The time between games is often excruciating for Iowa senior
guard-forward Angela Hamblin. It's during those spare hours that
Hamblin's many emotional burdens--a seriously ill father, the
pressure to become the first in her family to earn a college
degree, concern for her younger siblings back home in a rough
section of Gary, Ind.--stage a full-court press on her
overwrought psyche. "I'm always worried about everything in my
life because I want everything to be right," says Hamblin, one
of five starters back from the team that won the Big Ten
tournament last season. "I usually keep things to myself, but
sometimes I get so nervous I start crying. I can't sleep
sometimes. But once it's time to hit the court, I'm O.K."
Indeed, the six-foot Hamblin averaged 13.3 points and 6.8
rebounds to lead the 18-12 Hawkeyes in those departments last
Added to Hamblin's list of anxieties this year are Iowa's brutal
nonconference schedule--including games against Connecticut,
Louisiana Tech and Vanderbilt--and Hawkeyes fans' high
expectations for her and the rest of the highly touted
recruiting class that was dubbed the Sensational Seven when it
arrived in Iowa City in 1994. Mostly because of injuries, the
group has been a disappointment: In the group's three seasons at
Iowa, the Hawkeyes haven't reached the Final Four, and last year
they fell to Connecticut in the second round of the NCAA
But Hamblin's primary concern is her father, Otha, who has
kidney disease and requires three dialysis treatments a week.
"When we speak on the phone, I can tell that he's hurting,"
Hamblin says. "He'll say, 'I'm fine', but I can tell he's not."
"Angela has struggled sometimes because she worries about her
family," says Angie Lee, Iowa's third-year coach. Lee deserved a
good cry herself early last season. Forward Tiffany Gooden,
probably the most highly regarded of the Sensational Seven, was
sidelined again because of her left knee, the same one in which
she suffered a torn ACL in high school. Forward Malikah Willis
also went down with a knee injury. Hamblin was hampered by a
series of nagging ailments as well, including two concussions
and a strained right hamstring. All that helped account for a
disappointing 9-9 start. The Hawkeyes finally jelled as 6'4"
center Tangela Smith came on down the stretch; after averaging
11.6 points during the regular season, she exploded for 17.3 per
game in the Big Ten tournament.
Six of the Seven are back, and most of them are now healthy and
ready for this last go-round. (Timicha Kirby transferred after
her freshman season, and Gooden's knee was still bothering her
in the preseason.) "We should be more consistent," Hamblin says,
before adding, predictably, "but I can't help being a little
nervous about it." --RICHARD DEUTSCH
Returning Starters [Five]
Points per Game '96-97 67.3
PPG by All Returning Players 52.6