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Hawks’ Wahlin getting the point

BY MIKE BROWNLEE | FEBRUARY 25, 2009 7:39 AM

Heir apparent. Passing the baton. Next in line. Circle of life. Changing on the guard (literally).

Whatever cliché you want to use, it’s going on at point guard on the Iowa women’s basketball team.
After four years of running the point, Hawkeye guard Kristi Smith will graduate this season, and the duties will fall on freshman Kamille Wahlin next year.

But while Smith is still around, Wahlin is learning everything she can from the veteran.

“That was the plan coming in,” she said about her arrival in the fall. “The coaches said that I’d learn from her, and that’s what went on all year.”

Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said early in the season that Wahlin would only play point guard, learning the position and spelling Smith during games. That plan was eventually scrapped, because Bluder said that after seeing what Wahlin could do on the court, she had to get her more time on the floor. The coach has played Wahlin at shooting guard along side Smith at the point.

“They’re both scoring point guards, and so they both have the ability to play the 1 or the 2,” Bluder said. “I think it’s nice to have them both out there at the same time, because they’re both very good ball handlers and both very good scorers.”

Bluder said Smith has been a willing mentor for Wahlin, showing her how to play at the Big Ten level.
“When we talked last year at the end-of-the-year meetings, we told Kristi that this was going to be an additional role that she’d have to fill this year,” Bluder said. “I think she’s embraced it and Kamille’s welcomed it.”

Whatever Smith has taught Wahlin, it has worked so far. The freshman from Crookston, Minn., is averaging 6.7 points and 2.4 assists-per-game, sixth and fourth on the team and best among Hawkeye freshmen.

In conference action, she’s averaging 8 points-per-game, good for fourth among freshmen, and she is second among freshmen at three assists-per-game. Her 1.92 assist-to-turnover ratio in league games is tops in the conference.

Wahlin got her first start of the season against Michigan on Jan. 26, in place of then-injured junior forward JoAnn Hamlin. Wahlin scored 14 points and dished out 10 assists in that contest, and she has started the eight games since, with Hamlin coming off the bench since her return on Feb. 12.

Bluder said she plans to have Whalin start the final two regular-season games but is unsure of who will start after that.

As a starter, Wahlin is scoring 11 points, grabbing 4.9 rebounds, and doling out 4.2 assists per game.
“She just had to get her confidence,” Smith said. “She realized she can play with people in this conference.”

Smith, who averaged 7.1 points and 2.8 assists-per-game as a freshman, said Wahlin has been a willing pupil.

“Kamille has been very receptive to everything that [I’ve] had to teach her,” Smith said. “She always comes up to me asking questions, with ideas, ‘What if I do this? What if I do that?’

“She has a good basketball IQ.”

Smith said she has enjoyed the role of mentor.

“[Former Hawkeye point guard] Crystal Smith helped me out my freshman year,” the Thornton, Colo., native said. “It’s part of being a senior. I’ve accepted the role, and I try to do my best.

“I hope I’ve done a good job.”


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