OPENING STATEMENT: I learned there are no guarantees absolutely in any season, but I am pretty certain that when you go down to Carver-Hawkeye Arena today that you are going to be met by a group of women that are going to be very positive, very focused and very intense about the upcoming season. I believe that we have the potential to be a very, very good basketball team this year. This is a team that's very flexible. We can put a lot of different combinations out on the floor. People can play some different roles for this team. We have people that can play a variety of positions.
The No. 1 reason that I'm optimistic about this team is our senior leadership. I've always believed that you can have good teams without great senior leadership, but you can't have great teams unless you have great senior leadership. Jennie Lillis leads the bunch. Jennie is one of the best leaders that I've ever had the opportunity to coach. She's a person that just loves the game. She loves this university. She loves her teammates. She loves her coaches. She's just passionate about succeeding. I remember several years ago I was devastated after a loss. I was kind of disappointed that my players weren't equally as devastated as I was. I remember a conversation I had with my mom. I called her up. She said, "Lisa, you have to remember that players don't care as much about winning as much as you do. But I have met my match in Jennie Lillis. Without doubt, she has the opitome of a winning attitude and the desire to win. That desire to win had made her not only one of the top players in teh Big Ten Conference, but I believe in the country. I'm very thankful that she's wearing an Iowa jersey.
Becca McCann hasn't always gotten the notoriety that Jennie Lillis has, but she has made a huge behind-the-scenes impact for this basketball team. There's a reason she's been voted captain of our team the past two years. Her peers know what she means to this team. She leads by example. She's a very vocal leader. She does everything that I ask of her and more. She's a person that cares very deeply about people. She's mature beyond her years. She's a tremendous leader for our team.
With Kristi Faulkner, I can't take credit for recruiting Jennie or Becca, but I will take credit for recruiting Kristi Faulkner. One of my first phone calls that I received when I took the Iowa job was from Kristi Faulkner. We were recruiting her at Drake University. I can't imagine where our team would be the past three years without Kristi Faulkner. Kristi works hard all of the time. She's obviously a great shooter, a great penetrator, a great passer. She's not afraid of taking the ball to the hoop hard, drawing a foul, going to the free throw line. She has so many skills and she can play the two or the one both very, very well. I like the flexibility that Kristi brings to our team.
The point guard position is obviously unanswered right now, but I'm hanging my hat on Lindsay Richards. I have the utmost confidence in Lindsay Richards as our point guard. She was brought here to lead this team to be the coach on the floor and she will do that. She has a tremendous knowledge of the game. She see the floor well. She understands what needs to happen. She's a student of the game. We had every intention of her being our main point guard when we brought her here. She's in that role right now.
I think the key for us is the development of several players. One of those players is Jamie Cavey. I just think that Jamie needs to have as much confidence in herself as her teammates and her coaches have. Once she can accomplish that, the sky is the limit for Jamie. She proved how good she could be at the end of the year last year. She averaged over nine points a game in the last eight games of the year. The way that she attacked Janel McCarville in the Big Ten Tournament. The way that she won the Marquette game with a game-winning shot. She's proved that she can be there. She's going to be a very good player with her continual development, but we need to have it happen this year.
Tifanny Reedy had great improvements over the summer. She's over that freshman shock, and she's ready to be an impact player. She's accepted that responsibility, and she's stepping up to the place. Tiffany is one of those people that will be fighting for a starting role on this team.
Johanna Solverson was on the all-freshmen team last year. She has the potential to be a great player in our league. It's up to us coaches though to draw that ability out of her and for her to understand the team aspect of the game of basketball. She needs to blend her individual skills into a team game.
Crystal Smith made great improvements over the summer as well. We saw the biggest improvements in Crystal in our tour to Italy. The last game in Italy she was our leading scorer. She's really stepped up with her 3-point shooting. Crystal changes the dimension of our team when she's in there. She's so quick, and she brings such a great defensive intensity to the court that teams have to adjust to her. I think she enjoys wreaking havoc with the opposing offense. I think that Crystal can be a good factor for our team this year.
We only have one freshman, Deb Remmerde. She's only one, but she's a might one. The records speak for themselves - all-time leading scorer in Iowa history, the best 3-point shooter in Iowa history, the best free throw shooter in Iowa history, Miss Iowa Basketball last year, MVP of the State Tournament last year, captain of the all-tournament team last year. She's a very, very good basketball player. I think you've probably all seen that T-shirt that says "Life is basketball and the rest is just details." Well, that's how Deb leads her life. That slogan was made after Deb. She's paid her dues. She will make an impact on our team as a freshman.
I think the Italy tour really benefitted our team. It will benefit our team this year in a variety of ways. One is for Lindsay Richards. She only played in eight games last year. So for her to get those extra four games over the course of the summer and those 10 practices to know that her knee can respond to that, that's a huge confidence boost for her. I think our team chemistry really grew through our Italy tour. I think our team chemistry was already good. That's something that our team has excelled at. I really feel that everyone on our team has a similar moral compass. Everybody understands that they have to sacrifice for the team. When you have those understandings, you have good team chemistry. I also think that they grew an appreciation during that Italy tour. They grew in their appreciation of art, food, travel, teammates. That also gave them the courage to explore. Those are all things that are going to help them out on the floor this year.
We have another challenging schedule. We're bringing in Kansas State, a team that's ranked in the Top 4 in the country in most polls. We are playing host to instate rival Drake University. Our nemisis Creighton from last year will be making an appearance in Carver-Hawkeye Arena this year. We also will be having in our Gazette Hawkeye Challenge. One of the highlights of that will be having the Houston team coming in. Houston has the top scorer in America returning. Chandi Jones averaged almost 30 points a game. We're going to Marquette. We're going to UNI. We're going to Iowa State. We're going to Missouri. We're going to play in the Florida International Tournament. So you can see, we don't have any week links on this schedule. It's a very good schedule. And of course, when the Big Ten begins, four of the Top 20 teams in America are in the Big Ten right now. So, it's going to be an incredibly challenging schedule. We even have great exhibitions. We're playing Athletes in Action. We're also playing South Dakota State, a Division II school that was the national champion last year and had the player of the year (Mandy Koupal)for Division II. She'll be coming in here in the exhibition. We know that we have even challenging exhibitions. But we know that this is a team that's ready for that challenge.