Cermak’s role during her four-year career: leader

BY JON FRANK | FEBRUARY 23, 2011 7:20 AM

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Kelsey Cermak will be remembered by teammates and coaches at Iowa as a leader.

The senior from Norwalk, Iowa, is a team captain, and a key component in the success that the Lisa Bluder-coached Hawkeyes have enjoyed over Cermak’s four-year tenure at the university.

She probably won’t be remembered for her presence on the court. The 6-1 forward has struggled with back injuries throughout her career. But Bluder will be hard-pressed to replace Cermak’s selflessness.

“[Cermak] is always the one who’s helping everybody, organizing things, keeping people accountable, motivating others, really just kind of having a servant’s type of attitude toward everybody and making this program better,” Bluder said. “That’s harder to do when you’re not getting the glory of being on the court. So I have a tremendous amount of respect for what Kelsey has done the last four years.”

When Cermak was initially recruited, she didn’t expect to be a post player. But the 22-year-old was asked to play forward because the team needed more depth on the inside.

Of course, she accepted her role.

“I didn’t really come in here with the expectations [of playing a certain position],” she said. “That allowed me to do whatever the coaches need. So that’s what I’ve done.”

In high school, Cermak shone. A three-time first team all-state selection and Norwalk High MVP, she holds the career scoring record at 1,751 points, and she also set the record for most steals in a single season (90). She also helped her team win a state championship her junior year while averaging 17 points per game.

As a college player, her numbers dropped.

She’s only started in three games in four seasons. Her career-high 10 points came in a victory at Indiana on Feb. 11, 2010. But the numbers don’t tell the whole tale.

“Kelsey has adapted to anything we’ve given her,” Bluder said. “We’ve told her she’s going to play the 3, we’ve told her she’s going to play the 4, we’ve told her she’s going to play the 5. She never even blinked. She doesn’t hesitate. Whatever we’ve needed from her, she’s responded. And it’s just like you’d like all your players to respond to those type of requests. She’s been marvelous with it.”

Perhaps only her teammates and coaches can understand the effect that her four years of dedication have had on the team’s success.

“Kelsey’s always been such a solid leader for us,” teammate sophomore Trisha Nesbitt. “She’s always done the right thing, whether that’s been on the court or off the court.”

Nesbitt said that Cermak helped her, Jaime Printy, and Morgan Johnson get acclimated to the Iowa City area last year during their freshman season and regularly drove the three around to help familiarize them with their surroundings.

The post player’s tenure as a Hawkeye has provided her with memories that will last a lifetime. Perhaps her junior season, highlighted by a trip to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, provided the most memories — so far.

“Our trip to Stanford last year was probably one of the best experiences,” Cermak said. “It was just so rewarding. We worked, we fought through a lot that year and we worked hard to get there.”

Cermak’s days of sporting a black and gold jersey with the No. 22 embroidered on it are coming to a close. Iowa’s Senior Night contest against Illinois is set for Thursday. But with the Big Ten Tournament just around the corner and a NCAA Tournament bid likely, she still has a job to do.

“It’s hard to think about right now because there’s still so much of the season left,” she said. “There are several games left.”

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