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Bittersweet ‘Senior Day’ for women hoopsters

BY EVELYN LAU | FEBRUARY 26, 2010 7:30 AM

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This wasn’t the senior year JoAnn Hamlin imagined.

Hoping to lead Iowa to another strong showing in the Big Ten and possibly a return trip to NCAA Tournament, the lone senior envisioned herself on the hardwood helping the Iowa women’s basketball team. After playing in 59 games — with 19 starts — in her time as a Hawkeye, Hamlin planned to begin the season as the starting center.

Instead she sat on the sideline bench for every game.

Just a couple of days prior to the start of the season, Hamlin awoke one morning with severe pain in her right leg. Diagnosed with a blood clot, she spent time in the intensive-care unit before being released, unable to return to playing.

“That was one of those things that was out of our control,” assistant coach Shannon Gage said. “It came down to a life or death situation for her. … We just had to be patient and see what the doctors said. Jo’s been so great. She’s been resilient about it.”

When the Hawkeyes defeated Indiana on “Senior Day” in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, it was a bittersweet moment for the team — saying goodbye to a senior who never got to play a minute this season.

“It was kind of unusual with this ‘Senior Day’ here,” head coach Lisa Bluder said. “It’s really hard just to honor her going out without her playing this year, so we’re really hoping she gets that extra year.”

Transferring from Kansas State after her freshman year, Hamlin sat out her sophomore season with Iowa because of NCAA rules. And with her season-ending injury, she missed all 28 games of the 2009-10 season.

While Bluder plans to apply for a medical hardship for Hamlin, the chances of the fifth-year senior being offered a sixth season are slim.

“If everything is right and fair in the world, she should get that sixth year, and we just have to hope the NCAA sees it that way,” Bluder said.

Despite not suiting up, Hamlin can still offer plenty of support and leadership to her teammates.

Freshman center Morgan Johnson, who started in her place, said she’s grateful for the opportunity to play, and she attributes some of her success to Hamlin, whom she described as a “big mentor.”

“It feels really good to get that [win] for her,” said. “I know deep down inside, I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in right now if I didn’t get the chance to play against her all summer, if I didn’t have her on the bench. She’s just been that much of a supporter for me.”

During her speech after the game, Hamlin addressed her parents, the coaching staff, teammates, and fans for their continued support of her throughout the entire season as well as career. With fans shouting “one more year,” Hamlin offered a coy smile and some hope.

“Let’s just go for one more year,” she said.


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