IOWA CITY — A four-game run in the WNIT provided the Iowa women’s basketball team with more than an opportunity to extend its season.
It provided coach Lisa Bluder with a glimpse into a future that includes Davenport North’s Jinaya Houston.
Bluder expects the only member of Iowa’s 2017 recruiting class to make an impact next season on a team which returns four starters and had three freshmen in the lineup Sunday when a 20-14 season ended with a loss to Washington State in the quarterfinals of the WNIT.
“We’re bringing in a really nice player in Jinaya Houston. She’s going to do well for us,’’ Bluder said. “You know, the future looks incredibly bright for our team.’’
The 6-foot-1 Houston averaged 18 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.4 steals per game as a Class 5A first-team all-state selection for the Wildcats as a senior.
Bluder views the return of a healthy Tania Davis, who sat out the final 11 games of the season with an ACL tear, as an important part of the equation as well.
Davis’ injury forced freshmen Kathleen Doyle, Makenzie Meyer and Bre Cera to assume additional ball-handling responsibilities in the backcourt in an offense centered around the double-double average of sophomore post player Megan Gustafson.
“We got some great play from our freshmen in the last couple of weeks and I think that’s exciting,’’ Bluder said. “You can see how good our freshman and sophomore classes are and if Tania can come back healthy, that would be pretty important for us.’’
The Hawkeyes have some work to do in the offseason.
Iowa shot just 31.1 percent as a team from three-point range during the recently-completed season, down a percentage point from the 2015-16 season and down more than eight percent from two years ago.
Bluder believes the Hawkeyes are better shooters than they showed this season, and improvements in that area as well as in rebounding are among priorities before Iowa plays again in November.
“We’ll sit down as a coaching staff and identify a development plan for every player and start working on those,’’ Bluder said. “Individual improvement is where the growth needs to start for us as a team.’’