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Bryce Miller: Printy a big weapon for Hawkeyes

[ 0 ] January 29, 2013 |

What things seem more likely than beating Iowa women’s basketball player Jaime Printy in a free-throw shooting contest?

Getting your hands on a Honus Wagner baseball card …

Prying a bacon-flavored chew toy away from a Rottweiler …

Going to happy hour with the Pope …

Printy is almost as sure a thing as there is in college basketball from 15 feet. Couple the free-throw touch with her defense and ability to score from all over the floor, and it gives freshly ranked Iowa the biggest late-game weapon in the Big Ten.

It all starts when the clock stops.

Printy leads the No. 24 Hawkeyes with a pace that would break Big Ten free-throw records for a single season and career.

“I think about it as free points,” she said.

There are more than 10,000 playing NCAA men’s and women’s basketball this season — but just a scant seven were shooting better than Printy’s 93.1 percent clip heading into this week.

Printy would call that number a bit of a slump, compared to how she’s buckled down in the conference. In the Big Ten, where Iowa moved into a tie for third Sunday with a 63-57 win at then-No. 23 Michigan, she’s at a staggering 96.7 percent.

“It’s really valuable,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “If you’re in a tight situation or with a little lead, we want the ball in Jaime’s hands — no ifs, ands and buts about it.”

As a freshman at Iowa, she once hit 136 in a row while shooting at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

It starts with the same routine: Spin the ball, four dribbles, shoot. The repetition, routine and relentless hours in the gym have made Printy the best Division I foul-line marksman or woman in Iowa, regardless of gender.

The Big Ten named Printy its player of the week after she averaged 21.5 points and 6.5 rebounds in wins over the Wolverines and Wisconsin.

Against Wisconsin, Printy scored 14 straight points for Iowa down the stretch — including a 12-0 run of her own to nail down the victory.

The senior from Linn-Mar of Marion became a one-woman Badger crusher when she scored on a layup with 5:25 to play. She followed with a 3-pointer, an old-fashioned 3-point play on a basket and foul, a layup and four consecutive free throws.

“She didn’t remember the 14 straight points she scored or the clutch shots — she remembered the one free throw she missed,” Bluder said of Printy, after her sole foul-line blemish of the conference season in 30 attempts.

“After the game, she was talking about that free throw.”

The more stress-inducing the situation, the more Printy succeeds. This season, Printy is 35-for-35 in the final five minutes of games — and 6-for-6 in overtime.

A reason Printy has neared perfection in an area where thousands of other high-level athletes fail, oddly enough, is because of a pair of serious knee injuries.

Printy molded herself into a good free-throw shooter by the time she reached high school, but found another net-scorching level when she suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury in her knee as a sophomore.

“That’s about all you can do at first when you have an ACL, so I was at the YMCA shooting (free throws) every day,” she said.

At Iowa, Printy was sidelined with another ACL injury that again allowed her more time to zero in on her precision from the line.

“When I had the surgery last February, I was non-weight bearing for seven weeks,” said Printy, who also has been named academic all-Big Ten every year she’s been eligible for the award. “Once I could start bending my knee a little and put weight on it, I started shooting free throws every day in the gym.

“I don’t know an exact number, but a lot of times it was for an hour or so — so that’s probably a lot.”

Piling up all of those points allowed Printy to become the sixth player in Hawkeye women’s history to eclipse the 1,700-point mark.

Printy is an important reason Iowa already is a virtual lock for the NCAA Tournament, after building a resume-polishing 6-0 record against ranked teams this season and a glowing No. 16 RPI.

The Hawkeyes, who have made the last five NCAA Tournaments, host two rounds this March at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Printy said she and seniors Morgan Johnson and Trisha Nesbitt have a goal to reach the Sweet 16 — something the program last pulled off in 1996.

“Jaime came to Iowa as a great free-throw shooter — and now she’s even better,” Bluder said. “There’s a ton of confidence there. She wants the ball in her hands in those situations.”

Still want to take a run at Printy from 15 feet?

Better yet: Look up the Vatican’s number online. I heard the Pope is thirsty.

Bryce Miller can be reached at 515-284-8288 or brmiller@dmreg.com. Follow him on Twitter: @Bryce_A_Miller

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes women's basketball

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