Folks, it’s women’s basketball season! And I. AM. EXCITED.
Which means I’ll probably be disappointed, but I digress. Lisa Bluder and the Iowa Women’s Basketball program hosted media day today, and of course, Lisa kicked things off by meeting with the media. Let’s break it down, shall we? Check out the full transcript here, and my highlights below.
We’ll start here:
Q. Have you ever had all five starters back three years in a row?
LISA BLUDER: I doubt it. I don’t know for sure, but I doubt that’s happened.
Q. Is that easier when you add some stuff that they already know the basics, if you want to flex your defense or do another offense and such?
LISA BLUDER: You know, it does make it easier because they can help kind of coach the younger class, so I think it’s always important we have veterans that they continue to foster the culture of your program, and that’s what these guys are doing.
But certainly I don’t have to have as many repetitions with them. I can save their legs a little bit, especially somebody like Monika who runs up and down — the whole length of the floor, not just three-point line to three-point line, so it’s nice to be able to give those guys a little bit more of a rest.
What an interesting situation to be in as a coach. Especially from the veterans helping the younger class perspective. This team is going to have some depth and it’s going to be a lot of fun.
Q. For all the positivity around the program right now, I’d say everybody can agree that last year didn’t end the way you guys wanted it to, but how do you feel that little bit of disappointment kind of permeated the off-season and blended with all the positive talk and kind of served as that motivation amid everything else that’s come?
LISA BLUDER: Yeah, I think that last year — yeah, it was really crushing at the end, and it just is a great reminder to everybody that every possession counts. One basket counts. One rebound counts. One turnover counts. That’s all it really came down to.
We lost to a really good team that advanced to the Elite 8.
But it has definitely been a very good driving motivator for our team. We talk about it a lot. We talk about it almost daily. We’re bringing up examples from that game or that we fell short, because I think if you don’t do that, you’re not using an opportunity to really motivate your athletes and kind of fuel the fire a little bit for them.
Now, we don’t want to focus on it so much that it’s all that they see. We certainly want to celebrate the Big Ten championship and the Big Ten Tournament and those type of things, as well, because if you focus just on a loss, that’s a little depressing, right, and who wants to come to practice then.
We really try to use it more as a fuel for fire than anything else.
I was at that game against Creighton last year, and it was tough to stomach, especially after the great run the previous year. I like what Lisa says here about using it as fuel but also celebrating the accomplishments of the season. Plus, you KNOW Caitlin Clark is going to be out for revenge this year when it comes tournament time.
Q. Have you guys played around with the idea of having Monika and Addison on the floor at the same time or Monika and Hannah so that way you still have the scoring threat in Monika but maybe a boost in rebounding?
LISA BLUDER: Yes, absolutely, we’ve worked on both of those options with Addie at the 4 or the 5 and Hannah at the 4 or 5 along with Monika. So yeah, we’ve worked on both of those options.
Interesting! Addison O’Grady was a solid contributor last season as a freshman, particularly when the team was battling COVID. Her having a season under her belt and getting more play time this year should be interesting in a lot of ways - I think she’ll be a really good addition with more minutes.
Q. Where does Hannah [Stuelke] fit? In high school she did everything, even brought the ball up the court.
LISA BLUDER: We won’t have her do that.
Q. You don’t need that.
LISA BLUDER: Yeah, we don’t need that. Hannah does a lot of things really well. But no, I’m not going to have her at point guard or ball handling guard.
But I’m telling you, she has been really impressive in practice ... It’s fun to watch her development and her confidence grow.
She will definitely add to our rebounding, which we needed, and her ability to attack off the dribble is really good. Her ability to post-up is good, and her three-point shot is looking a lot better, as well.
Q. Does she have a natural position, or is she one of those positionless players that you love to have?
LISA BLUDER: Yeah, and that’s what we kind of look for when we’re recruiting is those players that can play a multitude of positions. Hannah can certainly do that. She could play really for us the 3, 4 or 5. We’re going to kind of keep her at the 4 and 5 this year as a freshman because our transition offense is quite different between our 1, 2, 3s and our 4/5s.
Hannah Stuelke should be a great addition to the team and honestly, any rebounding help will be better than last year. That was a definite flaw on the team and I’m glad to see Lisa recognizes it. And the more depth in the post, the better.
Q. The initial thought when you brought in Molly Davis [from Central Michigan] was that she was going to be a backup to Caitlin; it sounds like she’s going to have a bigger role than that. What do you expect to see out of her this year?
LISA BLUDER: Yeah, I’ve been happy with Molly. We did recruit her as the backup to Caitlin. Okay, now think about how hard that is. You are all-everything for Central Michigan. You competed against Iowa in the NCAA Tournament and had 18 points on us, and then you transfer here knowing that you’re going to back up the point guard, go from playing 35 minutes a game to backing up, maybe eight minutes a game.
So we told her right up front, this is your No. 1 role, but you’re also going to compete for off-guard minutes.
I’ve been impressed with how well she plays away from the basketball. She’s crafty. She’s deceiving. She’s a smart basketball player. So I’m very, very excited.
I think that’s going to be an X factor that people haven’t figured out with our team yet.
I’ll be very interested to see how that works but also, the team needs this. It was a definite struggle at times last year when Caitlin wasn’t on the court, hopefully Molly Davis can help stop that bleeding a bit and keep Caitlin fresh.
Q. When you look on your defense, what are some of the things that impacted losses? Maybe it’s really hard to tell in practice, but how do you see them coming along in those two areas?
LISA BLUDER: Yeah, we made a big jump last year in defense. We jumped up about 100 spots according to Synergy in our defense. So we got better. That’s encouraging, but we still have a ways to go.
But at the same time, you all know I’m an offensive coach, and I’m not going to sacrifice my offense completely for defense, and I want to improve defense, and I want to improve rebounding, but I’m not going to do that at the expense of our offense.
We’ll continue to be up tempo in offense. That gives your defense more opportunities to work, right, when you score the ball so quickly like we do.
I see us really focusing on defense in practice, though. I see us competing really hard defensively and them really taking it to heart when they get scored upon.
Rebounding, we need to get better on both ends, offensively and defensively, and I think it’s great when you have areas that you can work on and that you can really identify those areas, and let’s get better at it.
An interesting look at Lisa’s philosophy here. Obviously we know that she’s an offense-first coach, but it’s interesting to see under the hood a bit when the lack of defense last year hurt them in some spots.
Q. Is it more of a mindset thing, those two factors, more schematics? What do you look to improve specifically in those two areas?
LISA BLUDER: Yeah, last year we tweaked a lot of things in our defense that I think benefitted us. We didn’t do a lot of that this year, tweaking of our defense, that is.
Offense, we’re trying to make offensive rebounding just a better mindset. I think we shoot the ball so well sometimes on offense, when you’re 20 feet away you think, well, we’re going to make it every time. Well, we don’t make it every time, so we need to get in there and get those second and third opportunities.
It’s just a mentality and a discipline that we have to get better at, and we’re trying to reward that in practice.
More effort on offensive rebounding - good!
Q. Back to the roster, are you locked into starting the same five you went with last year?
LISA BLUDER: I’m pretty locked in. You know, I’m not going to say completely because we don’t have to open up until November, but right now I don’t see why we wouldn’t start that way.
Q. Do you have a rotation set yet for the first two or three off the bench, or is that still in progress?
LISA BLUDER: Still in progress. We have a closed exhibition on Saturday against DePaul at DePaul, and I think that’s going to be really good for us to try some different things, so that should be a lot of fun for us.
But we haven’t come up with a set rotation yet, and who knows, those things can change, too, as the year goes on.
Two interesting questions and answers here. I wouldn’t necessarily be changing the starting lineup to start the season either, but I know for a fact that we’ll be seeing Lisa tweak things all season long. Fran McCaffery will always stick with his starting lineup (for better or worse) but I really do think Lisa will make a change if it’s clear that it will help the team win.
This should be an exciting season, and I can’t wait for it to start. Go Hawks!