Note: This is the final of three Iowa women’s basketball spring notebooks. The first focused on the Hawkeyes’ plan for their two remaining 2017 scholarships and assistant coach Lacey Goldwire’s departure. The second gave injury updates on Tania Davis and Carly Mohns, as well as reaction to Kathleen Doyle’s Team USA trials invite.
IOWA CITY, Ia. — It didn’t take Alexis Sevillian long to begin her redshirt freshman season. The day after Iowa's WNIT run ended, assistant coach Jan Jensen remembers coming into work and watching Sevillian put up shots in Carver Hawkeye-Arena.
Sevillian didn’t play in any of Iowa’s 34 games this year. She and coaches agreed it’d be best to redshirt her first year and, in effect, join the 2017 freshman class with Davenport North’s Jinaya Houston. That meant she could practice all she wanted, but no games.
But next season began as the buzzer closed Iowa's WNIT loss to Washington State. And Sevillian was clearly eager to get started. She has an excellent spring practice session, Jensen told HawkCentral last week.
"When you’re (only able to practice) day in and day out and there’s never that carrot or the reward that you might get in and so forth, (it’s rough)," Jensen said. "And her improvement and her attitude (were great).
"It’ll be fun to see her actually get on the court during games now. She’s fun. She’s explosive, she can shoot it, she’s stronger and she’s always got kind of a fun, quick smile when it’s going well, too."
From Goodrich, Mich., Sevillian led Goodrich High to two state semifinal berths and a state title in 2013. She was a finalist for 2016 Miss Michigan Basketball and a 2016 McDonald’s All-American nominee.
She joined Makenzie Meyer, Kathleen Doyle and Bre Cera to form a loaded incoming freshman guard class. A broken nose set Sevillian back during the offseason, and by November, it made more sense to redshirt her than lose her in a deep backcourt.
That proved to be the right decision, Jensen said.
"We had the luxury when she was redshirted: We could put her at the off guard or we could put her at (other positions)," Jensen said. "So she got her ball-handling skills. She played a little 1 (point guard) in high school and on her AAU and stuff, but when she’s going against Tania at the beginning and then she’s going against Kathleen and she’s going against Mak.
"She was always a pretty good shooter coming in, but that continues to be a strength for her as well. And she’s a very doggone good defender, too. She can get down and keep them in front of her. So, I think just a year of going hard with nothing else having to cloud your mind, that just really will benefit her."
There will also be at least one true freshman next year in Houston.
ESPN gave Houston, 6-foot-1, three stars and a grade of 90. It ranks her the No. 19 wing of the 2017 class. Blue Star pegs her as the 118th-best 2017 recruit.
She’ll join the team in June and will take classes at Iowa this summer.
If you had to label Houston, she’d be a wing. But more than that, she’s a pure, all-around basketball player. A type of athlete the Hawkeyes don’t usually get.
"She’s long and she’s like a 3 (small forward), 4 (power forward)," Jensen said. "But she’s real explosive. Can get to the rim on a real quick bounce and just has a big upside with her. And can rebound. She’s done a nice job of putting her 3-ball with it. That will be an area that we can continue to get better and better, but she’ll give us an element which we haven’t had from that spot — just the explosiveness in her."
Houston averaged 18 points on 56.7 percent shooting and 26.7 percent (8-for-30) from 3-point range this year. She added 7.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.4 steals per game. An ankle injury sidelined her late this year, but she looked fine in her 31-point season finale.
She shot 34 percent (18-for-53) and 40 percent (8-for-20) from long range her previous two seasons. She draws natural comparisons to Ally Disterhoft with her skill set and size, and there will be a Disterhoft-shaped hole to be filled next year.
“Very quick for her size and her position,” Jensen said. “Can leap pretty well. She’s also put a 3-ball with it, so you can’t just sag off of her that much. So we’re hoping for some great contributions from her this year, for sure."
Matthew Bain covers preps, recruiting and the Hawkeyes for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, The Des Moines Register and HawkCentral. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewBain_.