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IOWA CITY — Ally Disterhoft is human, so perfection is impossible. And she hates it.
“Part of me is never satisfied,” Disterhoft said as she reflected on a remarkable basketball career at the University of Iowa. “If I have a game that looks good on paper and I miss a couple free throws, it bothers me.
“I probably don’t celebrate success as much as I should.”
Her father would second that statement.
“She is borderline obsessive with perfection, and sometimes it presents challenges for the coaches and with her relationships,” Jeff Disterhoft said. “She is very successful, but there are definitely downsides. Folks like Ally are tough to be satisfied, and that’s a tough way to go through life.
“I don’t know if she has enjoyed the ride as much as she should.”
A two-time (going on three) academic all-American and a two-time second-team all-Big Ten player, Disterhoft will play her final regular-season game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday, when the Hawkeyes (16-12 overall, 7-8 Big Ten) host Wisconsin (8-20, 3-12). Tipoff is 2 p.m.
And when it’s over, Disterhoft and the other seniors — Alexa Kastanek and Hailey Schneden — will take the microphone and speak to the Carver crowd. She’ll thank her family, her team, her coaches, the fans. There will be no script; the speech will go wherever it takes itself.
“I’m just going to go up there and talk from my heart,” she said. “I’m going to say what comes to me. I don’t know if I will get emotional. I put up a pretty tough exterior.”
If she leaves somebody out, or if she stumbles, she’ll surely stew about it. Ally Disterhoft is a brooder, someone who tries to attain the unattainable.
“I’m willing to put in a lot of work, whether that’s basketball or getting 100 percent on a paper in my Sport and Film class,” she said. “I want to be as close to perfect as I can be.”
Disterhoft is the second player in school history to reach 2,000 points in her career. Only Cindy Haugejorde (2,059) has more, and Disterhoft (2,003) can surpass her if the Hawkeyes can play enough games in the Big Ten tournament and the NCAA or WNIT.
“You look at the tradition of our program, and we’ve had so many great players,” Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder said. “To be only the second player to accomplish reaching 2,000, that’s a big deal. And she has done it while pouring her heart and soul into her academics.”
Disterhoft’s future is mapped out, and it doesn’t include basketball.
She will move to New York City this summer, working as an analyst for Barclays Investment Bank.
Disterhoft will miss the game — “I’m a competitor,” she said. “I’ll miss competing and having something to prove.” — but her body will welcome the break.
Before each game, Disterhoft is in the tunnel, loosening her achy knees on a stationary bike.
“They’ve been hurting for a while. We haven’t been able to pinpoint what it is,” she said. “They’ve taken a pounding the last four years. With some meds, the bike and treatment, I’m OK.”
According to her father, Disterhoft “had a basketball in her hands since she could hold a basketball.
Ally and her brother Nate (four years younger) begged their father every night to play at their Nerf hoop in the basement. They promised him they wouldn’t fight.
They always fought.
At Iowa City West, Disterhoft led the Women of Troy to the 2012 Class 4A state championship and was named Miss Iowa Basketball in 2013.
Bluder waited until after Disterhoft’s junior year to offer her a scholarship.
“We thought that was the fair thing to do to (West Coach) B.J. (Mayer), because they had a team that could win a state championship,” Bluder said.
In one of her first games in the Game Time League, Disterhoft got into a verbal and physical confrontation with point guard Samantha Logic.
“There were lots of elbows, a little smack talk,” Disterhoft recalled. “We were both competing, and I think that’s why we hit it off.”
Disterhoft, Logic and others helped lead Iowa to the Sweet 16 in 2015.
“That team was so close. To accomplish that, it was really special,” Disterhoft said.
A strong senior class graduated in 2015, leaving Disterhoft as the vocal leader the last two seasons. It isn’t always easy, because Disterhoft isn’t afraid to speak her mind. She holds others as accountable as she holds herself.
“It’s not always fun being a leader. You can’t please everybody,” Bluder said. “If your first desire is to be a well-liked person, you’re probably not going to be the best leader.
“Ally and I, we are so much alike. It’s good and bad, to be honest. Sometimes we butt heads because we’re so similar, even though I’m not nearly as intelligent as her. It can be a little explosive at times.”
Disterhoft said, “I want to be the best at something. I want to be the best I can be, and ultimately I want to be better than everybody else.”
The pursuit of perfection will continue for Ally Disterhoft in the next stage of her life. And it will eat at her when she realizes perfection is unattainable.
Excellence, however, is not.
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