Iowa reloading after Caitlin Clark departure: Hawkeyes add Lucy Olsen, expect improvement from within

The Caitlin Clark era is over at Iowa, but the Hawkeyes are not about to fall off the map. On Wednesday, Iowa added Villanova transfer Lucy Olsen, who was the nation’s third-leading scorer last season behind Clark and USC’s JuJu Watkins.

As a junior in 2023-24, Olsen averaged 23.3 points on 43.8% shooting to go along with 4.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game. She made first team All-Big East and was also voted named the Most Improved Player in the conference. 

“New beginnings,” Olsen wrote in a social media post announcing her transfer to Iowa. 

Iowa has been the top offensive team in the nation the past two seasons, largely thanks to Clark’s elite scoring and passing. The Hawkeyes will certainly miss her, and other top contributors in Kate Martin, Gabbie Marshall and Molly Davis are also gone for next season. 

However, a combination of strong new additions and talented returners should keep Iowa afloat. 

The two key players Iowa is getting back are Hannah Stuelke, the team’s second-leading scorer, and Sydney Affolter — who her teammates described as the most underrated player on the team. Affolter averaged 8.4 points and 6.4 rebounds as a junior this past season. However, those stats don’t tell the full story as her role increased after Davis suffered a knee injury late in the season. Affolter closed the year strong, recording seven double-figure scoring performances over the last nine games while shooting over 55% from the field. 

“She is a dawg. That’s it,” Stuelke said of Affolter. “She can do just about anything on the floor.”

Iowa associate head coach Jan Jensen says some other returning Iowa players are capable of stepping up next season. 

“You don’t see her a lot right now, but one of the best shooters I’ve ever seen is Taylor McCabe,” Jensen told CBS Sports. “If we can put other players around her she is really lethal.”

McCabe only averaged eight minutes per contest as a sophomore this past season, but she showed flashes of excellence. McCabe could develop into one of the Hawkeyes’ best distance shooters  as she went 35-for-76 from beyond the arc in limited minutes. She registered a career-high 18 points with six three pointers against Florida Gulf Coast in November. 

Jensen also highlighted sophomore 6-foot-1 forward Jada Gyamfi, who only appeared in 20 games and averaged four minutes. 

“Jada Gyamfi, she has a size and skillset,” Jensen said. “Sometimes when you are playing behind people you start wondering, ‘Can I do that?’ So I think this summer is going to be really big for her. I would say those kids are really going to be a good mix with our freshies.”

Those freshmen Jensen is referring to will have a chance to get some valuable minutes early in the season. 

Four of Iowa’s five incoming freshmen are ranked in HoopGurlz top 100.  Ava Heiden (No. 42) is a 6-foot-4 post player who will give Iowa some size and a boost on defense. Guards Aaliyah Guyton (No. 58), Teagan Mallegni (No. 65) and Taylor Stremlow (No. 94) will be joining Heiden in Iowa City.

“I think that is the motivation,” Jensen said of Iowa’s post-Clark era. “We understand there is Caitlin. And I think North Carolina understood there was Michael Jordan. But North Carolina still competed. They didn’t end their program, they didn’t close it, right? You have to become your best version without a generational talent.”

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