Newcomer of the Year: Whitney Jennings

BY KYLE MANN | MAY 14, 2015 5:00 AM

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Not many freshman Iowa athletes made a meaningful impact on their respective teams, but Lisa Bluder and the Iowa women’s basketball team missed the memo. Freshman guard Whitney Jennings of Logansport, Indiana, is The Daily Iowan’s Newcomer of the Year for the 2014-2015 school year.

Jennings arrived on campus with high expectations after being named Indiana’s Miss Basketball, Gatorade Player of the Year, and a Parade All-American. Bluder spoke highly of Jennings during the preseason — comparing her with former Hawkeye Crystal Smith — and said it would be difficult to keep the 5-5 guard off the floor.

Sure enough, Jennings solidified a spot early in the season and started in 31 of the Hawkeyes’ 34 contests. Playing alongside star point guard Sam Logic, Jennings’ prowess as a distributor was likely muted in comparison with what it will be in the future, but she still finished the season second on the team with 2.7 assists per game and a 1.74 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Jennings often appeared to the quickest player on the floor, even against some of the upper-tier Big Ten teams, allowing her to be pesky defensively and finish third with 35 steals in 34 games.

Where the undersized guard was most impressive, however, was in her ability to penetrate the lane and not only use her shiftiness and control of the basketball like a yo-yo to get to the basket but to finish through contact or draw a foul.

Logic and Ally Disterhoft were the primary drivers and scorers for Bluder’s offense, but Jennings most often produced a “wow” moment and left defenders wondering where the hell she went.

Without such statistics tracked, teammates, fans, and opponents would likely agree that Jennings rivaled only Logic for the unofficial team lead in reverse lay-ups and twisting spins off the glass.

Despite her vertically limited stature, Jennings shot a solid 43 percent on 2-point field goals. At the free-throw line she converted at a 70 percent clip.

Jennings’ overall field-goal percentage was slightly hindered by her 32 percent 3-point shooting. It is not a terribly bad figure, but there certainly is room for improvement — which Jennings would project to do. She has good form on her jumper and is a reliable option when open with her feet set.

An additional off-season of mastering her shot off the dribble will serve her, and the team, well.
Disterhoft is poised to shoulder much of the scoring load in the 2015-16 season, but the offense will feature Jennings quite prominently. She will assume the role of starting point guard, and her abilities penetrating and distributing the ball are the driving forces behind Bluder’s high-powered offense.

Follow @KyleFMann for news, updates, and analysis about the Iowa women’s basketball team.

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