Caitlin Clark can’t do it alone. No. 3 Iowa got big boost when Martin and Marshall decided to return
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — To the casual fan, Iowa women’s basketball is all about Caitlin Clark.
Lisa Bluder, her staff and the players know better.
It could be argued the Hawkeyes wouldn’t be rated as high as No. 3 in the AP Top 25 preseason poll if it weren’t for the return of Kate Martin for a sixth year and Gabbie Marshall for a fifth — in addition to having the reigning national player of the year back for a fourth.
The Big Ten favorites took major hits following their run to the NCAA championship game with the departures of the top two scorers behind Clark. Monika Czinano, the yin to Clark’s yang as the team’s imposing post, is playing professionally in Hungary. McKenna Warnock, Clark’s 3-point shooting sidekick, is in dental school.
Martin and Marshall have combined for 252 games, 199 starts and 1,650 points in their nine combined seasons. The 11 other players on the roster, not including Clark, have 327 games, no starts and 1,076 points in 13 combined seasons with the Hawkeyes.
Bluder said getting Martin and Marshall back was a “pleasant surprise.”
“Kate is honestly one of the strongest leaders I’ve ever been around,” Bluder said. “She’s a culture builder. She’s playing like a pro right now. She really is. She’s knocking down 3s. She’s physically defending hard, rebounding. I think you’re going to see Kate just jump off the stat sheet this year.”
Marshall struggled with her shot early last season but finished with a flurry, which played a part in her decision to return. She was 13 of 21 on 3s over three Big Ten Tournament games and 12 of 29 over five NCAA games.
“It was really a no-brainer for me,” Marshall said of her return. “You go back and forth in your head: ‘Can I do this mentally, physically?’ End of the day, these are the people I want to be around every day, and I’m just trying to cherish this last season.”
It all starts with Clark, obviously. The AP preseason All-American needs 811 points to become the all-time leading scorer in Division I. Known for her outrageously long 3-pointers, she comes into the season with 90 straight double-figure scoring games and a 27.3-points-per-game career average with 43 double-doubles and 11 triple-doubles.
Martin made 41.3% of her 3s and averaged 7.7 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. Marshall averaged 6.2 points and led the team with 62 steals.
Addison O’Grady, who had 10 points and 14 rebounds in the outdoor exhibition against DePaul at Kinnick Stadium, appears set to take Czinano’s spot at center after getting limited minutes last year. Hannah Stuelke, the Big Ten sixth player of the year as a freshman, takes over for Warnock at forward.
Kylie Feuerbach, who missed last season with an ACL, is back along with Taylor McCabe, Molly Davis and Sydney Affolter give the Hawkeyes quality depth at guard.
Czinano is gone after having amazing chemistry with Clark for three years. She often converted entry passes from the point guard and averaged 17.1 points per game and shot 67.4%. Warnock shot 38% on 3s and averaged 10.9 points and 5.9 rebounds per game.
Kennise Johnson of Joliet, Illinois, is the only true freshman who could play. She was the No. 3 guard prospect in Illinois last season and saw limited action in Iowa’s two exhibitions.
Ava Jones of Nickerson, Kansas, signed a letter of intent in November, five months after the vehicle she and her family were riding in was struck by a driver under the influence in Kentucky. The crash killed her father and left Ava and her mother with serious injuries. Ava won’t play this season but is attending classes while continuing treatment for her injuries.
The Hawkeyes open Nov. 6 at home against Fairleigh Dickinson. They play fellow Final Four team and eighth-ranked Virginia Tech in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Nov. 9 and go to Ames on Dec. 6 for the CyHawk Game against Iowa State. Big Ten play begins Dec. 10 at Wisconsin.
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