Makenzie does come back, we’re going to be a better team because of her not being around.”
Chase Coley is ready for some chicken.
It’ll be a homecoming of sorts for the Iowa senior on Sunday, and one restaurant is atop the Minneapolis native’s to-do list.
“I’m really excited to go to Cane’s,” Coley said with a laugh. “Raising Cane’s chicken — me and my friends used to go there three or four times a week, and there’s one right next to the hotel that we’re staying at. So best believe I’ll be eating there when we get there.”
Trips home have been good to Coley, who’ll be playing at Minnesota for the third and final time in her Iowa career. She dropped 21 points and 11 rebounds on the Golden Gophers as a sophomore in 2016 and produced six points in only nine minutes as a freshman in 2015.
There’s certainly familiarity with the other side. Coley said she’s played with or against many of the Minnesota players in either high school or AAU.
“I played against Carlie Wagner in high school, and I played against the Minnesota girls who are on the team in high school,” Coley said. “Kenisha Bell was my teammate in AAU. We played against Bryanna Fernstrom and Carlie Wagner — I think they were teammates for a while — in AAU.
“It always fun to play against girls who you played against in high school and AAU, because you just make so many friends and new connections. And it’s always fun to play against your friends and with them, so I’m excited to see all them.”
'I’m certainly approaching this as it’s going to be her senior year'
There was a brief indication recently that Carly Mohns likely won’t be back next season after undergoing five knee surgeries during her Iowa career. Bluder referred to Mohns, a redshirt junior, as a senior in a recent interview, and the Iowa coach again indicated Friday that this is probably going to be Mohns’ final season.
“We haven’t made any decision on that yet,” Bluder said, “but I’m certainly approaching this as it’s going to be her senior year, just because it very well could be. If she came to me in May and said, ‘Hey, I’d like to stick around and play another year,’ I wouldn’t argue with her.
“But at the same time, she will be graduating and has had her share of injuries. So I would not blame her at all if she wants to hit the road, but I’m really treating her like she’s a senior.”
Mohns’ role has amped up with Iowa’s injury problems, resulting in her first career starts the last two games. She also had nine points on 4-for-4 shooting in the Hawkeyes’ win over Michigan.
“We always use the word 'grit,'” Mohns said, “but the grit that we have (is so important).”
Dargan Southard covers preps, recruiting, Iowa and UNI athletics for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, The Des Moines Register and HawkCentral.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.