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Guest Opinion: Unforgettable Megan Gustafson

Mary-Ellen Lewis writes of the talent displayed by UI women's basketball team player Megan Gustafson.

Iowa+forward+Megan+Gustafson+drives+the+ball+in+a+women%27s+basketball+game+against+the+University+of+Northern+Iowa+at+Carver-Hawkeye+Arena+on+Sunday%2C+Dec.+16%2C+2018.+The+Hawkeyes+beat+the+Panthers%2C+83-57.
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Guest Opinion: Unforgettable Megan Gustafson

Iowa forward Megan Gustafson drives the ball in a women's basketball game against the University of Northern Iowa at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday, Dec. 16, 2018. The Hawkeyes beat the Panthers, 83-57.

Iowa forward Megan Gustafson drives the ball in a women's basketball game against the University of Northern Iowa at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday, Dec. 16, 2018. The Hawkeyes beat the Panthers, 83-57.

Roman Slabach

Iowa forward Megan Gustafson drives the ball in a women's basketball game against the University of Northern Iowa at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday, Dec. 16, 2018. The Hawkeyes beat the Panthers, 83-57.

Roman Slabach

Roman Slabach

Iowa forward Megan Gustafson drives the ball in a women's basketball game against the University of Northern Iowa at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday, Dec. 16, 2018. The Hawkeyes beat the Panthers, 83-57.


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I’m a Californian, born and bred. Our family lived in California, but my dad, born in Williamsburg, Iowa, and an Iowa graduate, was a lifelong and passionately devoted Hawkeye fan — so I was, too. After a childhood spent following the Hawkeyes from afar, I attended graduate school at Iowa and became a true Hawkeye.

I began to watch the women’s basketball games on BTN2GO about five years ago, before I returned to Iowa City to live. I thought I’d never see a group as exciting to watch as the Samantha-Melissa-Bethany team that made it to the Sweet 16 in 2015.

But then along came Megan Gustafson. Recruited by our tireless coaches from tiny Port Wing, Wisconsin, she kind of sneaked up on us. A self-effacing young woman with formidable skills, Gustafson attributes her athletic success to her love of the game and her work ethic. More impressively, she humbly says it’s her supporting cast — her teammates, her coaches, her family, and her fans who allow her to be the star.

Gustafson’s Iowa fans are dedicated and fervent; girls and boys look up to her with stars in their eyes. During every home game, we cheer and applaud each incredible basket and rebound she makes, knowing she’ll continue to thrill us with her skills.

Did you know that Gustafson holds the Iowa basketball scoring record? She broke the women’s scoring record, impressively set by hometown girl Ally Disterhoff just two years ago, as well as Roy Marble’s 1989 all-time scoring record of 2,116 points. At the end of December, just a few weeks into the season, Gustafson set the record with 2,117 points. She hasn’t stopped scoring since.

Did you also know that she holds the NCAA record for most points made in the nation (not just in Iowa)? Last year, Gustafson was named the Big Ten women’s Player of the Year by the media. Astoundingly, so far this season she has been named the Big Ten women’s basketball Player of the Week eight times and has made the women’s Honor Roll the other two weeks. She is a one-of-a-kind exceptional athlete, lauded and applauded by national women’s basketball coaches and sportswriters. Gustafson was recently named the Naismith Player of the Week, an honor that no other Iowa athlete has ever received.

So here’s my question — why doesn’t she get more love from our Iowa City community, the Press-Citizen, and our students? She is putting the University of Iowa and Iowa City on the map. She makes us proud. I am a fan of every Hawkeye sport and am thrilled when any one of our athletes is honored and her or his athletic prowess showcased. But, why wasn’t Gustafson included in the Press-Citizen’s 10 people to watch in 2019? She is a four-year resident of Iowa City, a community volunteer, a role model, and a student-athlete who epitomizes Gary Barta’s vaunted “win, graduate, do it right” philosophy.

I will be amazed if Gustafson’s No. 10 jersey is not retired at the end of her final season here at Iowa. She is that unforgettable.

UI journalism and sports-management programs, I challenge you to choose one of your outstanding students to follow and report on the remainder of our women’s basketball season. With only seven home games left as a Hawkeye, Gustafson is a phenomenal story you are missing.

Am I also star-struck? Yes, I am, because we have an exceptional star in our midst. This is Gustafson’s last season as an Iowa athlete. Take a chance, attend a women’s home game, and I guarantee you will experience magic in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Mary-Ellen Lewis

UI grad, Iowa City resident

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