Women's basketball describes themselves as 'scrappy'

BY MATT CABEL | OCTOBER 31, 2013 5:00 AM

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There were a lot of words used to describe the Iowa women’s basketball team at its annual media day: small, young, 3-point shooters, to name a few.

But that was mostly from the media members, asking question of the team. The members of the team had another definition for themselves — a fitting one for a team with one senior on its roster and 11 total players.

That term is scrappy, and it comes about mostly from the team’s freshmen, guards Alexa Kastanek and Ally Disterhoft, the two-scholarship freshmen, and center Hailey Schneden, a walk on. The three are known for their hard work in practice: diving for loose balls, hustling on both ends of the court, and scoring on their teammates with no mercy.

“They’re scrappy, and I really like that,” junior guard Sam Logic said. “… they can bring a lot to our team.”

Disterhoft said the scrappiness comes from the requirement of making early contributions and not being thought of as the team’s freshmen.

“We get after it all the time,” she said. “We’re not ones to back down — we don’t want to play like freshmen, we don’t want to be treated like freshmen. I think we’ve gained the respect of the upperclassmen, and that’s just through hard work.”

The team will need those kinds of contributions from the freshmen. With only 10 scholarship players, playing time will be aplenty for everyone. But head coach Lisa Bluder isn’t worried about throwing the true freshmen into the mix. It’s a program tradition, in fact.

Logic and fellow guard Theairra Taylor both started as freshmen, and guard Melissa Dixon and Bethany Doolittle also saw lots playing time their first years. It’s a strategy that has clearly worked: The program will aim for its seventh-straight NCAA Tournament appearance in 2013-14.

“We have a tradition here in our program of freshmen coming in and playing right away, so it’s not unusual by any means,” Bluder said. “… They can come to practice every day and kind of look around and count, and figure out ‘It’s going to take me, I’m going to have to be involved with this.’ ”

But it will take more than just scrappy efforts from the freshmen for the team to succeed. The whole team will need to fight for the loose balls, get back on defense, and grab boards — especially if 3-pointers aren’t falling. But it doesn’t seem to be a problem — Bluder and her coaching staff like what they’ve seen in practice leading up to the Nov. 3 exhibition matchup against Concordia-St. Paul.

“When I think of scrappy, I think of energy,” Bluder said. “I think of people diving on the floor for loose balls, I think of people hustling all the time, and I’ve seen that. I’ve seen that from this basketball team. That’s why I’m excited about this group: They come with such great energy to practice every day. And when you practice that way every day, good things generally happen.”
But for the team having a scrappy identity can’t be just a term thrown around in media availability and in practice. It needs to be a necessity, something shown for the full 60 minutes of every game. But the team knows this — and they’re embracing it.

“It’s more necessary [to be scrappy] this year,” Logic said. “We don’t have another big, we don’t have Morgan [Johnson] to add to Bethany [Doolittle’s] skill set. Loose balls, rebounds, hustle plays are going to be so important this year, so it’s a good thing that we do have it, because we’re going to need it.”

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