Iowa's Coley enjoying, excelling in move to forward

Ryan Murken

In her second season of college basketball, Chase Coley has developed precisely the way Iowa coach Lisa Bluder had planned.

One of the big reasons behind Coley's emergence, though, wasn’t part of Bluder’s plan at all.

A move from center to power forward for the 6-foot-3 player has turned steady, second-year progress into an explosion of production.

“At the beginning of the year, if you would have asked me if Chase would have been playing outside, I would have said, 'No, absolutely not,' ” Bluder explained. “In fact, I think I did say that one time.”

A move out of the low post may not have been in the original plans for the Minneapolis native, but the switch has been a key part in a recent offensive resurrection for Iowa.

Coley averaged 20 points and 8.5 rebounds per game last week in wins over Michigan and Northwestern.  The strong week helped Iowa (15-7, 5-5) average 82 points per game in its two wins, more than eight points above its season average.

“I love it, I think it’s really fun,” Coley said of playing the forward spot. “It’s a different style of basketball, and it’s kind of more the style I like to play.”

That style that Coley likes is the same style that made her a top-100 recruit and Minnesota’s player of the year in high school.

Coley describes her style as versatile. She is quick enough to beat a bigger post, yet big enough to post up a smaller forward.

Playing the forward spot allows Coley to play facing the basketball, as opposed to always playing with her back to the rim.

“In high school, I posted up sometimes if I had smaller people on me, but when I had a big girl on me they would clear out the lane and I would take it to the hoop,” Coley said. “That’s more of what I’m doing now.”

Coley played nearly seven minutes per game her freshman season as a backup to all-Big Ten center Bethany Doolittle.

That time for development was vital.

“I’m not one for banging around in the post down there. I don’t have that kind of body. I have found my strength down there is my agility,” Coley said. “I’m really glad that I had to do it, because I feel like I improved a lot down in the post.”

This year, Coley was penciled in as the Hawkeyes' center and started the season in that role.

The rapid growth of freshman center Megan Gustafson allowed Bluder to begin experimenting with Coley at forward during the holiday break.

The initial attempts at getting Gustafson and Coley on the floor together were rough.

“At first, we were kind of confused because neither of us knew the four position and we were trying to figure out all the different ways to get open,” Gustafson explained. “We figured it out somewhere.”

Iowa hasn’t just figured the two-post lineup out — the Hawkeyes have turned it into a nightmare for opposing defenders.

Holding the true post position in the Iowa lineup, Gustafson posted the first two double-doubles of her career last week averaging, 12.5 points and 12.5 rebounds per game.

Gustafson credits Coley's play for her recent spike in production.

“Chase is really good at the four position, hitting those jump shots or taking it at the posts, and that has really opened things up for me,” Gustafson said. “I can be there posting up if she needs help.”

Over the past two games, Coley has been as efficient as she has been effective.

Coley shot 79 percent from the field (15-19) and is 10-of-12 from the free-throw line.

She also has five assists and three blocked shots during that stretch.

“I think she is just really enjoying this change in moving to the power forward,” Bluder said. “I think she has embraced it. I think she is having fun with it."

Reach Ryan Murken at 319-339-7369 or and follow him on Twitter at @rmmurken

Iowa's Chase Coley high-five's teammates following their 89-76 win over Drake at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015.
Iowa's Chase Coley takes a shot during the Hawkeyes' game against Michigan at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016.