IOWA CITY — Makenzie Meyer has taken a more vocal role in preparing the Iowa women’s basketball team for a trip to Spain that begins today.
The senior from Mason City has had little choice.
As the Hawkeyes worked through the 10 practices leading up to the 12-day trip, Meyer found herself as the veteran on a team adjusting to new leadership, new personnel and a new offense.
“It didn’t take long for all of us to realize that this is a different year and a different team,’’ Meyer said. “We were blessed to be a part of everything we were a part of last season, but we’ve had to move on and begin to get ready for a new year.’’
The graduation of national player of the year Megan Gustafson and Hannah Stewart in post positions and Tania Davis in the backcourt from a 29-7 team which won the Big Ten tourney and reached the Elite Eight in the NCAA tourney will force Iowa to adapt to a new offense built around a guard-dominated roster.
Returning all-Big Ten guard Kathleen Doyle, currently participating on USA Basketball’s entry in the Pan-American Games in Peru, has missed recent workouts and will miss at least the first of the Hawkeyes’ three exhibition games in Spain because of that commitment.
“The past couple of weeks, that has forced (Meyer) to become more vocal and I feel like that’s been good for her and for our team,’’ Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “She’s a senior and we need her to be that type of a leader for us.’’
Meyer said that transition has been eased a bit in part because her sister, Megan Meyer, is beginning her freshman season on the Hawkeye roster.
“I’m used to telling her what to do, stopping things and saying, ‘hey, you should be doing this or that,’ so I have just kind of carried that over to everybody,’’ Makenzie Meyer said. “I’m still trying to set a good example with what I do, but I’m also trying to be more vocal about it.’’
Megan Meyer is one of three newcomers who will be making the trip, joining McKenna Warnock and Gabbie Marshall, on an Iowa team that will also add redshirt freshman guard Kate Martin to the mix.
Now fully recovered from a torn anterior cruciate ligament which forced her to sit out last season, Martin feels more than ready to compete again.
“I was able to sit back and learn a lot last year as watched, but it’s time to get back on the court and play,’’ Martin said. “I feel strong. I’ve gotten knocked down that first time, that second time, and it’s all good. I’m ready.’’
The Hawkeyes are learning the nuances of a four-guard offense Iowa last deployed three years ago, but had used frequently in prior seasons.
“It’s about building around the strengths of our personnel. Instead of two posts, we’ll play with one and sometimes none,’’ Bluder said.
Sophomore Monika Czinano will start in the post for the Hawkeyes, building off of the minutes she received as a reserve last season.
“The big thing right now is just knowing where I need to be and how I need to complement the other players around me,’’ Czinano said. “It’s a different offense and we’re all learning together.’’
Because of that and with three open lineup spots, Bluder likes the timing of the trip that will see the Hawkeyes play exhibitions against all-star teams in Madrid, Valencia and Barcelona beginning on Saturday.
“The 10 practices that we’ve been able to have before going over there are the biggest thing for us,’’ Bluder said. “We some open spots in the lineup and four newcomers, it’s beneficial.’’
Meyer sees that as well.
“We’ve been challenging each other,’’ she said. “Our practices have been very competitive. The new players are making this a very competitive group and that’s only going to help us. It’s a good way to start a new year.’’