‘Pressure is a privilege’: Iowa women’s basketball embraces high expectations

Published: Oct. 20, 2022 at 7:06 PM CDT
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - In the Iowa women’s basketball locker room, there’s a signed piece of paper from Billie Jean King that reads ‘pressure is a privilege.’ The tennis legend and crusader for social justice gave it to Iowa women’s basketball head coach Lisa Bluder who decided to put it on the wall for her entire team to see. That saying is pretty relevant for this year’s team who enters the season ranked among the top five in the preseason poll.

“This is what you work for is to be ranked high in the country. Does it bring pressure? Yes, but man, you worked hard for it, so you’d better enjoy it, too,” Bluder said.

All five starters from Bluder’s bunch return for the third consecutive year as the Hawkeyes rank fourth in the Associated Press preseason women’s basketball poll - their highest ranking since 1994.

“I think we have a really good mentality going into this season. We know that we’re highly ranked, but in our heads, we’re still the underdog. I think that we always kind of have that idea in the back of our head. We always have something to prove to ourselves, not just everyone else,” senior forward McKenna Warnock said.

The Hawkeyes finished second in the country in scoring offense averaging 84.2 points per game. They also return the nation’s leading point scorer in Caitlin Clark who averaged 27 points a game last season.

“The basketball world is looking at Iowa City. That’s what people want. I grew up in this state. This is what people dreamed of and embrace that. The ranking of number four, that’s just somebody’s opinion of you. We haven’t played a basketball game yet, so we need to step on the floor, show what we are,” Clark said.

A lot of eyes will be on the dynamic duo of Clark and preseason All-Big Ten post, Monika Czinano, who returns for her fifth year. Coming off a Big Ten tournament win and a share of the regular season title, the key to extending their season is getting more players involved.

“Our best games, we’ve had everybody involved and everybody has the potential. I think just continuing with that, but I think the next step in our game is honestly, defensively. I think it has to be. Our offense is so good that once we bring that up to match it, I think it will be a whole different game,” Czinano said.

“When you have people that are lethal from 3-point range like McKenna is and like Gabbie is, it makes the other two, Monika and Caitlin’s job, so much easier because they cannot just focus on those two. The minute you focus on those two, we’ve got somebody else that’s going to knock it down,” Bluder added.

Bluder believes Central Michigan transfer Molly Davis could be an X factor on this Hawkeye team that opponents haven’t figured out yet.

“I can be a little deceiving. Not everyone knows who I am, but I’m just willing to come in and work hard and fill whatever role she needs me to do,” Davis said.

“She’s so good being on the court. She can play off of so many different people, but I think the thing that stands out to me is just her basketball IQ. That’s not something you can teach people. That’s not something you can study film on. That’s just something you kind of have,” Clark said.