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As Iowa advances, Megan Gustafson watches from Greece: ‘The Final Four is history; I think they’re going to get it done’
The 2019 national player of the year chimes in on Monika Czinano’s development, Caitlin Clark’s pursuit of her Iowa scoring record and more
SEATTLE — Megan Gustafson is in the middle of a professional national-championship best-of-7 series.
She also is sleep-deprived.
Gustafson set her alarm for 1:30 a.m. Saturday, in time for the NCAA women’s basketball Sweet 16 tipoff between Iowa and Colorado.
“It’s so exciting,” said Gustafson, 26, and Iowa’s all-time leading scorer (for now). “It brings back so many memories.”
The national player of the year in 2019, Gustafson led the Hawkeyes to the Elite Eight that year; the road ended at Greensboro, N.C., against eventual-champion Baylor.
Monika Czinano was a freshman backup to Gustafson on that team. Kate Martin had arrived in Iowa City as well, but was redshirting due to a torn ACL.
Gustafson has a huge soft spot for her former understudy, who blossomed into an elite post in her own right.
“Monika deserves so much more credit that she gets,” Gustafson said. “She really is the engine to this team.
“I remember before Monika got on campus, (assistant coach) Jan (Jensen) came up to me and said, ‘There’s a freshman who has a lot of potential.’
“She was raw, but she was so positive and willing to do whatever it takes. Whatever I did, she did. On off days, I would text her and tell her I was going to the gym. She never complained. It was always, ‘OK, I’m ready.’”
Czinano still shakes her head about those days, and about Gustafson’s role in her success.
“Here’s Megan, a senior All-American and the Big Ten player of the year, asking a freshman to tag along,” Czinano said. “I probably slowed down her workouts so much.
“If Megan hadn’t done that for me, I never would have known what it takes to get to this level.”
When Gustafson concluded her career with 2,804 points, it was widely believed that her scoring record would last for a long, long time.
Then along came Caitlin Clark.
“As soon as I saw her play as a freshman, I thought, ‘Yeah, this record isn’t going to last long at all,’” Gustafson said. “I love it.”
Clark’s scoring total stands at 2,605 points, with one season remaining, and maybe two.
“Playing with Caitlin would be so much fun,” Gustafson said. “In September, I jumped in with the team. Caitlin and I were on the same team ... we did pretty well.”
So, who would win between Iowa 2019 and Iowa 2023?
“Whew, I think about that sometimes,” Gustafson said. “It would be a back-and-forth battle.
“It’s crazy how similar the teams are. Monika and me, Caitlin and Kathleen (Doyle).”
Gustafson was walking home from the beach during an interview Saturday. Her European pro team, Olympiacos, holds a 2-1 lead in the Greek League finals. Game 4 is Thursday.
Meanwhile, third-ranked Iowa (28-6) faces Louisville (26-11) Sunday; tipoff is 8 p.m. (CT) at Climate Pledge Arena.
Win, and the Hawkeyes advance to the Final Four (next week at Dallas) for the first time since 1993.
Gustafson will set her alarm again ... it will be 3 a.m. Monday in Greece.
“It will be hard to wake up, but I’m not going to miss it,” Gustafson said. “Getting to the Final Four ... it’s history.
“I think they’re going to get it done.”