Depth at center an asset for Iowa women’s basketball

Iowa will have four players available to relieve fifth-year senior center Monika Czinano in games this season.


Grace Smith

Iowa center Monika Czinano poses for a portrait during Iowa Women’s Basketball Media Day at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022. Czinano returns for her fifth year after starting 31 out of 32 games in the 2021-22 season, averaging 21.2 points per game. “We return Monika Czinano, preseason All-Big Ten for the second straight year, and should be after leading the country at 68 percent field goal shooting,” head coach Lisa Bluder said.

Chloe Peterson, Sports Editor

The Iowa women’s basketball team has finally found some depth in the paint.

Two years ago, centers Monika Czinano and Sharon Goodman played every minute at center. Czinano ran from basket to basket for 29 minutes a game in the 2020-21 season, while Goodman contributed eight.

“[Goodman’s] freshman year, we were like the only two true 5s that played, so we would be in every possession,” Czinano said. “We would be dying during practice and the guards had all these subs, and we were like, ‘What is going on?’ And now, it’s so strange for us because we have all this depth, and we’re the ones getting breaks.”

Now, the Hawkeyes are flush with post players. Goodman, sophomores Addison O’Grady and AJ Ediger, and freshman Hannah Stuelke are all competing for time at the No. 2 spot.

“I feel like right now it’s a big question mark, to be quite honest,” head coach Lisa Bluder said at Iowa Women’s Basketball Media Day on Oct. 20. “We’re not there yet. We’re not there to say that this person is a backup to Monika. It’s still a tight race, and right now Sharon is competing for that time, but also AJ Ediger, also Addison O’Grady, and we’ve been messing around with Hannah Stuelke at that position a little bit, as well.”

Both Goodman and O’Grady have ample experience as Czinano’s backup. Goodman was in the No. 2 spot during the 2020-21 season, playing in all 30 games and averaging 3.7 points. But the redshirt sophomore tore her ACL in October 2021 and missed the entire 2021-22 season.

O’Grady was Czinano’s backup in 2021-22. As a freshman, O’Grady averaged nine minutes, four points, and 2.5 rebounds per game.

Goodman returned to the court near the end of the Hawkeyes’ summer practices. Bluder said she is excited to see the progress Goodman makes this season, adding the Iowan still has a way to go before she’s confident on the floor.

Goodman said she’s been practicing without limitations since her return from injury.

“It’s been a physical and mental battle coming back from an ACL tear,” Goodman said. “But I’m feeling good. I’m feeling pretty strong.”

Stuelke, who was a center in high school, and Ediger, who played just three minutes per game last year, have also been getting minutes in the post during practice.

Stuelke, out of Cedar Rapids Washington High School, was one of the Hawkeyes’ most highly touted recruits. She was ranked 45th nationally in the 2022 recruiting class, per ESPN, and was Miss Iowa Basketball and the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year.

“I played well for four and five, so that’s good, but there is a lot of depth,” Stuelke said. “A lot of really good girls. I’m excited to see where we go.”

With three other players in contention to play center, O’Grady has also been working at the 4 spot throughout fall practice. She didn’t get as much time as she wanted at power forward, however, when Czinano went down with an injury during summer practice.

With both Czinano and Goodman out, O’Grady was the main post player for around four weeks.

“I think that was honestly good that that happened because they got more minutes, they got more experience — all that type of stuff,” Czinano said of her injury. “She does great. All of them do so well when they go in. I’m so excited for them.”

Czinano is now fully recovered from her summer injury and prepared to play in Iowa’s exhibition against Nebraska-Kearney on Friday.

No matter who plays behind Czinano, Bluder is grateful to have depth at center — especially because it could help the Hawkeyes’ rebounding situation.

“I think the depth at the center position could keep Monika a little fresher, which will help her in that rebounding area,” Bluder said. “I think Hannah Stuelke is an excellent rebounder.”