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What I'll be watching for at Iowa's Thursday open media practice

On3 imageby:Kyle Huesmann07/10/24

HuesmannKyle

On Thursday morning, the Iowa Women’s Basketball team led by first-year head coach Jan Jensen will open the doors of the practice gym to the media. In the past, opportunities to view practice have been restricted to the final 15 minutes prior to players being made available for interviews. Thursday will be the first of two times in July where Jensen and the Hawkeyes will allow members of the media to observe a full hour long practice session.

It will be a great chance to get our first look at the 2024-25 Hawkeyes and an important one, as they are replacing three starters, including Caitlin Clark. I will be taking note of many things tomorrow, but here are three things that I will be focusing on as I take in Thursday’s practice.

1. My first look at Villanova transfer Lucy Olsen in person

Mar 9, 2024; Uncasville, CT, USA; Villanova Wildcats guard Lucy Olsen (3) shoots against Marquette Golden Eagles guard Jordan King (23) in the first half at Mohegan Sun Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

We all know about Lucy Olsen and how significant her decision to transfer to Iowa from Villanova was. She ranked third in the country in scoring (23.3 ppg) last season, only trailing Caitlin Clark and JuJu Watkins. It was an absolute best-case scenario for the Hawkeyes in the portal. I’ve watched my fair share of film of her, but Thursday will be the first time that I see her on the court in person. I will have my eye on a couple of things.

How does her perimeter shooting look? Lucy has one of the most elite midrange games in the country, knocking down 140 of her 211 (66.4%) midrange attempts last season, but she will be looking to make a jump in her three-point shooting. Olsen shot just 29.4% from behind the arc last season. It would be a huge plus for the Hawkeyes if Lucy would shoot 35%+ from three-point range.

How is her game translating with a Big Ten roster of talent around her? No disrespect to Villanova, they made the WBIT Title game last year, but Iowa is simply a more talented roster. If there is any sort of scrimmaging done during practice, I’d like to see how Lucy’s passing looks with players like Taylor McCabe, Hannah Stuelke, Ava Heiden, Syd Affolter and others to pass to. That portion of her game is overlooked due to her scoring.

2. The freshman. How do they look? Who stands out?

The Hawkeyes have not had multiple freshman average more than 10.0 minutes per game since McKenna Warnock and Gabbie Marshall did during the 2019-20 season. This season, Iowa returns just 59.2% of their minutes played from last year and although Lucy Olsen will take up a big chunk, there is ample opportunity for the freshman group to do what Warnock and Marshall did as freshman.

Four-star center Ava Heiden is battling with senior Addison O’Grady for a spot in the starting lineup, while four-star forward Teagan Mallegni could earn a solid role off the bench. At the guard position, four-star point guard Taylor Stremlow and four-star point guard Aaliyah Guyton are trying to earn backup minutes behind Lucy Olsen. Three-star and Solon native Callie Levin is also a part of the fray at guard.

If the Hawkeyes want to finish near the top of the Big Ten, make a run at hosting in the NCAA Tournament and continue their winning ways, the freshman class that ranked 13th in the country ESPN will need to contribute. I will be intently watching the freshman to get a sense of where they stand at this point in the summer and to see how they are meshing with the team.

3. The Jan Jensen coaching style. Do we get any hints about what will be different with her as head coach? Any sense of how she wants to use the personnel that she has?

Jan Jensen speaks to media personnel after being named the new Iowa women’s basketball head coach Wednesday, May 15, 2024 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.

“I’m not going to reinvent the wheel. We’ve had pretty good success, but I’m going to put my own little stamp on it, right?,” said Jan Jensen during her introductory press conference.

“There’s different sets that maybe when we had our coaching meetings I wanted to vote for, they got voted down. Well, now guess what: I’m going to give it my shot, right?”

I don’t expect Jan Jensen to show off everything they are going to from an offensive or defensive standpoint this coming season, but is there anything noticeable during the drills that they run? We know that assistant coach Raina Harmon is a proponent of using some full-court pressing. Do the Hawkeyes run any defensive pressing drills? If they do, it’s a sign that we could see some of that this year.

I am also curious to see where Hannah Stuelke takes her reps in practice. The coaching staff would like to play her at her natural position, which is power forward, but we know last year, that wasn’t able to happen. With Heiden and O’Grady at center, there is a chance we see more of Stuelke at the 4. Do we see her taking many midrange or perimeter shots? Ball handling on the perimeter? Something to watch for.

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