- Mechelle Voepel, espnW.com
- 0 Shares
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- There were folks who told Jaime Printy she really needed to think more about it. How many high school freshmen are absolutely certain about where they want to go to college?
But she was. At age 15, Printy committed to play basketball at Iowa. It was what she'd always planned on, pretty much since first attending games at Carver-Hawkeye Arena when she was in elementary school.
"I remember my grandpa taking me all the time," said Printy, a 5-foot-11 sophomore guard at Iowa. "Once I got older and understood how they played, I knew I could fit in basketball-wise. I got to know a lot of the players when I was committed for those four years before I got here. So when I came, I already felt like I was part of the team.
"A lot of people said, 'What are you doing? You don't know where you want to go when you're so young.' But I did know, and it took all the pressure off."
It also provided her peace of mind when she suffered a torn ACL, MCL and meniscus in her left knee in the fifth game of her sophomore year of high school. She didn't try to rush back, rehabbing for almost a full year before competing again.
"It was a relief knowing I already had a decision made," Printy said, "and that the whole Iowa coaching staff believed I would come back just as strong."
Printy grew up in Marion, Iowa, and attended Linn-Mar High School. Which also happens to be the alma mater of Hawkeyes coach Lisa Bluder.
"I grew up two houses away from her parents' house, but I didn't even know that until I committed," Printy said, adding with a laugh, "So Coach Bluder and I not only went to the same high school, we lived on the same street."
Marion, part of the greater Cedar Rapids metro area, is about 35 miles north of Iowa City. Printy's mom competed in track for Iowa. Jaime said, "We're a big Hawkeye family," but there is another team she and her parents, Kelly and Jeff, and younger sister, Jenna, root for as well.
That's Indiana State, where older brother Jordan, a redshirt junior guard, averages 7.2 points for the Sycamores.
"It's helped me a lot, not just in college, but my whole life," Jaime said of Jordan. "He's my role model; I always wanted to do everything Jordan does. We discuss our games all the time; we talk almost every day and give each other advice.
"I used to be able to hang with him playing, until he got so much bigger and stronger. But even now, we'll still go to the gym together and play, and he will teach me a lot. I definitely think he's made my game better."
Printy says working with teammates such as senior Kachine Alexander and junior Kamille Wahlin has helped her, too. Printy is averaging a team-high 15.6 points, and also leads the Hawkeyes with 39 3-pointers and 64 assists. But Bluder likely would point to Printy's defense as her biggest step forward as a sophomore.
"Last year, I was terrible at defense," Printy said, although she might be exaggerating a bit, as she was named Big Ten freshman of the year in 2010.
"In high school, I never really played much defense, to be honest. But I knew I had to do that to keep getting playing time here. So this summer, I focused on that a lot. I guarded Kach and Kamille as much as possible, and that's going to make you improve."
Printy started all 34 games last season and averaged 14.7 points. The Hawkeyes battled back from multiple injuries to advance to the Big Ten tournament title game and earn an NCAA tournament at-large bid.
Now, No. 20 Iowa is 14-3 overall and 2-2 in the conference after a cathartic 89-76 victory over Ohio State on Saturday. The Hawkeyes lost their first two league games and didn't play particularly well in a victory against Minnesota.
But things clicked against the Buckeyes, against whom Iowa had lost 13 of the previous 14 meetings. Printy led the way against Ohio State with 25 points, making 8 of 10 shots from the field and 7 of 9 from the line.
"Jaime put on a penetration clinic," Bluder said. "She was excellent getting to the basket."
Next up, though, is Big Ten leader Michigan State, ranked No. 10 at 15-1 and 3-0, on Thursday. That game will be televised on the Big Ten Network (6:30 p.m. ET).
There's no getting around it: Moving through the Big Ten season will be a grind for everyone. But Printy has the advantage of recharging her batteries with a quick drive to visit her family whenever she gets a chance.
"I'm the biggest homebody ever," she said. "I don't think I'd survive anywhere else."
Of course, Printy likely would have adjusted and done just fine had she left eastern Iowa. But the Hawkeyes are very glad she decided a long time ago to stay put.
Mechelle Voepel, a regular contributor to ESPN.com, can be reached at email@example.com. Read her blog at http://voepel.wordpress.com.
Moving through the Big Ten season will be a grind for everyone. But fueled by her nearby family and a longtime love for her team, Jaime Printy has the Hawkeyes pointed in the right direction.