The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Newcomer of the year: Very young, very big splash by Megan Gustafson

Iowa forward Megan Gustafson tries to drives down the lane full of Michigan defenders during Game 3 of the Women’s Big Ten tournament in Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on Thursday, March 3, 2016. The Hawkeyes defeated the Wolverines, 97-85. Iowa will play #1 ranked Maryland tomorrow, March 4 at 1 p.m. Central Time. (The Daily Iowan/Margaret Kispert)


When Port Wing, Wisconsin, native Megan Gustafson came to Iowa to play for Lisa Bluder’s Hawkeye women’s basketball team, her role during her freshman season was a little unclear.

After breaking out in the second half of the season, however, Gustafson’s role with the Hawks is now clear — she’s a major threat in the paint.

For Gustafson, who had more people in most of her lectures than in her graduating class, a seemingly simple transition into Big Ten basketball was not foreseen.

The 6-3 forward burst on to the Big Ten scene mid-season, going on to average 10.7 points and 6.8 rebounds in 22.5 minutes by the end of the season, making Gustafson the DI’s Newcomer of the Year.

The accolades rained in for Gustafson during the 2015-16 season. She was a Big Ten All-Freshman team selection and a letter-winner. Not to mention, Gustafson was the only freshman in the conference to lead her team in field goal percentage, shooting 55.4 percent from the floor.

The road to the starting lineup was slow for Gustafson, who played in all 33 games for the Hawks this season. But after impressing coach Bluder while coming off the bench to start the year, she made her first career start on Jan. 24 on the road against Purdue.

From there, she never relinquished her spot in the lineup — Gustafson started the final 14 games for the Hawkeyes.

Once Gustafson solidified her role, success was immediate. The forward became a double-double machine, at one point compiling nine of them in a 13-game span. Gustafson began to lead not only in statistical categories but with team morale as well.

She could regularly be seen picking teammates up off the floor, leading conversations in the team huddle, and demanding the ball in the post. Gustafson began to grow up right in front of the Hawkeye faithful in Carver-Hawkeye.

One might not have expected the soft-spoken, quiet freshman to become such a force on the court. Gustafson shattered those expectations.

Gustafson led the team in blocks 21 times, in rebounds 17 times, and scoring six times. Her 58 blocks led the team at the end of the season.

While she was wildly successful in her freshman campaign, unfortunately, the team was not. The Hawkeyes struggled to meet expectations, limping to a 19-14 record and a first-round loss to Ball State in the NIT.

The loss against the Cardinals wasn’t on the shoulders of Gustafson, however. She once again led the team in scoring, dropping 22 points to go along with 12 rebounds and 3 blocks.

Gustafson played a whopping 38 minutes in the game.

While her team didn’t exactly overachieve in 2015-16, there’s no doubt whether freshman forward Gustafson did. She went from a relatively unknown presence on the Iowa bench to a threatening force for Big Ten opponents in the paint.

If Gustafson’s freshman campaign is any indication, Bluder is going to have herself a pretty special player in the coming years.

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