MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — The Big Ten’s 14 women’s basketball teams took the stage in Minneapolis on Monday for the first day of the conference’s annual media days.
Husker players Jaz Shelley, Alexis Markowski and Maddie Krull joined head coach Amy Williams at Target Center to talk about the upcoming season. Here are the most notable storylines from the day.
Maddie Krull’s Leadership
Krull was the only Nebraska attendee at media days that wasn’t there last year. The fourth-year guard transferred from South Dakota last offseason, playing all 33 games and starting 23 of the last 24 for the Huskers in 2022-23.
Accompanied by four All-Big Ten level players in the starting lineup most of the year, Krull might not have stood out in her first season with the program. However, she’s already had great impact on the team this offseason through her leadership.
“Last year, I really struggled to be a vocal leader because I wasn’t necessarily that familiar with what the coaching staff wanted or what my teammates wanted,” Krull said. “But this year, I’ve been able to really kind of find myself within that role because I know what it’s like to be new.”
In particular, she introduced a practice Williams called “sister dates,” where Krull will match up two teammates with each other for them to do something together, whether that be grabbing coffee or some other activity.
“I think it’s really led to just a really connected team and I think better prepares us …when you have a season that’s as long as our season is you know there’s going to be some highs and lows,” Williams said. “So it prepares us to be in a position to be able to be connected through those and to lean on each other.”
Krull said it’s something she’s carried with her from her time at South Dakota. She played in a Sweet 16 with the Coyotes, and her leadership may be key in helping Nebraska reach similar heights this year.
Watch Out for Year Three Alexis Markowski
Markowski has racked up plenty of accolades entering just the third year of her Nebraska career.
The 2022 Big Ten Freshman of the Year is a two-time second-team all-conference selection and was just selected to the preseason all-conference list for the second straight year. Year three offers an opportunity for Markowski to take another jump, after her scoring and efficiency numbers went down in a still-successful 2022-23 season. That progress may be important for the Huskers, who lost fellow frontcourt star Isabelle Bourne in the offseason.
Heading into next season, Markowski said she’s keeping the same high expectations she’s always had and aims to be a great teammate more than anything. Shelley had high praise for the work the center has been putting in recently.
“The work that she’s put in, in the preseason and the summer is like nothing that I’ve ever seen out of her before,” Shelley said. “Like, it’s unreal. She’s working on her individual game, she’s a leader, she’s been so consistent on and off the floor with her competitiveness, her drive, individual work, where I think that everything is just going to come together because of what she’s doing right now.”
Shelley and Markowski are entering their third year playing together, with both in the starting lineup for the majority of games. Their relationship has continued to grow both on and off the floor.
“I feel like I have grown up a little bit to where Jaz is,” Markowski said. “I think that has strengthened our relationship and I think our goals are very similar and what we want to accomplish individually and for this team, and I feel very close to Jaz and I trust her.”
Pack PBA, Part Two
Increased attendance and attention was a topic of discussion all throughout the day.
Rutgers head coach Coquese Washington was the first to step to the podium during head coach press conferences, and she spent part of her opening statement expressing excitement about the growth of women’s basketball.
Iowa’s Lisa Bluder fielded questions about “Crossover at Kinnick,” where her team and superstar Caitlin Clark will take on DePaul in an exhibition at the Hawkeyes’ football stadium; 48,000 tickets have been sold for that event, according to Bluder.
That prompted questions relating that event to Volleyball Day in Nebraska, which Williams also spoke about.
The Husker women’s basketball team might not be planning on anything of that scale, but it is looking to build on the increased attendance from last season. The well-promoted “Pack PBA” event for a home game against Iowa set a single-game program record with an attendance figure of 14,000.
There is plenty of room to surpass that number at Pinnacle Bank Arena this coming season, and Williams and the team are looking to do so. This year’s target date is Jan. 7, when the Huskers will take on Indiana and Mackenzie Holmes.
“I know that Husker nation loves a challenge, so any time we challenge them to raise the bar, they find a way to show up for us,” Williams said.
If you believe recent history to be any indication, that matchup might be closer than Nebraska’s 20-point loss in last year’s record-setting game. Over the past two seasons, the Huskers are 1-2 against the Hoosiers, who have been ranked in the top 10 ahead of each game.
One of the two losses came in overtime and the other by seven points. Nebraska won 72-55 in its last home game against Indiana in February of 2022.
Shelley will see plenty of familiar faces when Nebraska plays TCU in November.
First-year Horned Frogs head coach Mark Campbell was the associate head coach at Oregon while Shelley was there. Several other members of those Ducks teams are also on the roster or staff. The Husker guard is excited for the matchup.
“I think it’s hard because I’m kind of like, really happy for that program and what they’re trying to do, but I think we can get ’em,” Shelley said. “We’re gonna get ’em and I’m excited to be able to do that alongside my new family.”
Along with that, Williams and Krull have connections with new Minnesota coach Dawn Plitzuweit. After Williams left South Dakota for Nebraska, Plitzuweit took over for six seasons. In that time, she recruited Krull, who played two years for her before both left for new destinations. Now, they’ll get to see each other on opposing sidelines twice.