Hedstrom’s role growing

The junior guard is playing everywhere on the floor for the Gophers this season.

Kaitlin Merkel

Gophers junior guard Joanna Hedstrom is finally seeing more time on the court than on the bench.
Hedstrom has played in all seven games this season, starting three and averaging 24.4 minutes per game. Her first two years on campus she averaged 7.8. 
“It really is exciting to be able to see that hard work from the first few years pay off with minutes,” Hedstrom said. “But what I’m really focused more on is whatever I can do for the team. … Every game I’ve kind of played a different position, and so I’m ready in whichever way we need.”
Hedstrom, who is listed as a guard, played point guard in high school in Minnetonka, Minn., and holds the scoring and assist records for Minnetonka High School. 
She’s played all over the court this season, though, seeing time at forward and at center while the team experiments with its frontcourt rotation.
“This year, some people in [the three and four] positions are out injured, or they’re new to the program, so it’s an opportunity for her to use her experience and her ability to score and her knowledge in all those positions to basically earn the minutes,” Gophers head coach Marlene Stollings said.
Hedstrom said her experience at point guard made transitioning to positions all over the court easier.
“As a point guard, you need to have a high basketball IQ and have a knowledge for the game, so it’s easier to transition from point guard to all of those other positions,” Hedstrom said. “It’s a challenge to be able to be versatile, and I like to be observant at every position.”
Hedstrom has averaged 5.6 points and 5 rebounds so far this season, up from her first two years in which she averaged just 1.1 points and rebounds per game.
She’s set a new career high in points twice this season, breaking her previous high with 11 points on Nov. 24 against Kent State and again when she had 14 points Sunday facing Towson. 
Hedstrom scored most of her points on Sunday playing in the frontcourt.
“She’s just one of those players that whatever we ask her to do, she’s capable of doing and she’s willing to give full effort,” redshirt senior guard Rachel Banham said. “We just really need her. It’s somebody that we just really need to come in and get decent minutes, whether it’s five minutes or 30.” 
Hedstrom’s ability to play every position also has made Stollings more confident in her ability to succeed on the floor.
“It gives us a level of trust with her that I really like having as a head coach because I know that she can be in the right spot in a number of places,” Stollings said.
The 6-foot-1-inch Hedstrom said she wants to continue to get stronger in order to hold her own in the frontcourt.
“[This summer] I really worked on playing tough and playing big. I knew that I would maybe be in positions … down low or at least boxing out bigger girls than I am,”
Hedstrom said. “I really want to continue to play big. I may be undersized at the five or the four, but [I want to] be able to set big screens that get people open and lead to points.”