Kathleen Doyle found a home at the University of Iowa. The Hawkeyes found a star.
Doyle, who won two high school girls basketball state championships at Benet, is one of five finalists for the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award for the best shooting guard in the nation.
The list of Drysdale nominees also includes Duke’s Haley Gorecki, against whom Doyle played in the 2015 Class 4A championship game when Gorecki was at Fremd.
The award is scheduled to be announced April 10. Fans can have a say in the winner by voting online.
“Her competitiveness, that doesn’t come around every day,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said of Doyle. “That self-drive. That belief in yourself and your teammates. And that’s what made her special. And also just the sheer joy she played with. You can watch her play and know she loves the game.”
Behind the Big Ten Player of the Year and third-team All-America, the Hawkeyes finished 23-7 and third in the conference at 14-4, better than expected based on preseason polls. They were 21st in the final national rankings.
“Instrumental,” Bluder said. “She was a captain for us. She was our leader. ... She was outstanding for us. And she was clutch. She was a player that if you needed a basket, you went to her. If you needed a stop, somebody had the hot hand, Kathleen got that assignment. She was our best defensive player as well as one of our best offensive players.”
The 5-foot-9 guard, a La Grange Park native, played in 123 games in four seasons at Iowa, starting 114. She finished second in Iowa history with 706 assists, fourth with 238 steals and 13th in scoring with 1,537 points.
Iowa was on its way to the NCAA Tournament and hoped to host an early couple of rounds. Then the COVID-19 pandemic struck, causing the rest of the season to be abruptly canceled.
“It was devastating. It still makes me sad,” Doyle said, her voice dropping. “I mean we were in the middle of a great practice and coach Bluder brought us together and let us know that the season was over. I just kind of broke down.
“It’s really sad, especially as a senior, having it come to an end like that. But obviously we understand that it’s a lot bigger than us and it’s a lot bigger than basketball. But that doesn’t make it hurt any less.”
Looking ahead, Doyle hopes for a roster spot in the WNBA and/or a professional league in another country.
“I want to play professionally for as long as I can,” Doyle said.
Bluder believes Doyle has a good chance to play in the WNBA.
Beyond that Doyle plans to become a coach. But she will never forget her years at Iowa.
“Aw, man, they were the best years of my life,” Doyle said. “I wish I could play college basketball at Iowa forever. Obviously, the basketball was amazing and everything I wanted it to be and more.
“But just like the relationships that I have gained in my life because of it. I made so many lifelong friends and so many role models in my coaches and it’s just such a great community to be a part of. I feel really blessed. I’m a Hawk for the rest of my life.”