Kastanek grows into leadership

BY CHARLIE GREEN | JULY 09, 2015 5:00 AM

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At 2-2, coach Brian Joens’ Cullen Painting/Joensy’s sits in the middle of the pack of Game Time League, but one player has kept tension low entering postseason play — Iowa junior-to-be Alexa Kastanek.

“Offensively, she can shoot the 3, she can penetrate the gap, she can kick it out to people,” Joens said. “Defensively, she just knows what teams can and cannot do.”

Kastanek has been the undisputed best player for Joens, leading the team to a 90-85 victory over Brendan Uknrich’s McCurry’s/BlendCard squad Wednesday evening.

Everyone kicked in for Joens in the game. Iowa forward Nicole Smith grabbed 13 boards and added 20 points. Truman State’s Rachel Edmundson added 16 points and shot a perfect 7-for-7 from the line. Lindsey Smith pitched in 12 points, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists.

Together, they overcame a 23-point performance from Iowa’s Kali Peschel, who made her first appearance for Unkrich’s squad this summer. Courtney Strait and Hannah Stewart each scored 19 as well.

But Kastanek led the way, dropping a season-high 36 points on 12-of-27 shooting and adding 6 assists.

The Lincoln, Nebraska, native averages 25 points a game this summer, but scoring is far from her most valuable asset.

“She’s the type of kid that you want your other players to be around because she’s such good leader,” Joens said. “She just understands the game; I hear her out here talking and communicating.
“I had her as a freshman, and as a junior, I can really see her taking on some of those leadership qualities.”

Now, with the departure of guards Sam Logic and Melissa Dixon from the Hawkeyes, Kastanek focuses on making leadership a bigger part of her game.

“I mean, I was a leader on my high-school team,” she said. “But coming in as a freshman, it’s kind of intimidating seeing the upperclassmen. We had great leaders already in Sam, Beth [Doolittle], Melissa, and Kathryn [Reynolds], and I think right now, I’m just really trying to fill what we lost.”

Kastanek averaged 6.2 minutes per game with the Hawks’ Sweet 16 squad last season, which should increase in the absence of Logic and Dixon.

“She’s a junior next year, so a lot of things are going to be expected of her as a veteran of the incoming basketball team at Iowa,” Joens said.

But for now, her focus is on finishing out the summer strong.

Defense has been the main issue for Joens’ team, especially after giving up 144 to Marion Iron in a loss on July 1.

Kastanek’s presence at the point, however, gives the team confidence it can knock off anyone that Game Time has to offer.

“This summer, I’ve been working on trying to take the shots that are there and not to force anything,” she said. “And once that happens, everything starts to look pretty fluid.”

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