Disterhoft exceeds expectations

BY JACOB SHEYKO | MAY 13, 2014 5:00 AM

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Expectations are a dangerous thing. They can place unfair hopes on athletes, setting them up to fail. Behind every failed prospect, “could’ve been” or “should’ve been,” there were once high expectations.

This is what made Ally Disterhoft so exceptional in her freshman season; the highly heralded recruit from Iowa City not only fulfilled every expectation, she exceeded them.

“Coming in, I wanted to contribute however that was,” she said. “I didn’t know whether that would be starting initially or whatnot, but if I was out on the court, I was going to give it my all, or on the bench, I was going to be there for my teammates.”

The expectations began before Disterhoft ever donned a Hawkeye uniform. In high school, she was a 2013 PARADE All-American, Miss Iowa Basketball, Iowa’s Gatorade Player of the Year, and a McDonald’s All-American nominee.

However, those expectations didn’t begin to solidify themselves until the team’s media day, where the 6-foot guard was lauded for not only her skills on the court but her presence off it.

“She’s fit in really nicely,” junior Melissa Dixon said at the team’s media day. “She came in, and she’s already made such a big impact, and I think that she’ll make a really big impact this season.”

You could pretty easily split Disterhoft’s freshman season into two parts — pre-starting and post-starting.

For the first 19 games, Disterhoft came off the bench. She was at the time a key role player, one who could provide a spark and regularly get rebounds among taller defenders.

But following a blowout loss to Michigan State on Iowa’s home court, head coach Lisa Bluder made the decision to sub Disterhoft for Kali Peschel in the starting lineup. Disterhoft responded by posting a double-double at Ohio State; in Iowa’s 81-74 victory, Disterhoft scored 24 points and snagged 10 rebounds. She also hit the clinching free throws down the stretch.

“She had that time to grow before being put in the starting lineup,” teammate Sam Logic said. “She used that time really well, and then that transition [to the starting lineup] was perfect for her.”

From then on, Disterhoft transformed from a nice role player to a solidified starter and a cog in the Big Ten’s most potent offense. Iowa went 13-4 with Disterhoft starting, and she was the team’s third-leading scorer in conference play — she ranked fourth among Big Ten freshmen.

She was named to the 2014 Big Ten All-Freshman Team and to the Big Ten All-Tournament Team as well as being named an honorable mention All-Big Ten member by league coaches and media.

But perhaps her most telling moment came in Iowa’s final game — a 30-point loss to Louisville in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Facing a team that later advanced to the Elite Eight and one that had lost just four times that season — three times to undefeated and eventual champion UConn, Disterhoft stuck out in Iowa’s worst loss of the season.

For years, Disterhoft had watched the Hawkeyes from the seats in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Now, she was playing for that same team. Posting 15 points and 8 boards, Disterhoft didn’t play like your ordinary freshman.

Then again, time after time, Disterhoft had already proven she wasn’t one.

“People are going to know her know, for sure,” Logic said. “Scouts get a little more fine-tuned, a little more specific, because you know each other so well. She’s got to be ready for that. But I’m not worried about that … she’ll be ready.”

Daily Iowan TV sports reporter Rachael Bedell contributed to this article.

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