Iowa WBB's Johnson, Doolittle: A Tall Tandem, Together

By Jeff Linder, Reporter

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By Grant Burkhardt

IOWA CITY, Iowa — It appears that Bethany Doolittle will play alongside Morgan Johnson this season instead of behind her.

The Iowa Hawkeyes’ traditional four-out scheme is likely to be replaced at times by a three-guard, two-post set, creating a front line that stands 6-foot-5 and 6-4.

“It’s been a little tough to learn a new position,” Doolittle said Wednesday at the Hawkeyes’ preseason media day at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “I’ve always been in the paint instead of facing the basket full-time.”

Johnson (a 6-5 senior) and Doolittle (6-4 sophomore) shared time at center last year — Johnson averaged 27 minutes per game, Doolittle 12.

But as Doolittle blossomed throughout the summer, Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder decided to make some changes in an effort to get them both on the floor at the same time.

Johnson will stay at center; Doolittle will move to power forward.

“We’re working on that right now, tweaking our offense a bit to accommodate (Doolittle’s) abilities,” Bluder said. “We just have to find a way to get her on the floor and more minutes because if she’s strictly backing up Morgan, Morgan is on the floor a lot, and that limits Bethany’s minutes.

“So I have to find a way to get Bethany on the floor, and I think this is the solution.”

Johnson is all for the move.

“Three out, two in … it’s a big opportunity,” she said. “A lot of high-low looks and cross screens. For (opponents) to bring two posts to guard both of us, Bethany’s going to have an advantage.”

Johnson was second on the team in scoring last year at 14.9 points per game and is closing in on the school’s shot-blocking record. Doolittle added 3.1 points per game as a freshman.

When Johnson came to Iowa three years ago, she was a 155-pound beanpole. Now, she’s over 190 pounds and proud of it.

“Being little isn’t good in the Big Ten,” she said.

Johnson is arguably the best center in the league, and a professional career would be a possibility if she pursued it. She doesn’t plan on it.

“I’m going to try medical school and look at my opportunities,” she said. “I might do some medical work in a third-world country.

“But I think this will be my last year of basketball. I think my knees will be ready for me to walk without pain.”

FRESHMAN OF IMPACT

When asked which of the newcomers was most likely to make an immediate impact, Bluder didn’t blink.

“Kali Peschel,” she said.

“First of all, she’s a darn good basketball player. Second of all, she’s versatile, she can play a number of positions, so that always helps.”

In high school, she played all five positions. She is listed as a guard on the Iowa roster, but has played forward and center as well.

“I brought the ball up the floor quite a bit, and I posted up a lot,” said Peschel, a 6-foot-1 freshman from Sauk Centre, Minn., who holds school records in scoring, assists and steals.

Peschel highlights a freshman class that also consists of Claire Till (Dubuque Wahlert), Nicole Smith (Rockton, Ill.) and Kayla Timmerman (Wayzata, Minn.). Kathy Reynolds is a junior-college transfer from Flint, Mich., and Highland (Kan.) Community College.

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