Indiana all-star Zion Sanders hopes to become walk-on at Iowa

Matthew Bain
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Evansville Central graduate Zion Sanders will attempt to become the first Iowa women's basketball walk-on since 2013-14, she told HawkCentral Saturday morning. The 5-foot-8 guard begins summer school June 26 and will try out for the team this fall.

Central's Zion Sanders brings the ball up against the Princeton Lady Tigers during their game at Central High School Saturday afternoon.

On Thursday, the Cedar Rapids Gazette ran a freelanced story with the headline "Iowa women's basketball walk-on Zion Sanders looks to bounce back from knee injury." But on Friday, Iowa's sports information director told HawkCentral that Sanders was not yet part of the team. Sanders confirmed that.

"It's been kind of hectic," she laughed, "because a lot of people haven't really asked, or they just assumed (I was already on the team)."

This news comes days after Iowa granted a transfer release to guard Bre Cera, who just found a new home with Milwaukee. With Cera gone, the Hawkeyes have three open 2017-18 scholarships.

Sanders said she spoke with assistant coach Jan Jensen last week about trying out for the team, and she briefly met with coaches and current players during her school orientation early this week. She said she'll likely scrimmage against current players this summer — on their own, not at Carver-Hawkeye Arena and without Iowa coaches present — to gauge her fit with the roster.

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Evansville was Sanders' lone Division I offer. Walking on at Clemson was another option, but she's wanted to be a Hawkeye for two years — ever since she visited the school with AAU teammate Tyasha Harris, now a guard for South Carolina.

"Iowa was just different for me," Sanders said. "I was going around the campus and walking to Carver-Hawkeye Arena, and just fell in love with everything, and meeting the coaches and everything was so great. I think that’s when I knew I wanted to go there, even if it was just for academics. The school was just so beautiful and I loved everything about it.

"And then when I got the opportunity, and (Jensen) told me I’d have to try out for the team, that just made me super excited about everything. Made me more excited than I already was."

More D-I offers would've come had it not been for a knee injury following Sanders' junior year. She had surgery in August and missed all but 10 games of her senior season, when she averaged 6.9 points and helped lead Evansville Central to a 23-2 record. Still, she made Indiana's 13-player all-star team.

Now, 10 months removed from surgery, Sanders said her knee is 100 percent healthy. 

Hailey Schneden was Iowa's most recent walk-on. She was put on scholarship before the second semester of her freshman season (2013-14).

Matthew Bain covers preps, recruiting and the Hawkeyes for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, The Des Moines Register and HawkCentral. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewBain_.