NORTH LIBERTY, Ia. – They share little physical resemblance.
They play different positions, one a point guard, the other a center.
And they come from different states.
Tania Davis and Megan Gustafson are different in so many ways, but they share the same goal of trying to help the Iowa women’s basketball program stay on a roll.
They also share a similar challenge of trying to replace a star player, which in Davis’ case, is former all-America point guard Sam Logic, who used up her eligibility this past season.
“She set it really high, definitely,” Davis said of the standard set by Logic. “Just watching a couple games, what she did, what she didn’t do, just pushing the ball, I learned a lot from Sam just by watching her on TV and learning her style of play.”
Gustafson’s challenge will be helping to fill the void left by all-Big Ten center Bethany Doolittle, who also used up her eligibility at Iowa last season.
“I’m going to work hard, she’s going to work hard to play as much as we can, whether we have to come off the bench or whether we start,” Davis said. “We’re definitely going to contribute to the team in every way we can.”
Davis and Gustafson now have something else in common as teammates in the Game Time League. They both made their GTL debuts on Wednesday and did so in spectacular fashion.
The 5-foot-4 Davis scored 26 points and dished out five assists, while the 6-3 Gustafson scored 17 points and grabbed 19 rebounds, leading their team to a 103-78 victory at the North Liberty Community Center.
“It was a lot of fun to be able to play in front of the people in Iowa City and show them what I have,” Davis said.
What Davis has is a game built on quickness, anticipation and court vision. The Grand Blanc, Mich., native blew past her defenders on a regular basis during Wednesday’s game, while also showing a nice touch from 3-point range and a willingness to pass.
“I love to get the ball out and I love to run,” Davis said. “I love to score on layups and get my teammates open threes and open looks. I just like to run.”
Gustafson showed a willingness to bang inside during Wednesday’s game. She was relentless with her approach to rebounding on both ends of the court.
“I’m trying to work hard and I’m trying to be the best post player that I can be,” said Gustafson, who is from Port Wing, Wis.
Davis and Gustafson both were hugely successful as high school basketball players. Davis overcame her lack of height to be named Miss Basketball in Michigan. She is also ranked by ESPN as 37th best prospect in the 2015 senior class.
Gustafson averaged 40.3 points per game as a senior and ended her career as the all-time leading scorer in Wisconsin. She also averaged 18.9 rebounds per game as a senior. Gustafson led the state of Wisconsin in scoring and rebounding as a junior and senior.
She and Davis had plenty of options for college, but they ultimately chose the Hawkeyes because each felt it was the best fit.
“The campus is beautiful and just meeting the coaches, they’re great,” Gustafson said of why she picked Iowa. “And it was super cool when I got to meet the team.”
Iowa’s success under veteran coach Lisa Bluder also played a role in landing both players. The Hawkeyes advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 this past season and have combined to win 53 games over the past two seasons.
“I knew that Iowa had a really great program and I really wanted to be a part of it,” Gustafson said.
Davis is impressed with how the Iowa players support each other on and off the court.
“It’s just my first week here and it already feels like a family,” Davis said.
Gustafson will have this summer to get used to Davis’ up tempo style of play. Gustafson didn’t play with or against any point guards in high school that were as explosive as Davis.
“No, not at all,” Gustafson said. “She’s so fast. It’s crazy.”
Davis scored many of her baskets in high school in transition or simply by blowing past a slower defender. She still hopes to do that in college, but knows that it won’t be as easy getting to the basket in college, partly because of her size.
That’s why Davis is working hard this summer to improve as a 3-point shooter.
“It’s a big part now that I’m here at Iowa,” Davis said. “Usually, in high school I could use my foot speed. But now that I’m in college I’ll have to be able to shoot the three ball. So I’ve been working on it really, really tough. And now that I’m here at Iowa, I will continue to work on it.”
Both players had added incentive to perform well during Wednesday’s game with their future head coach watching from the stands. Bluder was allowed to watch the game without it being an NCAA violation because her daughter, Hannah Bluder, plays on the same GTL team as Davis and Gustafson.
Davis and Gustafson are among four players in Iowa’s incoming recruiting class, which is ranked 17th nationally by ESPN. The other two players in the class are forward Tagyn Larson from Sioux Falls, S.D., and forward Hannah Stewart from Minot, N.D.
Larson, who is the younger sister of former Iowa basketball recruit Cody Larson, missed Wednesday’s game because of bruised bone in her foot.