Iowa’s Megan Gustafson, Lisa Bluder earn prestigious awards
Throughout her record-setting senior season with Iowa women’s basketball team, Megan Gustafson repeatedly pointed out she wasn’t experiencing success on her own.
“This isn’t just about me. I wouldn’t be anything without my teammates and coaches,’’ Gustafson said shortly before becoming the Hawkeyes’ career scoring leader in December. “This is a team game and any success I have, it’s because of the people I’m surrounded by.’’
Saturday, both Gustafson and the coach who led Iowa to a memorable season were honored.
Gustafson earned another national player of the year honor, selected as the first Big Ten women’s basketball player to be named as the recipient of the Naismith Player of the Year Award and Iowa coach Lisa Bluder was announced as the Naismith Coach of the Year.
It marks the 10th time in the 36-year history of the Naismith Award that a player and coach from the same school have swept the honors.
“Megan displayed the talent worthy of the Women’s Citizen Naismith Trophy throughout her college career, capping it off with a record-breaking senior season and Lisa’s leadership of the Hawkeyes and passion for the game made her deserving of the Werner Ladder Naismith Coach of the Year honor,’’ said Eric Oberman, executive director of the Atlanta Tipoff Club which presents the awards.
Bluder is the first Hawkeye coach to win the honor since C. Vivian Stringer won it in 1993 after guiding Iowa to the only Final Four appearance in the program’s history.
The 19th-year Hawkeye coach whose career began 35 years ago at St. Ambrose was selected over a field of finalists which included Wes Moore of North Carolina State, Kim Mulkey of Baylor and Vic Schaefer of Mississippi State.
Gustafson was among a group of finalists for the Naismith which included Asia Durr of Louisville, Sabrina Oonescu of Oregon and Arike Ogunbowale of Notre Dame.
The Naismith Award is the third national player of the year honor won by Gustafson, who previously received that honor from the Associated Press and ESPN. The two-time Big Ten player of the year also was selected as the winner of the Senior CLASS Award.
The 6-foot-3 post player from Port Wing, Wisconsin, will likely be selected in the WNBA draft on Wednesday.
She led the nation in scoring for the second straight season with an average of 27.9 points per game and was the nation’s top shooter with at 69.6 percent. She finished third nationally in rebounding with an average of 13.4 per game.
Gustafson, who on Monday became just the fourth NCAA Division I player to score 1,000 points in a single season, ended her Iowa career with 2,804 points and 1,460 rebounds. She ranks fifth in Big Ten history in scoring and she became the conference’s career rebounding leader during Iowa’s NCAA tourney opener last month.
Her work came as part of a 29-7 season for Iowa, which made its first Elite Eight appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 1993 and claimed its first Big Ten tourney championship since 2001 after finishing one game behind Maryland during the Big Ten regular-season race.
Bluder was recognized after leading Iowa to a win total which equaled the most in program history and marked the 12th time in 19 years the Hawkeyes have won 20 games.
The Atlanta Tipoff Club presents its awards in ceremonies held in the community where the recipient competes. Both Gustafson and Bluder will receive their trophies in Iowa City later this year.