116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY - Zion Sanders almost tried out for the rowing team.
But when her high school coach told her she had the opportunity to walk on to the basketball team at Iowa, the rest was history. Sanders earned a scholarship and here she is, three years later, going into her final home game as a Hawkeye senior.
'It's very awesome, a lot of people just want the minutes, but I'm fine with not having them,” Sanders said. 'I know I have other things to offer. I've been here for four years and I've learned so many things from such incredible players. I've been able to share some of the knowledge that I've learned over the years with the different types of players.”
Sanders has had her moments to shine. She had a key steal in the second half of the 2019 Big Ten tournament championship game against Maryland, where Iowa went on to snatch its first title since 2001. In the game against Western Kentucky that season, she went 3-for-3 on 3-pointers.
But her favorite memories are traveling with her team all over the world - and never losing to in-state rival Iowa State. She's learned how to support her teammates off the court and values the sisterhood they've built, which inspired her to apply to graduate programs in sports management and hopefully become a coach someday.
Then there are seniors like Alexis Sevillian, who know what it's like to spend a lot of time on the court. But even her role changed this season as she took a back seat.
'It's been a hard year for those guys - for Alexis specifically - because she redshirted her first year for us to balance out our recruiting classes and then she's a part-time starter, full-time starter and then this year she really becomes a role player for us,” Bluder said. 'A lot of it was because of health issues, offseason injuries that really didn't come back as well as they're supposed to.”
In the 2017-18 season, Sevillian led the team in 3-pointers made with 59, the second most as a freshman in program history. She tallied nine points in the fourth quarter against Northwestern to aid in Iowa's Big Ten tournament run that year.
As a sophomore in 2018-19, Sevillian's clutch moment came in a victory over No. 7 Maryland when she knocked in a 3-pointer with just over two minutes left to extend a lead for the Hawkeyes to capture the win. She registered single-season career highs in assists and steals that year, with 78 and 18, respectively. She surpassed the number of steals in a shortened 2019-20 season with 25. At the time, she also was averaging three or more assists per game.
Through those years, she also was an academic All-Big Ten honoree as a health and human physiology major. In her final season, she's seen action in 15 games.
But both seniors' impact off the court is what attracted players like junior Monika Czinano to come to Iowa.
'I think those two just have so much leadership and they bring so much love and support to our team that I'm really going to miss them,” Czinano said.
As Iowa (14-8, 10-8 Big Ten) returns home for its final regular-season game against Nebraska (11-10, 9-9) at 7 p.m. Saturday (BTN+), the team on the court may visibly be youthful, but it's the leadership of the seniors they lean on when fans aren't looking who make Iowa the team it is.
'At the end of the day, the ball is going to stop bouncing,” Sanders said. 'But those friendships and those connections that you're going to have are going to last a lifetime.”
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