2019 NCAA TOURNAMENT

Mikan Drill going viral with Megan Gustafson, and her admirers

Iowa star wants to 'inspire young girls to dream big'

Megan Gustafson has a piece of net tied to her headband after Iowa defeated Missouri, 68-52, in a second-round NCAA women's basketball game Sunday. The Hawkeyes face North Carolina State in the Sweet 16 on Saturday in Greensboro, N.C. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Megan Gustafson has a piece of net tied to her headband after Iowa defeated Missouri, 68-52, in a second-round NCAA women's basketball game Sunday. The Hawkeyes face North Carolina State in the Sweet 16 on Saturday in Greensboro, N.C. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — The copycat videos are out there.

Little girls, trying to emulate Megan Gustafson’s “Mikan Drill,” a two-ball workout in which she tosses in one layup after another. Left-handed. Right-handed. Left, right, left.

In the original video, Gustafson makes 40 shots in 40 seconds, all one-handed. She makes it look routine. It’s not.

Imitation is the highest form of flattery, it is said. And Gustafson is flattered to see others following her lead.

“It’s pretty amazing, seeing those,” said Gustafson, the ESPN women’s basketball national player of the year. “All I wanted to do is have a positive attitude and inspire young girls to dream big.”

Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder has seen the videos, too.

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“That’s the stuff that chokes you up,” Bluder said. “Seeing kids that want to be like Megan ... that’s the impact you want your players to have.

“When I started coaching here, I wanted every little girl to dream about being a Hawkeye. Now, girls — and boys — want to be a Hawkeye, and a lot of that’s because of Megan’s influence.”

The brilliance of Gustafson — and the success of the Hawkeyes — has captured the hearts of a good portion of Eastern Iowa. More than 23,000 fans attended the Hawkeyes’ first- and second-round NCAA Tournament games last weekend. That’s an NCAA record.

“Falling in love with this team, it’s easy to do,” Bluder said. “They’re great teammates, examples, role models.”

The eighth-ranked Hawkeyes (28-6) flew to Greensboro, N.C., Thursday, in preparation for Saturday’s NCAA regional semifinal game against No. 10 North Carolina State (28-5).

Tipoff is 10:30 a.m. (Iowa time) at Greensboro Coliseum, to be followed by No. 1 Baylor (33-1) and No. 17 South Carolina (23-9). Winners play Monday for a spot in the Final Four.

Iowa is in the Sweet 16 for the seventh time, the second in Bluder’s 19 seasons. Her other Sweet 16 squad came in 2015.

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“Every team is a little different, they all have different personalities,” Bluder said.

The personality of this team?

“They embrace the good,” Bluder said. “Some teams, for (a diversion), we might have to take a day and play Wiffle ball or dodgeball. If I did that with this team, they’d say, ‘What the heck are you doing, Coach? We’ve got work to do.’”

Yes, there is. The Iowa-NCSU game looks to be a tossup.

“Neither team is really deep,” Bluder said. “Both have a really good center. They might look for the 3-ball a little more than we do. We will probably want to play at a faster rate than they do.”

Gustafson will be challenged in the paint by Wolfpack freshman Elissa Cunane, who stands 6-foot-5.

“I see this matchup as the veteran against the rookie, experience against the next up-and-coming center,” Bluder said.

A victory Saturday would get the Hawkeyes to 29 wins, which would match the 1987-88 squad for the most in school history. That team reached the Elite Eight.

l Comments: (319) 368-8857; jeff.linder@thegazette.com

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