Iowa women’s basketball captain Zion Sanders looks to set good example

The senior guard is one of three captains for the 2020-21 season.


Hannah Kinson

Iowa guard Zion Sanders dribbles the ball during a women’s basketball game between Iowa and Penn State at Carver Hawkeye Arena on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. The Hawkeyes defeated the Nittany Lions, 100-57.

Chloe Peterson, Sports Reporter

Heading into her fourth season on the Iowa women’s basketball team, senior guard Zion Sanders has risen from a walk-on to a scholarship captain.

The Evansville, Indiana, native was elected captain for the 2020-21 season along with fifth-year senior Alexis Sevillian and redshirt sophomore Kate Martin, who are also guards.

Because of her unconventional journey to Iowa, Sanders sees her captaincy as an honor.

“[Being named captain] is a really big honor, especially for me considering I’m a lot different than a lot of the other players on the team,” Sanders said at women’s basketball media days on Friday. “I was first a walk on when I first got here, and then I was able to earn a scholarship for my four years of being here. So just the fact that my teammates look at me as someone who is a captain and a leader on this team is just awesome and so incredible.”

Sanders comes from an athletic family. Both of her parents played collegiate basketball, with her father playing at South Carolina State and her mother playing at Georgia. Her sister is on the women’s basketball team at Texas Tech, and her brother played football at Florida State and was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in 2012.

Sanders said her parents have passed down their wisdom in becoming a better player.

“The number one advice I always remember is from my dad,” she said. “He used to tell me this before any AAU basketball game and he was always just like ‘don’t let anyone outwork you.’ And I’ve really taken that into how I play in practices. There’s always going to be players that can be better than you, that have more skills than you, but your attitude and how you work hard, that’s just something that’s a personal motive, and I always just find that in myself, so even if I’m outmatched in skills, I always go out there and just give the best that I can.”

Sanders played in 14 games last season, logging only 70 minutes on the court.

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But despite her little playing time, co-captain and roommate Sevillian said Sanders shows her leadership off the court.

“Zion is one of those people who makes the team who we are,” Sevillian said. “We have success because of her, because she comes in every day and gives it her all, which makes us all better.”

Sevillian also noted Sanders is great at catching the little things in practice.

“She has great basketball knowledge, so if there’s something that we don’t see or that somebody sees, she is able to be there to offer her knowledge,” Sevillian said.

As a captain and a senior this year, Sanders has had to take on a different role as a leader of the team. She said it’s a benefit Sevillian is her roommate. Martin lives in the same apartment building, so they are easily able to get together and talk about any problems that come up with the team

This season, Sanders hopes to set a good example for her teammates, who could be future captains.

“Just making sure that I’m always leading by example, so I’m always working hard whether that’s in lift or in practice,” Sanders said. “Just so I have everyone else following along with that. And then on top of that, when people become captains as well in the future, they can see what I have done or what other captains in the past have done and try to incorporate that into a new team.”