Hawkeye freshmen making big first impressions

BY JACOB SHEYKO | JULY 09, 2013 5:00 AM

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Freshman guards Alexa Kastanek and Ally Disterhoft lined up against each other for their Game Time League opener in North Liberty three weeks ago. It was the first opportunity for Hawkeye fans to see the two heralded recruits and the future of Iowa women’s basketball in action.

Since then, the two freshmen have done nothing but impress those around them — especially their teammates.

Disterhoft, an Iowa City native who attended all of the Hawkeye games as a kid, has the complete offensive package. In her three summer league games, she’s averaged 18 points, 6 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game.

“She’s just a really hard worker. In scrimmages, she’s playing hard the entire time,” said Iowa teammate Melissa Dixon. “She obviously has a great shot, and she has some height on her.” 

Disterhoft has showcased her offensive versatility during Game Time action. That versatility should allow her to make an immediate impact for the Hawkeyes.

She has the ability to put the ball on the floor and shoot from the perimeter. Disterhoft occasionally posts up smaller opponents, too, using her 6-foot frame to her advantage.

On the other hand, Kastanek has impressed her teammates on the defensive side of the court. The Lincoln, Neb., native has shown no hesitation or fear in guarding any opponent, no matter their age or skill level.

“Defense has always been one of my strong suits and something I pride myself in. Ever since I was little, I’ve always been a physical player,” she said. “To get better, I have to go against the best, and that’s what I try to do every day.”

This confidence is apparent to everyone who watches, and none more than Iowa guard Sam Logic. Following a Week 3 loss, Logic praised Kastanek for what she brings to the team.

“She’s tough; I like that,” Logic said. “She never backs down from anyone. I think she’s going to be someone who’s going to come in and work hard and do whatever the coaches want her to do.”

The transition to the college game has not been easy, though. Both freshmen have frequently adjusted on the fly. Disterhoft and Kastanek noted the quicker pace and the increased physical play.

They said the improved competition has forced them to work harder and improve their game.

“Everyone’s bigger, faster, and stronger than they were in high school,” Disterhoft said. “You have to come into each workout with the mindset of working your hardest and getting better every day.”

Neither is alone in this process. Quite the opposite, actually — Kastanek and Disterhoft have been side-by-side for the duration of their transition.

The two work out together and eat together, and they have lived together in a dorm during the summer.

“It’s nice to have someone going through the same things that you are,” Disterhoft said. “Someone you can come back and talk about your day with.”

The two players have also taken advantage of the Game Time season to not only hone their skills but also to build chemistry with their teammates. This experience has helped them learn what their teammates do in certain situations — simple things, such as when a teammate will cut.

As with every upcoming Iowa women’s basketball season, the expectations are high. But also with every season, Iowa women’s basketball coach Lisa Bluder brings in freshmen to fill the roles of those who have left.

Those “newbies,” as their teammates often call them, are expected to perform from the opening tip.

“They both work really hard, and they’ve fit in really well so far,” Dixon said. “I think we have big things coming from both of our freshmen.”

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