Women’s Basketball Feature: Jaeschke has new buddies battling boards with her

Sarah Kuta

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Ask a Big Ten basketball coach what comes to mind when thinking about Northwestern basketball and there’s one resounding answer.

“When you think of Northwestern basketball, you think of Amy (Jaeschke),” Minnesota coach Pam Borton said. “She’s one of the best post players in the country.”

That kind of notoriety can be backed up by Jaeschke’s national recognition. This year, she’s an All-American candidate. Last year she was invited to try out for the USA Basketball National team.

But it isn’t just hype – Jaeschke’s numbers state her case to be the face of NU basketball.She was the team’s leading scorer last season, averaging 13.9 points per game. Jaeschke was the only NU player to start all 30 games, and was the first in 12 years to earn Big Ten Player of the Week honors after her efforts against Wisconsin. She finished the season fifth in the nation with 3.2 blocks per game and scored in double digits 21 times.

After Sunday’s exhibition game against Robert Morris, it appears Jaeschke will maintain her role as one of the Cats’ leading scorers. She helped pace NU to a 119-66 victory over the Eagles, adding 23 points and six rebounds.

If the game against Robert Morris is any indication, Jaeschke and the Cats are well on their way towards a successful season – and Jaeschke said she knows it.

“Right off the bat we’re already 10 steps ahead of where we were last year,” Jaeschke said.

One of those advances is this year’s recruiting class. Freshman Dannielle Diamant at six-foot-five and Kendall Hackney at six-foot-two add to the team’s depth. Last season, coach Joe McKeown didn’t have another player with Jaeschke’s size to replace her when she got into foul trouble or needed a break.

The team’s new height takes some of the burden off Jaeschke’s shoulders. She no longer has the tall order of striking the fine line between competing hard and avoiding foul trouble.

“It takes a lot of pressure off Amy,” McKeown said. “She doesn’t have to feel like she’s playing in a league where everybody else is six-foot-five and everybody on our team is five-foot-seven or five-foot-eight.”

Freshman forward Kendall Hackney is most impressed with Jaeschke’s consistency. Aside from leading by example, Jaeschke has become a friend to Hackney, giving her rides after practices and around campus.

Knowing Jaeschke “has her back” both on and off the court has made her even more of a role model for Hackney.

“I know I can count on her to score,” Hackney said. “I’ll pass it to the post and be like, ‘She’s got this, I’m not even worried about it.’ I know she’s going to work her hardest because she has to battle the bigs.”

Jaeschke does just that – and for more minutes than anyone else on the team. Last season, she played all 40 minutes in four games and averaged a team-high 35.9 minutes per game. In an overtime loss to Purdue, Jaeschke played a season-high 43 minutes.With this year’s taller supporting cast, Jaeschke said she knows she can sub in and out of the game when she needs a break without compromising height. McKeown said he hopes the additional depth will allow her to become an even more confident and aggressive player.

“The big thing for Amy is to take that next step toward becoming a great player every night,” McKeown said. “She’s not worried about anything but, ‘Give me the ball, get out of the way and let’s go play.’ You have to practice at that level and it has to be a mentality of everyday.”

Along with that aggressive mindset, junior guard Meshia Reed said Jaeschke has to be an agile player, bouncing back when she is guarded by two, three or even four players at once, as was the case when NU played Michigan last season.

“She’s told me it’s kind of physically taxing on her body,” Reed said. “She has to expect to get hit, take the hit and keep rolling. I think mentally she’s always ready for a challenge.”For McKeown, being a leader on the court takes more than bouncing back or being loud. By coming to practice early or coming in on her own, Jaeschke has set an example for the underclassmen on the team while being a quiet leader.

“I see the respect they have for Amy,” he said. “Leadership sometimes gets way too overvalued. You hear people yelling and screaming, and they say, ‘That’s a leader.’ But she may be yelling the wrong thing. A leader is herself and she doesn’t change who she is, and people respect that about Amy.”

Though she has garnered the respect of her teammates and coaches from other teams, Jaeschke remains humble.

“She understands that she’s going to make mistakes,” Hackney said. “But she let’s it go and she laughs it off and she’s right back at it.”sarahkuta2012@u.northwestern.edu