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Iowa Women’s Basketball: The Newcomers

First year students arrive on campus for Coach Bluder’s Hawks

Jones and Etienne

It doesn’t feel like it was all that long ago that the Iowa women’s basketball team took the nation by storm, marching all the way to the championship game against the LSU Tigers. Fast forward three months and “next year” is here. Iowa’s two basketball recruits have arrived on campus. Everyone associated with the women’s program knows the truly tragic story of Ava Jones. The Hawkeyes also brought in a guard in 5’9” point guard Kennise Johnson Etienne who may crack the rotation. Following and writing about this team the past number of years what stands out to me is the family atmosphere that exudes from the team. Coach Bluder and company don’t just provide lip service on this, it is a palpable thing. I like everyone else was wondering what the Hawks would do in the transfer portal. In the back of my mind I kept reminding myself that there was a good chance that the Hawkeyes would not bring someone in. Lisa Bluder has built a very close-knit team. She was not bringing someone in just to bring someone in. The fit had to be perfect. The year before Molly Davis transferred in. Davis was a high-minute scorer at Central Michigan. Davis came in, fit the team culture, and now plays in relief of starters. Lisa Bluder is going to roll with her squad, and I’m very confident the Hawkeyes will have another very successful season.

Let’s take a look at Iowa’s two first year students for the 2023-24 season.

Ava Jones

Out of respect to Ava and her family, I am not going to talk about the game of basketball. As a former coach, basketball means a great deal to me. In the game of life, basketball becomes very unimportant. What happened to Ava and her family breaks my heart. All of Hawkeye nation and everyone that encounters Ava will be pulling for her. Whether she plays basketball or not, I am very glad that Coach Bluder, her staff, and the Hawkeyes are part of her family now. This is bigger than sports. Ava, you have an entire fanbase who wants nothing but the best for you and your family. It will be an honor to follow the progress that the Nickerson, Kansas, native makes. No matter what happens, Ava has won.

A father’s love

Kennise Johnson-Etienne

The Hawkeyes went into Illinois and came away with a quality player. Kennise Johnson-Etienne hails from Plainfield (Central) and transferred to a prep school, Example Academy. Watching some film of Johnson-Etienne I immediately notice her quickness with the ball. Hawk fans are familiar with Iowa’s fastbreak. Caitlin Clark, Hannah Stuelke, and others run the court very well. I can envision Kennise getting an outlet pass and pushing the basketball up the court looking for a quick layup. Iowa puts a great deal of pressure on its opponents to get back on defense. Johnson-Etienne will do an excellent job of getting the ball to a post who has run the court, or a shooter who sprints ahead for an open three point shot. Another appealing aspect is that it appears Johnson-Etienne is an active, athletic, defensive-minded guard. The Hawkeyes can score points with the best of them. Bringing in a guard who can shut down a scorer will add a great deal of value to this Hawkeye squad. It’s hard for freshmen to come in and adjust to the speed of the college game, at least if your name isn’t Caitlin Clark. I could see Etienne pushing for ten minutes a game next year. If she can defend, distribute, and knock down some open shots, I see her being a part of the rotation. Last year Etienne helped lead her team to the prep school national championship. She averaged 11.3 points, 5.9 rebounds, 6.2 assists, and 3.1 steals. In other words, she stuffs the stat sheet. That’s the type of player you want to add to an already good squad.

Johnson-Etienne: Not afraid to put in work!

This is going to be another fun winter for this team. Adding Ava Jones and Kennise Johnson-Etienne will make the squad stronger. As always, it’s great to be a Hawkeye!