Lisa Bluder excelling at recruiting for Hawkeyes
ROSEMONT, Ill. -- Lisa Bluder sure has enjoyed answering the phone for the past four weeks. Five times, a recruit has called to say yes to her sales pitch.
Energized? Bluder sure is as she enters her 15th season as Iowa's women's basketball coach. She comes to work with the same energy she brought with her from Drake. Getting four Top 100 prospects and eight commitments overall from the next two recruiting classes would put a bounce in the step of any coach.
So why is this wave of talent signing up with the Hawkeyes? There is no change in recruiting philosophy, Bluder said. Coaching longevity, the Big Ten Network and players already on the team all get an assist in this story.
The 2015 class includes three Top 100 players, according to ESPN's HoopGurlz recruiting site. Point guard Tania Davis of Grand Blanc, Mich., is 37th. Forward Megan Gustafson from South Shore, Wis., is 92nd. And forward Hannah Stewart of Minot, N.D., is 95th.
Rounding out the class is Tagyn Larson from Sioux Falls, S.D. Her older brother, Cody, once signed with the Hawkeyes but was released from his scholarship after coach Todd Lickliter was fired.
According the HoopGurlz Top 60 for the Class of 2016, forward Amanda Ollinger of Cedar Rapids Jefferson is 30th. Also committing in that class are point guard Bre Cera from Mukwonago, Wis., rated as the 11th best guard in the class by HoopGurlz; Alexis Sevillian, a guard from Grand Blanc, Mich., and teammate of Davis at Goodrich High School; and Makenzie Meyer, a guard from Mason City.
Iowa has signed top-flight prospects in the past under Bluder. Senior point guard Samantha Logic was ranked 10th nationally for the Class of 2011. Forward Virginia Johnson, whose career ended because of concussion issues as a freshman, was ranked 62nd in that class.
Ally Disterhoft was ranked 69th and Alexa Kostanek 100th in the Class of 2013. Incoming freshman Chase Coley was 80th in the Class of 2014. But never have the dividends come as quickly as they have over the next two classes.
Logic gets some of the credit for this recruiting windfall, her coach said.
"The kid bleeds black and gold," Bluder said. "We know she's from Wisconsin, but make no bones about it. She's a Hawkeye. She'll be a Hawkeye for life. She's been the best well-rounded ambassador that we could ever ask for."
Back when Logic was a high school sophomore, she took unofficial visits to Iowa, Iowa State and Drake on the same trip. The stop in Iowa City resonated with her. When she visited other schools, she was always comparing them to Iowa. That convinced her this was the place she wanted to be.
Now, Logic puts the program's best foot forward when recruits visit. It's not a sales job, she said.
"More straight honesty," Logic said. "I love being around this team, these girls. It's all genuine, coming from us."
Bluder said that having games on the Big Ten Network is another plus.
"People see us play now, and they're attracted to our program because they like what they see," Bluder said. "They see our style, our philosophy. It makes for an easier sell for us."
Seniors who don't want to say goodbye are another selling point.
"When your seniors are not looking for the exit, and want to stick around a little longer, I think that speaks volumes about the experience they've had as a player, and how much they love being a Hawk," Bluder said.
Iowa can also sell stability and seven straight NCAA Tournaments.
"Parents know who will be coaching their kids," said Bluder, the Big Ten's dean of women's coaches. "We've been to seven straight NCAAs, the only team in the Big Ten to do that. That consistency is something people are looking for, and are excited about."
Almost as excited as Bluder has been answering the phone for the last month.
Hawkeye columnist Rick Brown is a 10-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year. Follow him on Twitter: @ByRickBrown.