Last year, Iowa’s freshman class saw relatively little playing time. Monika Czinano played in almost every game, but was Megan Gustafson’s backup and thus averaged only 5 minutes per contest. Tomi Taiwo saw her minutes increase towards year’s end, but still only played in 19 games. That was two more than Logan Cook, who played in 17 games, but didn’t get many minutes outside garbage time in Big Ten play.
That lack of playing time made sense, however. Last season’s Iowa team had five experienced starters that were capable of playing 30 plus minutes a night at a high level, along with a couple experienced bench options.
This year’s team doesn’t have that luxury. Iowa returns only four players (Kathleen Doyle, Makenzie Meyer, Alexis Sevillian, and Amanda Ollinger) who have averaged more than 10 minutes per game in any college season.
While Iowa’s overall lack of experience this year is cause for concern, it also presents an opportunity for Iowa’s four freshman to play early and often. Let’s take a closer look at those four freshman and the roles they will play this season.
6’0" | Guard | Edwardsville, Illinois
If Martin’s name sounds familiar, that’s because she was on the team last season. A torn ACL before the season began kept her off the floor her first year with the program, but she still got to experience the Elite Eight run. She also got to learn and adjust to college basketball without losing a year of eligibility thanks to a medical redshirt.
This year, Martin is healed and ready to play significant minutes. In my freshman preview last year, I said the best part about Martin’s game is that she does a lot of things well. She’s a decent shooter from three, plays tough defense, and rebounds better than most guards. In other words, she does all the little things that can earn a young player minutes early in her career. Martin may never lead the team in scoring, but she will contribute significantly to victories.
Role: Starter or key substitute. Amanda Ollinger was a little banged up in Iowa’s exhibition game, and Martin stepped into the lineup as the team’s fourth guard. She will likely start the season on the bench, but could take a starting position from either Ollinger or Alexis Sevillian depending on how the season goes. She should get a lot of minutes as either a starter or an impact sub.
6’1" | Guard/Forward | Marshall, Wisconsin
Warnock is the highest rated player in Iowa’s freshman class. A consensus 4-star recruit, she was rated 87th in the 2019 class by ESPN, and 52nd by Prospect Nation. She is also highly decorated, as she was named Wisconsin’s Gatorade player of the year in 2019, and was a four-time all-state selection.
What jumps out most about Warnock’s game is her scoring. She’s as tall as some posts, yet plays like a guard, with an above average three-point shot and the ability to drive and finish with layups or floaters around the rim. As a senior, Warnock averaged 29.7 points, 12.9 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game.
Though Warnock’s scoring will likely translate well to the next level, other areas of her game could use work. Despite the rebounding and block numbers, she isn’t a particularly great defender or rebounder as of now. She got those stats in high school as much because of her athleticism as sound fundamentals. If she wants to make a bigger impact in those areas in college, she will need to work on her positioning for both.
Role: Substitute initially, maybe starter by year’s end. Warnock will spend much of her college career as a stretch-4, and will be a matchup problem for opposing defenses from her first game. Amanda Ollinger is a senior that currently plays that position for Iowa, however, and her strengths are rebounding and defense. If Warnock can improve in those areas, it’ll be hard to keep her scoring off the floor. I could see Warnock starting in place of Ollinger by season’s end, but it’s not a foregone conclusion.
5’9" | Guard | Cincinnati, Ohio
A YouTube highlight video from three years ago proclaims that Marshall is the Female Steph Curry. While that might be overstating Marshall’s talent just a tad, she is an excellent three-point shooter. She shot 53.2% from 3-point range as a junior, and 42.6% as a senior. Marshall also positions herself well defensively, and is aggressive in passing lanes; she averaged nearly three steals per game in all four years of her high school career. As with Kate Martin, good shooting and defense are generally a great way to get onto the floor early in your college career.
In terms of negatives, Marshall’s release on her shot isn’t particularly quick. That’s no problem if she’s left open, but could cause issues when she’s trying to get shots off while being guarded closely. Marshall also averaged fewer than two assists per game for much of her high school career, despite being one of her team’s primary ball-handlers.
Role: Substitute guard. Coming into the season, I didn’t know whether Marshall would see the floor much this season. Iowa already has a number of veteran guards, and plenty of others who can shoot well off the bench. But in Iowa’s exhibition game, Marshall played 22 minutes and was Iowa’s 5th guard on the depth chart, ahead of Taiwo and several others. With Iowa’s recent switch to a perimeter-oriented offense, there’s a good chance Marshall will play a decent number of minutes this year.
5’8" | Guard | Mason City, Iowa
Megan Meyer is the younger sister of Iowa senior Makenzie Meyer. The two were briefly teammates once before when, as a freshman and senior respectively, the Meyer sisters helped win Mason City a state title. At the time, Makenzie was finishing up a great high school career that saw her score more than 1,500 points and set many of the school’s three-point records. Those marks didn’t stand for long, however, as Megan scored 1,882 points in her career, and set the school’s single-season three-point mark at 71.
Given that they’re sisters, one might think there games are similar, but that isn’t really the case. Makenzie is more of a shooting guard that looks to shoot first, whereas Megan is a point guard who prefers to penetrate into the lane. Megan can also hit plenty of threes in her own right, though, and is solid both in her passing ability and defense.
Role: Depth guard. Makenzie played significant minutes from her first game in a Hawkeye uniform, and became a starter part way through her freshman season. Iowa had far less guard depth a few years ago, though, and minutes will be harder to come by for Megan this season. If the exhibition is any indication, Megan is unlikely to see significant playing time in her first year with Iowa. If she works on her game and continues to improve, more playing time might be available in the future when some of Iowa’s guard depth from this year graduates.
Unlike last season, Iowa’s freshman this year will certainly have a big impact on the team. Kate Martin looks like she will see significant playing time coming off of her redshirt, and McKenna Warnock’s scoring potential should earn her plenty of early minutes, too. Gabbie Marshall should join the duo in playing a role in the rotation, as she already appears to have jumped several older players on the depth chart. Finally, Coach Bluder will likely try to get Megan Meyer some playing time with her sister during the season, though she is unlikely to play in Iowa’s biggest games unless injuries move her up the depth chart.