When Gophers freshman center Annalese Lamke heard about head coach Kathi Bennett’s resignation at the University of Northern Illinois last April, she moved on from her commitment to the school.
That led the Galesville, Wisc., native to neighboring Minnesota, only two and a half hours from her hometown and even closer to her brother Chandler, a football player at the University of St. Thomas.
“I’m only 15 minutes away from him,” Lamke said. “My brother’s one of my biggest fans. We’re basically best friends, so I’ll be able to watch his football games, [and] he can come watch all my basketball games. So it’s a perfect thing.”
The Gophers announced the addition of Lamke in July, and she went right to work for the team. The 6-foot-3-inch freshman has played in 16 of the team’s 19 games this season and has started all eight conference games.
“It’s meant a lot [to start],” Lamke said. “You don’t want to lose your starting spot. You just want to keep working hard and make sure that the team is benefitting from me being in that position.”
In her 16 appearances, Lamke has averaged 7.6 minutes and 1.9 for both points and rebounds per game for the Gophers.
She scored the team’s first four points on Saturday against the Wisconsin Badgers in her return to her home state.
“We love her passion and her work ethic. We love how she starts the game. She’s very into it,” head coach Marlene Stollings said. “She’s high-energy, she works hard, she gives us a good start, and we like that going into the game.”
The Gophers have rotated through different starting centers this year, but Lamke worked to make sure once she got the job she could hold onto it.
“I’ve been working a lot on my conditioning and just doing a lot of extra conditioning outside of practice in the season,” Lamke said. “Just making sure I’m locking in and really working hard on my defense and knowing my plays, so when I’m in the game, I can run them to perfection.”
Gophers sophomore guard Carlie Wagner said Lamke has already proven valuable in Big Ten play.
“From the first practice in the season until now she’s improved so much in every way. Her defense, her mentality, her [physicality], everything,” Wagner said. “She’s very strong, she’s hard to move around and [she] rebounds well, so she’s been a key for us this whole Big Ten season.”
After finalizing her college plans later than normal this past summer, Lamke said she hopes to continue complementing the team’s shooters as one of the few true frontcourt players often in the lineup.
“I definitely think I can bring my physicality to the team and just my size, clearing the way for some of the guards to have an easier [path] to the basket,” Lamke said, “[And] grabbing rebounds when I can.”
Ben Gotz contributed to this report.