Iverson takes charge for women’s hoops

Aaron Kirscht

The first thing that grabs your attention is the eyes — deep set, intense, foreboding. Angie Iverson always looks angry on the basketball court.
And judging by her stats, Iverson has been playing angry. She leads the Big Ten in rebounding with 13 per game, and is averaging double digits in the scoring column as well.
“I like to try to intimidate people,” Iverson said. “I want other teams to look at me and say, `We better stay away from her. She looks focused and ready to play.’
“Game time is serious time, and I always try to think that way.”
Iverson’s performance has been a saving grace for the Gophers this season, who have been unable to pull out of their 25-game Big Ten tailspin. And compounding losses lead to mounting pressure, especially for the team’s leading player.
“There’s a little bit (of pressure),” Iverson said. “But I put a lot of it on myself. I’m a third-year player. If things go bad, I know I have to step it up.”
The Gophers aren’t a team of superstars. But Iverson, the team captain, looks like the real deal. Against Colorado State on Dec. 3, she posted a career-high 25 rebounds — and broke a 12-year-old Gophers record. Iverson has also had a pair of 17-rebound games, including one last week against Michigan.
“It’s kind of surprising,” Iverson said. “Before the season, I set a personal goal of getting 8 to 10 rebounds a game, and I’m doing that. There’s always room for improvement, though. Sometimes I don’t box out and another player gets the rebound, so I always have to work on getting better.”
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of Iverson’s success is her relatively diminutive stature. Iverson stands only 6 feet tall, making her the Big Ten’s shortest starting center.
The Gophers roster lists Iverson as a forward, but she has started nearly every game in the middle. Her ability to maneuver around taller, stronger opponents in search of rebounds, Iverson said, is “a gift.”
“I’ve been told I have an uncanny knack of knowing where the ball is going to go,” she said. “There’s some luck, but there’s a lot of hard work in there, too.”
Iverson has gained a league-wide reputation as a fierce rebounder, but her offensive abilities are often overlooked. The team leader, she averages nearly 15 points per game, including a career-high 24-point night against Green Bay last month.
Still, Iverson’s efforts have proved futile, as the Gophers are actually behind the pace of last season’s disappointing 4-23 finish.
“I have to keep telling myself that I’m here to play,” Iverson said. “We’ve all been given the opportunity to play at a Big Ten school, so it’s our responsibility to work hard and do our best.
The Big Ten standings don’t show it, but Iverson says this is a better team than last season. Thirty- or 40-point margins of defeat have been whittled down to more manageable levels. The Gophers lost by 43 to Iowa a season ago, but played the Hawkeyes tough last weekend before losing 61-48.
“I don’t think we really know how to win,” Iverson said. “It’s been so long. We just need to get one under our belt and go from there.”
Because she plays on a struggling team, Iverson may not get the attention she deserves. But Coach Linda Hill-MacDonald said her center may be getting a bum rap.
“I don’t think there’s anybody who works any harder than Angie Iverson,” Hill-MacDonald said. “There are not too many who rebound better, and she’s been consistent. When other teams are writing up scouting reports, they’re keying on Angie, because of the impact she’s had for us and the job she’s done against other teams.”
“I just have to keeping giving it a lot of hard work and effort,” Iverson said. “I want to win so bad.”