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Making an immediate impact

BY JACOB SHEYKO | DECEMBER 17, 2013 5:00 AM

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It really hasn’t taken anyone by surprise.

The rise of Iowa women’s basketball freshman Ally Disterhoft seemed to have been expected ever since she became a part of the program that she spent so much time watching from the seats in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Before the season even began, Disterhoft’s teammates raved at her ability to quickly adjust to the college level. They dubbed both her and fellow freshman Alexa Kastanek scrappy players who would fit right in with the system.

“We thought Ally and Lex could both have immediate impacts on this team, and we needed them to,” guard Sam Logic said. “We don’t have the numbers to not have them play.”

Twelve games into the season, those predictions are looking pretty spot on.

Disterhoft jumped out of the gate early this season. The 6-foot guard is one of five Iowa players to average double digits in scoring — 11.4 points per game. But her contributions don’t stop there.

Listed as the fifth tallest player on the Hawkeyes roster, Disterhoft also leads the Hawkeyes in rebounding, pulling down 6.3 per game.

“I think having those few months in the summer — with this being the first year they could do that — has really helped,” Disterhoft said. “Just getting stronger and improve all areas of our game earlier.”

But while a freshman making the impact such as Disterhoft has may be uncommon in some programs, head coach Lisa Bluder has made it a staple of her teams ever since she took over in 2000.

Currently in her 14th season of coaching at Iowa, Bluder has helped five players be named to the Big Ten All-Freshmen Team, with one of those being named Big Ten Freshman of the Year — Jaime Printy in 2010.

Bluder believes that her success with freshmen has boiled down to two factors.

“I think it’s talented freshmen living up to their potential, but I also think it’s opportunity,” Bluder said. “We’re only 10 deep right now, so there’s opportunity. If you had 15 people on scholarship, they may not be as much opportunity.”

Someone who’s enjoyed that opportunity — just as Disterhoft currently is — was junior point guard Logic.

Logic not only played in her freshman year, she was asked to play a key role, something Bluder asks the very same of from Disterhoft.

And while the season isn’t even at its halfway mark, it’s understandably hard for people not to be impressed with where Disterhoft’s year could stack up against other former freshmen.

If her 11.4 points per game average holds up for the rest of the regular season, then she would become sixth highest scoring freshman in the program’s history. If she continues her rebounding pace, she would become the fifth highest rebounding freshman in the program’s history.

What’s more impressive about those marks is that they don’t factor in any of Iowa’s postseason games. If Iowa plays even a few tournament games, then Disterhoft could move up a few spots.

“Sam, Theairra [Taylor], Melissa [Dixon] — all of them have reached out,” Disterhoft said.

She didn’t exclude the importance of having a coach willing enough to give freshmen big minutes.

“I think it’s a major confidence booster when you know that your coach has that confidence in you already,” Disterhoft said.

But perhaps the most surprising aspect of her year has been her immediate impact. There has been seemingly no transition period from her high-school days to the college level, something that caught the eyes of coaches and her fellow players.

“Ally came in with the mentality that, ‘I’m going to do what this team needs me to do,’ ” Logic said. “And she’s doing that. She’s done it in so many different ways.”


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