Commentary: Future for Bluder’s Bunch looks strong

BY EVELYN LAU | JANUARY 18, 2010 7:30 AM

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Times are tough for Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder and the women’s basketball team.

The Hawkeyes are off to one of their worst conference starts in school history, most recently falling to Purdue on Sunday in West Lafayette, Ind. The loss dropped Iowa to 1-6 in the Big Ten, 8-10 overall.

However, unlike the other basketball team that dons black and gold in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, lack of talent isn’t to blame.

Bluder and her squad have simply been the unfortunate victims of bad luck this season.

Perhaps the first sign came when lone senior JoAnn Hamlin was diagnosed with a severe blood clot in her right leg just a few days before the Hawkeyes’ season-opener on Nov. 14.

The life-threatening condition put Hamlin in the intensive care unit instead of on the hardwood, where she would have been the starting center. Instead, freshman Morgan Johnson has started at center — a continuing theme for the squad.

Freshmen Theairra Taylor and Gabby Machado, sophomore Hannah Draxten, and junior Kachine Alexander have all sat out at various times because of injuries.

Draxten (herniated disc), Taylor (torn ACL), and Hamlin are out for the season, leaving Iowa undermanned in many games, causing Bluder to make an appeal to the NCAA to allow for a walk-on midseason.

Things looked promising after the Hawkeyes won four out of their first five games. Iowa was even picked to finish fifth in the conference in both the preseason coaches’ and media polls.

Of course, that was preseason. It’ll be an uphill battle if the Hawkeyes hope to finish anywhere near the middle of the Big Ten pack as predicted.

There is still a positive that can be taken from this disappointing and frustrating season, though.

The future is bright, almost blinding. As cliché as it sounds, it’s the truth.

Iowa’s freshmen are getting more experience in a competitive setting than any other freshman squad in the Big Ten. The Hawkeyes’ underclassmen make up 85 percent of the teams’ total points and 84 percent of the minutes played.

Freshman Jaime Printy leads not only the team but all Big Ten freshmen in scoring, averaging 14.1 points. Johnson, the surprise starting center this season, has tied the school mark in blocks twice.

Not to mention that when Taylor was healthy, she showed signs of being a spark plug with her aggressive play after overcoming a torn ACL in her other leg just a few months prior to the season. Her play was reminiscent of fellow Minnesotan Alexander.

For now, the disappointing losses and close calls just help build character in these young players.

While resiliency and determination can’t be taught, they can be acquired through experience.
A year or two from now, it really shouldn’t surprise anyone how good the Hawkeyes will be.

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