Freshman Megan Gustafson making the adjustments for Iowa women
Every freshman faces an adjustment period when transitioning from high school basketball to the college game.
For Iowa freshman Megan Gustafson, that transition has extended well beyond the court.
Gustafson grew up in tiny Port Wing, Wisc. Population: 164.
For the 6-foot-3 Hawkeye newcomer, the shift from high school to college has been as much about the adjustment to city life as it has been becoming familiar with the rigors of Big Ten basketball.
“I feel like probably the biggest adjustment was just having so many people around,” Gustafson said. “Just trying to get to class at first I was nervous about if I was going to find class because I am definitely not used to this town but so far it has gone good.”
Even at tiny South Shore High School in Port Wing, located on the shore of Lake Superior in northwest Wisconsin, Gustafson’s on-court production garnered her attention.
Gustafson scored 3,229 points during her high school career and graduated from South Shore (with 10 other students) last spring as the career and single-season leader in state history.
The only player in state history with 3,000 career points, Gustafson grabbed 1,724 rebounds and blocked 628 shots through her four-year career while becoming a top-100 national recruit.
“She comes here and just think about this, our team is bigger than her senior class,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “There is a picture posted where her senior class is on her senior class trip and they fit in one van and one selfie, so, yeah, it's a little bit of an adjustment for Megan.”
So far, that adjustment has been relatively seamless for Gustafson.
She has impressed the Iowa coaches with her physical presence as well as her ability to adjust to the higher level of play.
“She is such a learner, she wants to learn, she wants to get better,” Bluder said. “She’s such an eager player in practice to be coached, which is what you love and she's fun to coach. I can't describe the steps that she’s made in our 19 practices. It's been amazing.”
The off the court adjustment to Iowa City has been smooth for Gustafson, too.
She’s enjoying her teammates and the fall Iowa weather.
“It’s pretty nice weather here compared to there,” Gustafson said.
On the court, however, the transition from small-school high school to Big Ten competition has been simplified by her ability to focus on one spot.
After playing everything from point guard to center at South Shore, Gustafson has begun to blossom with her opportunity to stay put around the basket.
“In high school I was the point guard a lot of the time believe it or not,” Gustafson said. “I was taking up the ball when teams were full-court pressing and trying to fill a lot of roles. I feel like now I have a role that I know and I feel comfortable with it.”
With second-team all-Big Ten center and three-year starter Bethany Doolittle lost to graduation, Gustafson will be looked to help fill that void.
Bluder believes the freshman is on pace to help pick up the production lost with Doolittle’s departure.
“All of these things that she is going to be able to use to make herself a better basketball player she wants to use them,” Bluder said. “It’s just fun to see that youthful enthusiasm where they are so excited about learning and that’s her.”
Reach Ryan Murken at 319-339-7369 or email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @rmmurken.