Hawkeye women look to Lisa Bluder’s future plan

After a season in which Iowa women’s basketball reached historic heights, it will begin the tough task of looking ahead to next season.

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Hawkeye women look to Lisa Bluder’s future plan

Iowa guard Kathleen Doyle goes for a layup during a women's basketball matchup between Wisconsin and Iowa on Monday, Jan. 7, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Badgers, 71-53.

Iowa guard Kathleen Doyle goes for a layup during a women's basketball matchup between Wisconsin and Iowa on Monday, Jan. 7, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Badgers, 71-53.

Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa guard Kathleen Doyle goes for a layup during a women's basketball matchup between Wisconsin and Iowa on Monday, Jan. 7, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Badgers, 71-53.

Shivansh Ahuja

Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa guard Kathleen Doyle goes for a layup during a women's basketball matchup between Wisconsin and Iowa on Monday, Jan. 7, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Badgers, 71-53.

Jordan Zuniga, Sports Reporter

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As twilight falls on the greatest season the Iowa women’s basketball team has had in 25 years, it’s time to look at what’s in store for next season’s Hawkeyes.

Moving on from this season won’t be as easy as it was last year. This season, Iowa returned 86.5 percent of its scoring, including its top three scorers, while after this season, it loses nearly 63 percent of its scoring and three of its top four scorers.

Most of those points go with Megan Gustafson — the program’s all-time leading scorer — and it’s an understatement to say her shoes will be hard to fill.

But the rest of the senior class — the most productive class in program history with 4,619 points and the second-most wins by any class with 92 — will be sorely missed as well.

“They were a vital part in creating this culture,” said Kathleen Doyle, the top returning scorer. “[They] really set the tone for what we wanted basketball to be all about. Those three helped lead this program to new heights.”

So how does one go about replacing such a stellar senior class?

For Hawkeye head coach Lisa Bluder, it’s all about finding prospects.

“It all begins with recruiting,” she said. “It begins with getting the talent in. I think the culture is there. I think people want to play with the type of women that we have on our team, but culture is one thing; you have to have the talent to go with it.”

RELATED: Gustafson reigns supreme with Naismith Award

It’s hard to think of a better recruiting tactic than a successful postseason run; the evidence for that was when Cedar Rapids Washington freshman Hannah Stuelke committed to the Hawkeyes after they clinched a spot in the Sweet 16.

Stuelke — who has started as a freshman and averaged 16.5 points per game this past season — won’t join the team until 2022, but she is indicative of what postseason success can mean.

Of course, while Iowa losses three starters, it still retains 10 players. All 10 went through this rigorous and longer-than-average season.

Also, as Bluder is fond of pointing out, those players on the bench who didn’t see much action had a lot of time to go against this elite senior class in practice.

Obviously, Doyle and Makenzie Meyer, the two returning starters, will have to take on a bigger role, but there is also Alexis Sevillian, who averaged 8.7 points per game with 2.4 assists and stellar defense. She also held down a starting role for nearly three months of the 2017 season.

RELATED: Bluder caps historical season with Naismith nod

Sevillian will certainly see an uptick in minutes along with Zion Sanders, who had some solid minutes off the bench this season. Sanders also seems primed to take up a leadership mantle that will be left partially bare with the absence of Tania Davis and Hannah Stewart.

This year’s freshmen are certain to get more floor time next season as well. Monika Czinano led the trio of freshmen in minutes with 179, in which she showed flashes of basketball savvy.

Bluder said at the beginning of the season she thought that Kate Martin would “contribute the most out of the freshmen” before Martin tore her ACL, which means she will almost certainly be a factor for the Hawkeyes next year.

It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which next season’s team even comes close to matching what this team accomplished, but that doesn’t mean this won’t be an entertaining team.

Unlike this season, next season will be one of building toward a future where the Hawkeyes can have a chance to top their own success.

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