MINNEAPOLIS – For any high school player transitioning to the next level, it’s always an adjustment.
Watertown-Mayer graduate Monika Czinano is a prime example of a player who waits her turn and makes the most of the opportunity in front as she’s becoming one of the top players in the Big 10 conference in her second year at the University of Iowa.
Czinano and her Hawkeyes returned back to Minnesota for the second time in her career this past week. After playing just three minutes in the first game last year, Czinano made her impact felt this time around in a thrilling 76-75 victory over the Gophers Jan. 16.
“Being able to play in the gym where all my college basketball dreams started is so amazing,” Czinano said. “Even more so when we secure an awesome team win like we did.”
Iowa trailed the Gophers by 13 points with just over nine minutes to go in the game. Over the course of those nine minutes, Czinano and the Hawkeyes outscored the Gophers 19-5 the rest of the way to win their fifth-consecutive conference game.
In her second game back at Williams Arena, all Czinano did was be the game’s leading scorer. She finished with 21 points on 10-for-11 shooting as she continued to shoot the ball extremely well. Through 18 games this season, Czinano is second in the nation in field goal percentage (71.50 percent). For the season, Czinano has made 123 of 172 shots for Iowa, and is averaging 15.9 points per game.
“I am confident that I wouldn’t be the person I am today, or the player I am today, without everything I got to learn and experience last year,” Czinano said. “It completely changed me in the best ways. I was playing under one of the best players and under the best coach.”
That player Czinano is referencing is none other than Megan Gustafson. who was the 2019 Citizen Naismith Trophy Award winner, given to the best player in college basketball.
Gustafson is arguably the best women’s basketball player to ever play at Iowa, and in her freshman year, Czinano soaked in everything possible from Gustafson in practice and in games.
“Megan taught me so much, it’s actually insane,” Czinano said. “Even off the court, she was constantly teaching me how to juggle the life of a student-athlete. You could list off any aspect of basketball, and Megan forced me to grow and improve on it, but most importantly, she taught me a lot about humility and hard work.”
While playing behind the best player in the country has its benefits, the most important thing Czinano learned in her first season had nothing to do with skills at all.
“The most important thing that I learned from Megan was definitely just seeing her overall work ethic,” Czinano said. “Just having someone to really model what it takes to be good in this conference was major for me.”
While. of course. Czinano wishes she had a bigger role in her freshman season, she wouldn’t change it one bit. Going from high school where she played 30-36 minutes each game, to playing sparingly, it made her the player she has become this season.
“A lot of it was taking last year and absorbing everything I was being told and everything going on around me,” Czinano said. “Without last year’s team, and the team I have now, I wouldn’t be the player I am today. I think I just have an overall better understanding of the game. Every year, I want to get more and more efficient, and that comes with learning a lot from my coaches and teammates.”
While Czinano has grown into a rising star for the Hawkeyes this season, she hasn’t forgotten where she came from. That’s why each time she comes home to play the Gophers, it’s extra special to her seeing her support system there for her in person.
“It’s so awesome to have such a big support system,” Czinano said. “I know that no matter where I am, even if I’m not playing in Minnesota, I have a lot of people cheering for me and those people have my endless gratitude. I wouldn’t be the person I am without the people who helped raise me.”
Czinano Earns First B1G Weekly Honor
University of Iowa sophomore Monika Czinano was named to the Big Ten Women’s Basketball Player of the Week Honor Roll, the conference announced Monday.
The Watertown-Mayer grad averaged 20.5 points for the week, missing only two of 20 baskets and shooting 90 percent from the field.
After playing only four minutes in the first half of the Hawkeyes’ comeback win over Wisconsin, Czinano came back to score 18 points in the second half, including 12 points in the fourth quarter. She ended the 85-78 win over the Badgers with 20 points, shooting 8-of-9 from the field. In Iowa’s comeback win over Minnesota, Czinano shot 10-of-11 from the field, leading the Hawkeyes with 21 points.