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Kathleen Doyle reflects on her Iowa career ahead of senior night. Hawk Central

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The Hawkeyes’ regular season began with questions in abundance, most notably if Kathleen Doyle could be the centerpiece Iowa needed. 

She answered that with ease. Now, Doyle clutches her league’s most prestigious award. 

The Hawkeyes senior was unanimously named Big Ten player of the year Monday, the third straight season Iowa has claimed the award in some fashion. Doyle follows former teammate Megan Gustafson, who split the award in 2018 as the media’s winner and won unanimously as a senior. Before this recent run, Iowa had just four Big Ten POY winners in the program’s first 43 seasons.

Additional Hawkeyes earned recognition as well. Sophomore Monika Czinano was named a first-team all-conference selection by the media and a second-team selection by the coaches. Senior Makenize Meyer was a second-team pick on both sides. McKenna Warnock cracked the coaches' all freshman team. Doyle was a unanimous first-team honoree. 

“Kathleen Doyle deserves every accolade,” Hawkeyes coach Lisa Bluder said earlier this season. “What’s she’s done ... we weren’t even on the map at the beginning of the year. She put us there.” 

What was supposed to be a rebuilding year in Iowa City hasn’t been largely due to Doyle’s ascension. She blended experience of an Elite Eight run with confidence to lead — and got a perfect product that has Iowa (23-6, 14-4 Big Ten Conference) expecting another deep March run.

Doyle enters the Big Ten Tournament at or near the top of the league in assists (6.4, 1st), scoring (18.4, 4th), field-goal percentage (44.6%, 8th), free-throw percentage (79.1%, 3rd) and more. She was twice named Big Ten player of the week, broke Iowa’s single-game assists record Feb. 6 versus Nebraska and reached 1,500 career points on senior night

“Coach Bluder and the rest of the staff do a good job instilling a lot of confidence in you and the skillset you bring to the world,” Doyle said earlier this week. “Not just basketball, but off the court as well. That’s brought me a lot of confidence, just knowing they believe in me. They foster a belief in you that women can do a lot of powerful things.”

With Doyle's fiery demeanor and relentless energy leading the charge, Iowa heads to Indianapolis as the Big Ten Tournament's No. 3 seed, hoping to defend its title and lock in a hosting-worthy resume.

The Hawkeyes received a double bye and will face either No. 14 Penn State, No. 11 Minnesota or No. 6 Ohio State at approximately 8 p.m. (CT) Friday night. The Buckeyes get the Nittany Lions-Golden Gophers winner Thursday evening.

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.

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