Nov. 5, 2012
Editor's Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa's Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- It will take more than an exhibition game crowd to faze University of Iowa freshman women's basketball player Kali Peschel. She has been performing in front of fans since fourth grade, sometimes while spinning two basketballs simultaneously on her fingertips.
True to head coach Lisa Bluder's preseason word, Peschel was the first UI newcomer off the bench Sunday during the Hawkeyes' 86-51 win against Quincy University. The guard from Sauk Centre, Minn., logged 17 minutes, making 3-of-7 field goals (1-of-5 from 3-point range) with two rebounds for seven points.
"She can play a two, three, or four for us," UI head coach Lisa Bluder said at media day Oct. 16. "I expect that she is going to be in the mix of things right away. She is a very good player, and we need to have her on the floor, even as a freshman."
As a Division I basketball player, Peschel is obviously comfortable on a basketball court. That started years before she began playing competitively as a member of the Alexandria Aces Basketball Performance Team. Now in its 23rd season, the group began as a ball-handling attraction and has progressed into one of the top halftime acts in the NCAA and NBA.
The Aces are coached by Larry Novotny, former basketball trick artist who performed his basketball magic across much of the U.S. in the 1970's and '80's. The Aces are comprised of boys and girls, ages 5-12. Their show, which includes dribbling, juggling, and spinning feats, has been seen by more than 3,000,000 fans across the United States and Canada.
"When I first came here on my visit I didn't have an offer. I got an offer the next time I visited and I committed the day I got the offer -- I was absolutely thrilled. The coaches are so personal and they made me feel so comfortable on campus, and they said this could be a home away from home."
UI women's basketball
And Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The Aces performed last season at halftime of the Iowa-Ohio State men's basketball game in January. Peschel was no longer with the group at that time, but she did get "held back" as a seventh-grader to help train the younger "spinners."
"Fundamental-wise, having a ball in your hand is never a bad thing," Peschel said. "It helps a ton for eye-hand coordination. I could dribble with my knees and do a two-ball drill."
Peschel arrived on the UI campus in early June to enroll in summer school and voluntarily participate in a basketball league. After eight weeks of summer classes, Peschel already had compiled 50 college credits -- she brought 44 credits from high school that she earned from Central Lakes College-Brainerd. So the freshman on the basketball court is actually a sophomore in the classroom.
"I'm looking at speech pathology as an option," said Peschel, who is currently majoring in communications and Spanish.
For a self-proclaimed home-body living 6 ½ hours from home, the UI was a great fit for Peschel. She is so busy and her teammates are "so awesome" that she hasn't missed home at all. The reason she became a Hawkeye in the first place was because of Bluder and her staff.
"When I first came here on my visit I didn't have an offer," Peschel recalls. "I got an offer the next time I visited and I committed the day I got the offer -- I was absolutely thrilled. The coaches are so personal and they made me feel so comfortable on campus, and they said this could be a home away from home."
The Hawkeyes return to Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Friday, Nov. 9, to face Northern Illinois in the first round of the Preseason WNIT. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. (CT).