April 1, 2023 

How Addison O’Grady ensured the Iowa season continued

'We told her, bring out your inner volleyball girl right now'

DALLAS – The Iowa Hawkeyes stunned the formerly undefeated South Carolina Gamecocks in the Women’s Final Four Semifinal game on Friday, 77-73. While the team was, as usual, led by Caitlin Clark with 41 points, 8 assists, and 6 rebounds, there was an unexpected star who made a big impact at an essential moment: 6’4 sophomore Addison O’Grady. 

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After being thrown into the fire and trusted as the backup center when she first arrived at Iowa due to Sharon Goodman tearing her ACL, O’Grady’s sophomore season has been much quieter. This season, the second year player out of Aurora, CO, played exactly half of the total minutes that she played last season. But her efficiency stayed unbelievably consistent. O’Grady’s average points per game and total points in the season cut exactly in half from her freshman year, just as her minutes played did.

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Despite her lower numbers, O’Grady’s confidence hasn’t faltered. And when her name was called, she was ready. 

Less than a minute and a half into the third quarter, Iowa’s star center and second leading scorer, Monika Czinano, picked up her third foul. It was O’Grady time. Preparing to take over for one of the best players in the NCAA on the largest stage of her career thus far, O’Grady’s teammates and coaches gave her strong words of encouragement sandwiched with coaching pointers. 

“You know at this point, you just have to fill them because you can teach later,” Iowa Associate Head Coach Jan Jensen said, “When I was coaching [Addison O’Grady], I just wanted her to be more aggressive and so I was like, I’m okay if you foul. But just kind of praising what she was doing well, taking up space and just reminding her that she’s here for a reason and this is her time. We need that size.” 

In addition to strategy, Jensen added motivational words to give O’Grady that extra confidence needed to take on the powerhouse that is South Carolina. 

“Reminding them that you’re here for a reason, it’s your destiny,” Jensen added, “You’re destined to be a Hawk. You’re destined to be here right now in this moment. So let’s not waste time with what we’re not. This is what you are and you’re here playing for a shot at the next round.”

Safe to say that Jensen’s inspirational sendoff worked. In just three minutes on the court in the third quarter, O’Grady made her mark. Almost immediately upon checking into the game, O’Grady got a quick layup off of a beautiful pick and roll, giving Iowa a seven point cushion. After causing a foul that gave the ball back to South Carolina and allowed Aliyah Boston’s first made basket of the game, O’Grady earned Iowa another two points on their next possession. Her positive impact didn’t end there. On the other end of the floor, O’Grady’s lockdown defense prevented Boston from connecting on a layup.

While O’Grady is the tallest player on Iowa’s roster, she certainly wasn’t the tallest player on the court. O’Grady managed to box out 6’7 Kamilla Cardoso, the defensive assignment that initially caused Czinano’s foul trouble. O’Grady’s 10 total minutes on the floor for Iowa were incredibly impactful for a team that is usually not described as being strong defensively, especially when matched up against the height and defensive dominance of the Gamecocks.

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O’Grady talked with the media postgame about her mental fortitude and preparation for her strong performance. 

“We watched [film] and we were like, okay we’re going to box out, that’s our game plan, but they’re going to get some rebounds, they’re just bigger and they’re going to get some boards,” O’Grady said. “We were all really mentally prepared that they were going to get some, and we were just going to keep going.”

Iowa’s Addison O’Grady (44) fighting for a rebound during the Final Four matchup against South Carolina in Dallas, Texas, on March 31, 2023. (Photo credit: Domenic Allegra | The Next)

Hawkeyes Head Coach Lisa Bluder praised the sophomore’s performance in her postgame press conference.

“She played really well,” Bluder said. “We needed her height, just like we did against Colorado, same thing. [O’Grady] hasn’t played as much this year, as maybe we anticipated she would, but boy, she’s put in some valuable minutes in this tournament for us.”

Bluder and Jensen both attributed O’Grady’s expertise in defensive timing and shot-blocking abilities to her experience on the volleyball court, where she earned all-league honors and a seventh place finish at the state tournament at Grandview High School. 

“We told her, bring out your inner volleyball girl right now,” Bluder said. “She was a good high school volleyball player, and that’s what you’ve got to do out there to try to get those deflections off those rebounds.”

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O’Grady reflected postgame about her team’s conversations that helped her inner dialogue during this tough matchup.

“Just believing in our teammates, our program, our coaches, each other,” O’Grady said. “We just have so much belief in ourselves and we really believed that we were going to win this game.”

And they did. The Iowa Hawkeyes are moving on to the national championship game, where they will face the LSU Tigers, led by Angel Reese, who stands about an inch shorter than O’Grady. Keep an eye out for the sophomore, who will certainly be continuing her impact throughout her collegiate career for the Hawkeyes. 

Written by Rowan Schaberg

Rowan Schaberg (she/her) is a Seattle native covering the Seattle Storm for The Next. She is currently studying Sports Journalism at Colorado State University.


  1. rosaline mather on April 2, 2023 at 1:27 pm

    An excellent article-well written with knowledge of basketball and insight of a basketball player.The quotes from O’Grady and the coach made it clear of her value to the team.

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