CHICAGO — There were 24 players answering questions at 2011 Big Ten women’s basketball media day Thursday afternoon.
“The big huge centers are not with our game right now, there’s just not that many of them out there,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “When you have one, you enjoy it.”
The preseason all-Big Ten team featured three guards and two forwards, none taller than 6-foot-2. The team included Iowa junior guard Jaime Printy, Ohio State guard Samantha Prahalis, Penn State guard Alex Bentley, Illinois forward Karisma Penn, and Michigan State forward Lykendra Johnson.
“I think the guards in our league are very, very good,” Purdue coach Sharon Versyp said. “It is going to be fun to watch. You’ve got to win with great guards.”
It was clear Big Ten women’s basketball has entered the post-Jantel Lavender era. The former Ohio State center finished as the only four-time MVP in conference history, and the all-time Big Ten rebounding leader.
During Lavender’s tenure at Ohio State, the Buckeyes won three Big Ten titles and three Big Ten Tournament titles.
And without Lavender, the Buckeyes were not picked in the top three by the coaches or media. Penn State and Purdue were the unanimous one and two, respectively, and Iowa (coaches) and Michigan State (media) split the third spot.
“We’ll just play a little differently,” Ohio State coach Jim Foster said. “You just coach who you have in the gym. We have some pretty good players.
“We’re going to be stronger at guard than we have been.”
Of the top five scorers returning in the Big Ten, four are guards. Of the 39 returning starters in the Big Ten, only four are 6-foot-4 or taller.
“The post players in the league are young with Jantel graduating, and (Northwestern’s) Amy Jaeschke,” Foster said. “Those two were always vying for the lead in points and rebounds, but you’ll find a lot more guards up there this year.”
Of course, it may open things up for a player like Penn, a 6-2 bulldog around the basket who average 17.5 points per game last season.
“It’s great for me,” Penn said. ‘The conference is missing that big type of center, but have a lot of posts and forwards that are really good still.”
Bluder said that may work to Iowa’s advantage. The Hawkeyes return 6-foot-5 junior post Morgan Johnson, who averaged 10.8 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 2.5 blocked shots per game last season.
“It should help Morgan have a tremendous year for us,” Bluder said. “She’s been a starter for two years, a lot of those other posts are gone … its time for her to shine.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes women's basketball