Iowa's Megan Gustafson caps 'amazing weekend' of awards with prestigious Naismith Trophy

Chad Leistikow
Hawk Central

Megan Gustafson returned to Iowa City on Saturday afternoon "overwhelmed" by her week of awards-circuit fame — and fresh off her biggest individual score yet.

The Iowa senior on Saturday morning was awarded the prestigious Citizen Naismith Trophy for women’s basketball. While it was her fourth national player of the year award (and third this week), this one was a biggie.

The Naismith is arguably the women’s basketball version of college football’s Heisman Trophy. Making the honor extra special for Gustafson, a team-oriented star, that her supportive coach was honored Saturday, too. Iowa's Lisa Bluder was awarded the Naismith Trophy for women’s basketball coach of the year.

Iowa center Megan Gustafson is shown in December with her coach, Lisa Bluder, in a ceremony to honor Gustafson's 1,000th career rebound. On Saturday, the pair won the Naismith national player of the year and coach of the year honors.

"Just knowing the Naismith and what it means, and I really love that Coach Bluder got it. I’m so excited for her. She deserves it," Gustafson said in an interview with the Register. "… It’s a great way to top off this season."

Gustafson, a 6-foot-3 center who became just the fourth player in Division I history to score 1,000 points in a season, is the first player in Big Ten Conference history to be awarded the Naismith. That trophy is often hogged by the elite powers of the sport, but Gustafson’s credentials were too dominant to ignore.

She averaged 27.8 points (leading the nation for a second straight year) and 13.4 rebounds per game (third) while shooting an NCAA-best 69.7% and setting an NCAA record for field goals in a season (412). Her 33 double-doubles tied an NCAA record, and the Hawkeyes won 29 games and were within one game of the Final Four.

Like the Heisman, the Naismith panel is diverse and far-reaching — comprised of journalists, current and former coaches, former winners and conference commissioners. This wasn’t a dozen people in a board room making a decision.

This was a national slam dunk.

And with the Naismith, Gustafson officially clinched the sole honor as consensus national player of the year. She’s won three of the four named so far (Naismith, U.S. Basketball Writers Association and Associated Press); Oregon's Sabrina Ionescu won the Wade Trophy. The John R. Wooden Award is the last of the five, and it'll be announced April 12 in Losa Angeles.

Last month, Gustafson also was named espnW's unanimous national player of the year.

Gustafson returned Saturday from the Final Four in Tampa, Florida, where she had rubbed elbows with icons of the sport. She also won the Lisa Leslie Award this week as the nation’s top center.

She's been taking a lot of photos with legends and with trophies, and has met a slew of fans. It was a proud week for both her and Iowa women's basketball.

“The most exciting part of the whole weekend was getting to meet the people that I was able to meet," Gustafson said. "Lisa Leslie, she’s a phenomenal person. I was so excited to meet her.

“Overall, it was just an amazing weekend.”

Bluder, in her 19th year at Iowa, is the first Hawkeye coach to win the Naismith since C. Vivian Stringer in 1993. That year marks the program's only Final Four appearance and was, until this year, the most recent Hawkeye run to the Elite Eight.

What a week.