As Iowa women's basketball exits the Megan Gustafson era, Hawkeyes believe Spain trip will aid transition

Dargan Southard
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Her name wiggled its way into Tuesday’s media scrum, as if to provide one more reminder of what her Hawkeye legacy is. But the Megan Gustafson era is over in Iowa City, and Lisa Bluder’s program has spent the summer moving on.

It’s a tall task, especially when stacking the departures of Hannah Stewart and Tania Davis on top. Iowa has used the last few months to re-install its four-guard offensive system and will need louder voices from those elevated to veteran status.

The Hawkeyes hope their upcoming foreign trip will aid the transition.

Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder calls out to players during a NCAA women's basketball tournament second-round game, Sunday, March 24, 2019, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.

Iowa leaves Thursday for a 12-day excursion in Spain, where Bluder’s squad will face all-star teams from Madrid (Aug. 10), Valencia (Aug. 13) and Mataro (Aug. 16). Kathleen Doyle will miss the first game as she wraps up Pan American responsibilities in Peru, but otherwise, the trip will give Iowa an early peek at its full 2020 unit in game mode.

The Hawkeyes were granted 10 practices in preparation for their international voyage. The NCAA allows for these tours every four years. Considering what Bluder must replace, this wasn’t a bad summer for Iowa’s turn to come up.

“Not only do we have four freshmen, but we have everybody learning this new offense,” Bluder said. “So it’s been really key for us to have these extra practices.”

It’ll mainly be a four-guard look and even some “no-post offense,” Bluder said. It’s what Iowa ran before Gustafson, Stewart and 2018 graduate Chase Coley emerged as focal points down low, so it’s not new to Bluder and her staff. It is to the current crop of Hawkeyes.

Seniors Makenzie Meyer and Doyle, along with redshirt junior Alexis Sevillian, should spearhead the offensive attack. But opportunity is in abundance beyond that.

Can Amanda Ollinger capture a larger role in her final collegiate run? How emphatically will redshirt freshman Kate Martin rebound from her ACL tear? Who will emerge from the sophomore group, all of whom got a small taste last season? Will there be a breakout freshman?

In all likelihood, Bluder won’t find clarity until the regular season gets rolling. But the more glimpses before then, the better.

“We’re super excited to get on the court together and see how this season will turn out,” Martin said. “Last year, we were blessed to have the team that we’ve had. But I think a lot of my teammates here bring great things to the table, as well as our teammates did last year. So we’re excited to see our new roles and get our year started.”

Martin had to watch Iowa’s Elite Eight run from the bench after tearing her ACL during an all-star game in June 2018. She’s playing with a brace now as a precaution, although Bluder doesn’t anticipate that lasting the entire year.

All signs suggest Martin will jump back into game action without hesitation. That’s good news for Bluder, who’ll have the former first-team all-Illinois selection at full strength. Every guard weapon is in play as Iowa flows into a new philosophy.

“I’m glad to be back,” said Martin, who stands 6-foot and averaged 16.2 points as a prep senior. “Whenever the (injury) happened, you think of it as negative at first. But this past year has been really positive for me to take away from and to learn how Iowa basketball is played and become friends with your teammates — take that whole year to get that experience and get stronger, and knowing what it takes to be an Iowa basketball player.

“It was really beneficial.”

Iowa believes its Spain trip will do the same.

“It really is an open book this year,” Meyer said. “It’s been great over the summer.”

Dargan Southard covers Iowa and UNI athletics, recruiting and preps for the Des Moines Register, HawkCentral.com and the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Email him at msouthard@gannett.com or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard. ​​​​​​​