NU Women’s Basketball Beats UNO 100-36

By Amarillo Mullen

A Perfect Fit

Maddie Krull Is Bringing Her Versatility And Tenaciousness Back to Nebraska

By Shawn Ekwall

It was a tournament run player’s dream about for Maddie Krull and her South Dakota teammates.

It started with the Coyotes’ knocking off seventh-seeded Ole Miss 75-61 in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. A 61-47 upset of second-seeded Baylor on its home floor followed, propelling USD to the Sweet 16, before falling to Michigan 52-49. The loss ended the most successful women’s basketball season in school history.

For a mid-major Summit League school to flex its muscle in the NCAA tournament is rare, to say the least.

“Gosh, it was incredible,” Krull said of the historic run. “You dream as a kid to go to college, win a conference championship, play in the NCAA tournament. But beating Baylor was a feeling I can’t even explain. We just kept going and it didn’t even feel real. It was new to everybody and we enjoyed every second of it.”

The Yotes’ 29-6 record and epic tourney run made USD coach Dawn Plitzuweit and her staff a hot commodity. Plitzuweit was named the new head coach at West Virginia in late March, taking the majority of her staff with her. That led Krull, an Omaha native and 2020 Millard South graduate, to enter the transfer portal.

Though her stats weren’t eye-popping, Krull was the model of consistency since setting foot on the Vermillion, South Dakota, campus two years ago. She started every one of the teams’ 60 games over two years. Known for her unwavering defensive tenacity, she averaged 6.8 points per game during the past season. Many suitors came calling once she entered the portal, but ultimately, after a visit to Nebraska, the choice was clear. It came down to fit, culture and proximity to home.

“Definitely culture,” Krull said. “It’s something so valuable and when I took my visit I wanted to have a connection with my teammates. I follow Nebraska and Al (Allison Weidner) and the chemistry there is not faked. It’s real on and off the court, and that was important to me.

“Also, being close to home. Family is important and being 45 minutes away from home was a no-brainer.”

A strong family bond was mentioned several times during Krull’s interview with Huskers Illustrated. Krull grew up playing YMCA and early club basketball for her dad, Keven. The father-daughter combination continued with the Krush club team and her fifth-grade year with the Grizzlies, before they both joined the Nebraska Attack organization, which started when Maddie reached eighth grade.

“My dad is such a great advocate for girls basketball,” Krull said. “It’s fun to see him continue coaching. He can’t get away from it, he loves it so much. Our early years were … interesting. I kept thinking, ‘He yells at me the most, this sucks.’

“But I can’t take it for granted. I can talk basketball with my dad all the time. And my mom (Brenda) has been my biggest supporter. Both my mom and dad have always told me two things you control are your attitude and effort. They’ve both played such a big part in helping me become a leader.”

A self-described competitor, Krull hopes to bring that edge to NU, to learn from and push teammates to continue to achieve at a high level.

“I’m competitive, no matter what,” Krull said. “My teammates know I’m going to give it my all. I’m extremely excited to play with and learn from the returning players at Nebraska.” Zach Isherwood, Krull’s coach with Nebraska Attack, talked about her high motor and competitive nature.

“Maddie goes 100% in every practice, drill, game and shooting workout. Her constant energy makes everyone around her go harder. And not many kids have the ability to lead both by example and verbally, but Maddie does.”

Isherwood said those traits, along with playing against the nation’s top players on the summer circuit, have more than prepared Krull for the leap to a Power Five conference. Caitlin Clark (Iowa), Paige Bueckers (Connecticut) and Cameron Brink (Stanford) are a small sample of the many top-end players Krull and her Nebraska Attack teammates went toe-to-toe with over the years.

Weidner, who Krull played with in Krull’s final AAU season, is someone Krull is especially excited about being reunited with.

“That summer we played together on the circuit was kind of eye-opening,” Krull said. “To play against some of the best players in the country helped us so much. The sky’s the limit with Al, and I can’t even wait.”

And although Alexis Markowski played in the Nebraska Lasers AAU program, Krull knows what a force she can be.

“Alexis is a pain to play against. Let’s just say I’m excited to be on the same side as her. I’m excited to grow with them both.”

Success has followed wherever Krull has been. In her four seasons at Millard South, as a four-year starter, the Patriots went 99-13. However, a state title eluded the Patriots each year. And although Krull has regrets about not cutting down the nets in Lincoln, the close calls provided extra fuel and motivation.

“It makes my stomach turn just thinking about it,” Krull said. “But I realize now it was just part of my journey. Part of how I grew into the player I am today.”

Patriots coach Bryce Meyers calls Krull the consummate two-way player. One that can push pace on offense and lock opponents up on the defensive end.

“She can control the tempo of the game by herself,” Meyers said. “She sets the tone defensively with a tone of energy and pressure. Her leadership on and off the floor is what makes Maddie, Maddie. She is an absolute fierce competitor and off the floor is an absolute delight to be around. Her personality is contagious and so is her work ethic.” Meyers believes the match between Krull and Nebraska will be ideal.

“Maddie will fit in perfectly at Nebraska. From the outside looking in she seems to be exactly the kind of kid they are looking for in their program. She will compete for everything, not take anything for granted and do it with a smile on her face.”

Although Krull is ecstatic to be joining the Huskers, she took time to delightfully reflect on her two years in Vermillion.

“I was challenged immediately at USD. The coaches put me in tough positions with experienced players and without that I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in. In two years, I’ve grown a remarkable amount in terms of knowledge, skill and understanding the game. I’ll cherish everything about my time here and I’m so thankful. It’s bittersweet.”

Though reopening the recruiting process for a second time wasn’t originally in Krull’s plans, she credits the help of both Meyers and Isherwood for making it a seamless experience. Isherwood said he heard from more than 40 Division I schools within the first 36 hours of Krull joining the portal. The list included multiple schools ranked in the Top 10 in 2022.

“They both helped me navigate the portal and had faith in me,” Krull said. “They’ve always had faith in me and helped me believe I could do anything I put my mind to. “My parents are both from Hastings (Nebraska). Originally my goal was to work as hard as I could to get a scholarship to play at Hastings College. When this all started I didn’t know if any of this was possible.”

Needless to say, Krull has exceeded those original aspirations. And as she turns her attention to the future, she joins a Nebraska team that returns its entire starting five. She aims to add depth and help the Huskers move deeper into the tournament in 2023.

“I’m hoping this year I can learn from Sam (Haiby) and Jaz (Shelley). That they can teach me what it’s like to play at this level week to week. And I want to help the team win and be successful.

As far as topping this past season? Anything is possible.

“I hope we have an incredible season. Because I know it’ll be tough to beat last year.”

Good Season, but Early Exit Lit a Fire for the Next

Williams Loved Her Team and Sees Good Things Ahead

By Shawn Ekwall

  • Jaz Shelly, the team’s leading scorer, is returning for another year.
  • Humphrey, Nebraska, native Allison Weidner averaged 7.2 points a game as a freshman.
  • Alexis Markowski was the Big Ten Freshman Player of the Year.

A 24-win season – tied for fourth best in school history. The first NCAA tournament appearance since 2018. Nebraska women’s basketball coach Amy Williams should be happy as she reflects on the past season. And she is, for the most part. But in a recent hourlong interview over the phone, there was more than a niggling undercurrent of regret.

Of course she’s proud of her team and all of the progress her players have made. She feels good about the future and she spoke of the joy she felt coaching her players the past year.

But the early exit from the tournament — a 68-55 loss to Gonzaga – was a bitter pill. The Bulldogs were senior-laden, and their experience paid dividends. NU struggled to score, and the 55-point output was unsettling for players and coaches alike. It’s something that will motivate them in offseason workouts.

“That result lit a fire in the bellies of this team,” Williams said. “When we’re playing our best, we can compete with the best in the country. We ran across a situation where we only put 55 on the board. It left a bad taste in our mouth.

“Gonzaga has a lot of seniors and I think our team learned things they (Gonzaga) learned previously.”

The good news for NU, which finished sixth in the Big Ten, is the return of a core group of key players. The starting five of Jaz Shelley, Sam Haiby, Alexis Markowski, Allison Weidner and Isabelle Bourne all return.

Haiby’s announcement to return for a fifth season was a mild surprise. She went through Senior Day festivities, but after the disappointing loss to the Bulldogs and some arm-twisting from her roommates such as Shelley, Bourne and Trinity Brady, Haiby announced in early April that she’d be back.

“We had several discussions and we knew Sam was strongly considering (returning),” Williams said. “Sam wasn’t satisfied after the loss to Gonzaga. There’s a few things she’d like to accomplish, so we’re excited for that decision and the experience she brings back.”

The Moorhead, Minnesota, native averaged 11 points per game and has averaged at least 10 points all four of her seasons at NU. She ranks 15th all-time in points (1,381) and eighth in assists (414).

“I still feel like I have more to accomplish as a player and a leader,” Haiby said. “I am coming back to Nebraska next season because we believe we can take our program another step further together. I can’t wait to go to work again with this team.”

Haiby’s leadership and experience will be key to a team that started a pair of freshmen in Markowski and Weidner late in the year. With a year under their belts, the duo from Lincoln Pius X and Humphrey St. Francis, respectively, should be more comfortable in their roles moving forward.

Williams mentioned how Markowski (12.8 point per game) and Weidner (7.2) fit in immediately and how coming from winning cultures in high school eased the transition.

“They’re winners, they have a winning mindset and experienced a lot of success in high school,” Williams said. “The work ethic they brought in was really important and they just take a lot of pride in representing the state of Nebraska.”

Shelley, a transfer from Oregon, found her niche early in the season and never relinquished her role as a scorer, ballhandler and distributor. She led the team with 13.1 points a game while shooting 40.6% from beyond the arc.

Still, Williams talked about Shelley’s desire to improve parts of her game.

“Jaz is really focusing on improving her mid-range game,” Williams said. “She led us in scoring, assists, steals and was second in rebounding. Her overall game is so versatile and it’s critically important to us. But she’s never satisfied and wants to get better and tighten up her handles even more.”

Williams talked about being selective as NU looks to fill out its roster. The transfer portal will be active through summer. Whitney Brown, a freshman from Grand Island, announced her departure from Nebraska to Fort Hays State within the past few weeks.
“We feel really good and solid about our returning core,” Williams said. “That allows us to be selective and guarding of our culture in who we take. We’re looking to find players that will compete, but also match with the pieces we have in place. Players that are selfless and play together.”

Along with adding a few pieces to the roster, Williams looks to have one assistant coaching spot to fill. Assistant Chuck Love was suspended with pay following the Penn State game Feb. 17. And while Williams was unable to comment on the situation, she was hopeful things would be resolved in the near future.

“We’re just being patient and letting the process take place,” she said. “We’re hopeful that we’ll be able to have an announcement before too long.”

The 24 wins were a season-high for Williams since coming to NU in 2017, and third-best in her career behind her final two seasons at South Dakota. She continues to mold the Huskers into an annual Big Ten contender.

While reflecting on the past season’s high points, Williams wasn’t shy to heap praise on her team and brought it all back to the team mantra of Compete and Connect.

“I’m very grateful to be part of this team and their journey,” she said. “It was a very special group and our mantra, Compete and Connect, allowed them to do what they love and do it out of sheer joy. They enjoyed each other and enjoyed playing together.

“We always said we’re going to fight. The competition was there each day they put the uniform on. They stayed together and stayed connected. Any success we had is a credit to that. I’m happy for each of their successes.”

Making the Jump

Small-School Star Was Quick to Find Her Comfort Zone In Big-Time College Basketball

By Shawn Ekwall • Photos by Wade Payne/Huskers Illustrated

Nebraska guard Allison Weidner capped an impressive freshman campaign against Gonzaga in the NCAA tournament. She ended up as the Huskers’ sixth-leading scorer, averaging seven points a game. She also grabbed about four rebounds per outing. “The transition (from high school) went a lot smoother than I thought it would,” Weidner said.
Nebraska guard Allison Weidner capped an impressive freshman campaign against Gonzaga in the NCAA tournament. She ended up as the Huskers’ sixth-leading scorer, averaging seven points a game. She also grabbed about four rebounds per outing. “The transition (from high school) went a lot smoother than I thought it would,” Weidner said.

Allison Weidner isn’t one to shy away from a challenge. Weidner grew up on the family farm just seven miles outside of Humphrey, Nebraska, population 896. She played Class D-2 basketball, the state’s smallest high school classification. Needless to say the leap to Big Ten basketball had some wondering how the former St. Francis all-stater would fare.

Weidner put any doubts to rest during a stellar freshman campaign. She went from being a valuable role player off the bench to starter over the final weeks of the season for Nebraska. She helped lead the Huskers to a 24-9 record and an NCAA tournament berth. NU saw its season come to an end March 18 in a 68-55 loss to Gonzaga in a first-round tournament game in Louisville.

How was Weidner able to make the transition to power conference basketball so seamlessly? According to Bryan Reichmuth, her high school coach at St. Francis, it’s a constant determined mindset that Weidner has always shown.

“Nothing surprises me about Allison,” Reichmuth said. “I have always told everyone that if you don’t think Allison can do something, tell her she can’t. She will figure out a way. Obviously, it was a huge step up and no one knew exactly how she would adjust and fit in. What I knew for sure was she had the right recipe for success. Great personality. Great teammate. Hard worker; commitment to the game, student of the game.”

Weidner admits she was prepared for a rough go of things early on at NU. But with the help and mentoring of the older NU players, things weren’t as rocky as she expected.

“The transition went a lot smoother than I thought it would,” she said. “I thought maybe I’d have a rude awakening when I got here. Credit that to my teammates. They’ve kind of guided me and helped me along the way.

“The biggest thing is the level of competition. I went from a D-2 high school to playing against (Iowa All-American) Caitlin Clark. It’s been a lot of fun playing in the Big Ten.”

Her speed and athleticism on the court, even in the Big Ten, is noticeable. Being a multi-sport athlete through high school and her summers of playing club ball for Nebraska Attack also helped her adjust to the level of play. As did having her mom, Cathy, as her coach from fourth grade through middle school. “She was pretty hard on me,” Weidner said. “She probably made me the player I am today. And playing for Nebraska Attack allowed me to play against the best girls in the nation. It taught me I had to be better at defense.”

Weidner averaged 25 points per game her senior year, as the Flyers went undefeated and captured the D-2 state championship. She was a three-time state track champion in the Class D 400 and 800. She helped St. Francis win three state titles in volleyball, while earning first-team honors in 2020. She credits those various sports and learning the ropes of each to helping her elevate her game at the collegiate level.

Nebraska forward Isabelle Bourne battles for the ball with Gonzaga forward Yvonne Ejim in the first half of their NCAA tournament first-round game. Bourne finished with six points and five rebounds.
Nebraska forward Isabelle Bourne battles for the ball with Gonzaga forward Yvonne Ejim in the first half of their NCAA tournament first-round game. Bourne finished with six points and five rebounds.

“Playing three sports helped tremendously,” she said. “Not only from working the different muscles in your body, but also working your IQ. It’s a little different for every sport, but obviously it helps a lot in basketball.”

So did having a pair of older brothers. Brandon and Nathan, four and two years older than Allison, helped toughen little sis up during countless pickup games on the farm.

“It helped a lot having older brothers,” Weidner said. “It got pretty chippy, you know … throwing some elbows, bleeding a little bit, but they’ve been great at preparing me for all the contact.”

As her confidence grew throughout the season, Weidner was an integral part of NU’s success down the stretch and during a run to the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament. She scored a season-high 23 points in a key win over Minnesota on Feb. 20. She tallied 16 points in the Huskers’ quarterfinal win over No. 10 Michigan in the Big Ten tournament.

While her scoring ramped up in key games late, it was the little things, the intangibles, that stuck out to her old high school coach.
“The extra hustle plays even when it seems like you are out of the play. The dive to the floor for a loose ball. The sprint back on defense to get a deflection to save an easy bucket. These things are not noticed by the average fan, but I promise you are noticed by her coaches,” Reichmuth said. “Her ability to get into the paint and penetrate to the basket have been with her since she started for me as a freshman.”
When asked to pinpoint two areas of her game where she’s seen the most growth, Weidner didn’t hesitate. “Playing confident and being aggressive,” she said. “That’s two things that’ve been the best for me this year. I was a little laid back at the beginning of the year, and not so sure what I was going to do coming in. As I started to play more confidently, that’s been huge for me.”

Nebraska center Alexis Markowski pressures Gonzaga forward Anamaria Virjoghe. Markowski recorded 10 points, nine rebounds and two blocks against the Zags.
Nebraska center Alexis Markowski pressures Gonzaga forward Anamaria Virjoghe. Markowski recorded 10 points, nine rebounds and two blocks against the Zags.

NU coach Amy Williams loves Weidner’s competitive fire. She said it’s that fire and work ethic that’s helped her be successful as a true freshman.

“She just has that work ethic,” Williams said. “She’s competitive and she wants to win every sprint in practice. She wants to compete. She’s upset or frustrated when she makes a mistake. She wants to learn from that and get better. I think that’s helped her transition to the college game. And also she’s just received great coaching in the past.”

Weidner is living out her childhood dream of playing for her home state Division I university. It’s something she isn’t taking for granted, even as her role expanded.

“I’m definitely more comfortable just knowing my role. I think I’ve adjusted pretty well with it and it’s been a lot of fun.” Though the early NCAA exit was disappointing, there’s plenty of optimism moving forward for the Huskers.

The 24-9 record was Williams’ best mark since coming to NU from South Dakota in 2016.

NU returns a core group in 2022-23, which includes Weidner, Big Ten Freshman of the Year Alexis Markowski and leading scorer and Second Team All-Big Ten guard Jaz Shelley.

Before turning the page on this season, Weidner gave credit to the three outgoing seniors for mentoring her and being tremendous teammates.
“All these seniors have been great to me,” Weidner said. “From Day 1, Micole (Cayton) took me under her wing, showed me the ropes, and got up on me on defense and showed me what Division I basketball was like.

“Sam (Haiby) … I’ve learned so much from her this season. And she continues to guide me and help me through this whole process. And Bella’s been awesome to me,” she said of Bella Cravens. “She’s a great post to play with. I can’t say enough about these three seniors.”

Top of Her Game


Foundation Set by Her Father Has Led to
Alexis Markowski’s Stellar Freshman Season

Story by Shawn Ekwall

Alexis Markowski has never been one to shy away from hard work.

Countless hours in the gym are a staple of Markowski’s hoops journey. But her fast track to success during her freshman year at Nebraska has caught everyone’s attention.

To some, it’s been a surprising leap. There were skeptics. Could she contribute and play meaningful minutes at a Power Five school? The Lincoln Pius X grad originally committed to South Dakota State in 2019 before switching to NU. But to those who know her story, her quick rise is no shock.

Hoops success runs in the Markowski family. Markowski’s father, Andy, is no stranger to the big stage. The Ord High School product played for former NU men’s coach Danny Nee from 1995 through 1999 and was on the 1998 NCAA tournament team that featured current Los Angeles Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue.

He was a blue-collar player. Defend. Rebound. Set screens. The elder Markowski did the little things through hard work and perseverance.

Andy coached Alexis and her Nebraska Lasers club basketball team from fourth grade all the way through high school. He also served – and continues to serve – as an assistant coach at Lincoln Pius X High School.

So, did dad’s knowledge and passion for the game, as well as his intense practice regimen, rub off on Alexis and her Lasers teammates?

“Yeah, all the time,” Alexis said. “He really prepared me well to be successful at this level. He’s a pretty intense guy and wanted the best for all of us. He really pushed us to be our best.”

The 2021 Lasers class was littered with talent. Players like Grace Cave (Nebraska-Omaha), Molly Ramsey (Kansas State, volleyball) and current NU soccer players Haley Peterson and Briley Hill were part of the program. Nine Division I athletes, according to Andy, played with Alexis at one time or another.

“It was a great group. We were fortunate to play in the top bracket at every event,” Andy said. “Lex got the chance to play against the best posts out there. It helped elevate her confidence.”

Andy said watching the development of his daughter throughout the early years of playing with the Lasers is one of the things he remembers most.

“It was really fun to see Lex continue to develop,” Andy said. “She was one of the taller fourth-graders when we started compared to her peers. And over the years she really learned how to compete as her skills and size continued to grow.”

Admittedly, it took time for those skills to develop, according to Alexis.

“I started Lasers my fourth-grade year, and at first … I was really bad,” she said. “Honestly, my dad was like, ‘I don’t know if we’ll put her on the top team,’ and my mom (Jaime) was like, ‘You’re going to work with her and she’ll get better.’

“I didn’t really like basketball that much at that age, but as I kept doing it, and falling more in love with it, I realized I could be good at it.”

An injury derailed most of her freshman year of high school. A screw was inserted in her foot, and the recovery period was long. Once back full-time as a sophomore, the volleyball and hoops standout started to dominate, and recruiting interest picked up.

She averaged 21.5 points per game as a junior and 23.3 as a senior while leading Pius X to back-to-back Class A state titles in 2020 and 2021. She was named Nebraska’s 2021 Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior. And since arriving at NU, Markowski has hit the ground running.

She scored 20 points in her first career start, a 79-58 win over No. 8 Michigan on Jan. 4. Twelve days later she posted a career-high 27 points in a 93-83 loss at Iowa. She’s been named Big Ten Freshman of the Week seven times through mid-February.

She’s expanded her game, shooting 56% from the 3-point line while continuing to be a force on the low block. Her presence inside has opened up the perimeter for shooters like Jaz Shelley and Ashley Scoggins.

While her statistical numbers stand out, NU coach Amy Williams lauds Markowski’s fierce competitiveness.

“What I’ve seen out of Alexis and the one thing I know is that she’s a competitor,” Williams said after the Michigan win. “She just wants to compete.”

In a 50-38 win over Rutgers on Feb. 1, Markowski posted a career-high 15 rebounds to go along with 16 points. Williams pointed out the value of having Markowski down low in games where defense rules and shots aren’t falling.

“She’s incredibly valuable in a game like this,” Williams said. “In a game where there’s a lot of rebounds to be had, Lex did a great job coming away with them.”

Both Alexis and Andy agree the “fit” with Alexis choosing to play at Nebraska has been nothing short of terrific.

One of the key factors is being able to play in front of a legion of family and friends. It’s something Alexis doesn’t take for granted.

“That’s why I chose Nebraska,” she said following NU’s 76-61 win over Penn State on Feb. 3. “So I could have all my family and friends here. They’re all really supportive. I had family from South Dakota here today. They’re kind of coming from everywhere and I love it.”

Brookings, South Dakota, home of the Jackrabbits, is four hours from Lincoln. Andy said the thought of not having as many family and friends in attendance nightly was something Alexis weighed when opening up her recruitment.

“She kind of realized it would be hard to play in front of as many family and friends in Brookings,” Andy said. “She has a ton of friends here, from Pius X to her AAU teammates. It’s really important for her to reconnect with so many people after games. Even some she hasn’t seen in years.”

As for the culture and chemistry of the current Huskers? It’s a driving force behind the team’s success.

The roster includes players from Australia, California and West Virginia, for example. Markowski and fellow freshmen Allison Weidner from tiny Humphrey St. Francis and Whitney Brown from Grand Island Northwest are the three Nebraskans on the roster.

“We are all best friends on and off the court,” Alexis said. “I haven’t been on a team that hangs out this much outside the court. It’s not just the little groups here and there. We all hang out. We all love each other, we all want the best for each other and are always there for each other.”

Said Andy: “Winning and competitiveness are key attributes to kids on the team. This team puts winning first. Sometimes there’s different dynamics, where talent trumps character at some places. Not here. The culture of the staff and the locker room is a testament to coach Williams.”

And even though he’s coached his daughter since she was knee-high, some aspects of his daughter’s rapid ascent have surprised even him.

“I felt confident she could have an impact,” Andy said. “Alexis was so much bigger and stronger than most kids in high school. But there’s things she’s done that have surpassed my expectations. Her ability to score consistently against the best posts in the league, for example. Teams are starting to double her, which is surprising. I’d say that has accelerated faster than I thought as a coach and father.”

That acceleration has helped put NU (19-6, 8-6) in position to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2018. The Huskers have won six of their last eight, capped by a huge 72-55 win over No. 5 Indiana on Feb. 14. They own an impressive 14-1 mark at home and have two wins over teams currently ranked in the top 10.

Markowski tied her career-high with 15 rebounds against the Hoosiers, while tallying a double-double with 10 points. She was one of five Huskers to reach double figures as Shelley and Sam Haiby led the way with 14 each. The Huskers used a 17-0 fourth-quarter run to blow open a tight game.

It’s that scoring balance and unselfish play that has Markowski pumped about the team’s ceiling heading down the stretch.

“I think we can be pretty successful in the postseason,” Alexis said. “We’ve beaten some top teams and if we keep working and believing in ourselves, we can go far.”

As far as dad’s outlook? Alexis said he’s happy not only for her personal success, but the overall success of the team.

“I know he’s really happy I’m having a successful year, but also because our team is successful, as well.”

And why wouldn’t he? Hard work leading to success is the Markowski way.

Ted’s Takes

Ted Kirk is a Lincoln-based photographer who has been a photojournalist since 1970. The Sioux Falls, South Dakota, native covered Nebraska Athletics from 1973 through 2018. During that span he covered thousands of Husker Athletic competitions around the United States. His work is being donated to the University of Nebraska Library Photo Archive.
Ted Kirk is a Lincoln-based photographer who has been a photojournalist since 1970. The Sioux Falls, South Dakota, native covered Nebraska Athletics from 1973 through 2018. During that span he covered thousands of Husker Athletic competitions around the United States. His work is being donated to the University of Nebraska Library Photo Archive.
Jim Hartung peforms on the rings during a meet at the Devaney Center during the 1981 season.
2020 03 31 001
Nebraska’s Carl McPipe shoots over Kansas center Paul Mokeski at the Devaney Center during a 62-58 win over the Jayhawks in 1978.

Plowing Forward

After a 12-0 Start, Huskers Hit Big Ten Grind

By Steve Beideck • Photos by Amarillo Mullen

Some of the early excitement around Nebraska’s 12-0 start to the women’s basketball season has been tempered the past month by the challenges of a rugged Big Ten schedule.

Sam Haiby goes in for a layup past Iowa’s Gabbie Marshall. More than 8,000 fans attended the game in Lincoln.
Sam Haiby goes in for a layup past Iowa’s Gabbie Marshall. More than 8,000 fans attended the game in Lincoln.

Seven of the 14 Big Ten squads were ranked in the top 47 in the ratings through games played Jan. 19. The Huskers fit comfortably in that group at No. 37 with a 13-4 overall record.

Coach Amy Williams’ charges own the only conference win over No. 8-ranked Michigan through the first month of the season. That 79-58 drubbing of the Wolverines, ranked 13th in the RealTimeRPI, gave the Huskers their first victory over an AP Top-10 opponent since a victory over No. 9 Duke in 2014.

But since then, the Huskers have lost three consecutive conference games and are 2-4 in the league. A 72-65 loss to No. 6 Indiana – the Big Ten leader at 6-0 – was sandwiched between a pair of losses to Iowa.

Amy Williams encourages her team during its loss to the Hawkeyes, 95-86, in Lincoln.
Amy Williams encourages her team during its loss to the Hawkeyes, 95-86, in Lincoln.

That 2-4 record has the Huskers in 10th place in the conference standings. Nebraska’s other conference victory was a 70-67 decision over Minnesota on Dec. 6. Before the Jan. 4 upset of Michigan, Nebraska fell to Michigan State 72-69 on Dec. 30 in East Lansing.

Nebraska was set to begin a stretch of five games, including four at home, against teams with a sub-.500 record in conference play with a Jan. 20 game against Rutgers. Because of health and safety protocols within the Huskers program, that game against the last-place Scarlet Knights (7-12, 0-7) is being postponed to Feb. 1 in Lincoln.

Health and safety protocols also forced the postponement of Nebraska’s trip to Champaign for a Jan. 23 game against Illinois to face the 6-10 Fighting Illini (1-4 Big Ten). That means Nebraska won’t play again until kicking off a three-game homestand Jan. 27 against Wisconsin (4-13, 1-6).

The other two games in that stretch are a Jan. 30 matchup against Purdue (12-6, 3-4) and Penn State (Feb. 3). The Nittany Lions (9-7, 3-3) are one of the two East Division teams the Huskers play a home-and-home series with this season.

Isabelle Bourne drives past Iowa’s Tomi Taiwo.
Isabelle Bourne drives past Iowa’s Tomi Taiwo.

Nebraska will travel to State College for the rematch on Feb. 17. Indiana is the other East Division opponent the Huskers face; that game in Lincoln is scheduled for Feb. 14.

If the Huskers can run the table against those teams, their Feb. 6 game at Maryland would become a big game that could help Nebraska’s bid for an NCAA tournament berth. The Terrapins are currently ranked No. 20 in the RealTimeRPI standings, three spots ahead of Indiana.

Nebraska has had success to this point because they are playing well at both ends of the court. Four players are averaging double figures in scoring, led by sophomore guard Jaz Shelley and her 13.8 points per game.

Ashley Scoggin dishes a pass between a pair of Michigan defenders in Nebraska's 79-58 win.
Ashley Scoggin dishes a pass between a pair of Michigan defenders in Nebraska’s 79-58 win.

Sam Haiby and Isabelle Bourne are averaging 11.0 and 10.1 points per game, respectively. Bourne and Shelley both have made 74 field goals this season, with 40 of Shelley’s being 3-pointers.

Nebraska’s newest offensive star has just begun to shine in the past month. Freshman forward Alexis Markowski already has been namen the Big Ten Freshman of the Week four times, and she also was honored Jan. 11 as the National Freshman of the Week by the United States Basketball Writers Association.

In NU’s victory over Michigan and first loss to Iowa, the Lincoln Pius X graduate averaged 17 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. The Michigan game was Markowski’s first collegiate start as she stepped in for injured teammate Bella Cravens.

After scoring 20 points against the Hawkeyes in the first meeting, Markowski made a career-high six 3-pointers and posted a career-high 27 points Jan. 16 in Nebraska’s 93-83 loss.

Markowski is 10-of-14 from beyond the arc (71.4%), and she also leads the Huskers in overall field goal percentage having made 67-of-127 shots (.528). She’s also second to Shelley in total rebounds (120-109).

The Right Combination

Callin Hake’s Playing Style Fits the Husker Mold

Story by Shane G. Gilster • Courtesy photos

The Nebraska women’s basketball team likes to use interchangeable parts to play fast on offense and pressure the ball on defense, and it’s effectively recruiting players who fit the machine.

The latest player to be tabbed by the Huskers to fit the system is 5-foot-8 guard Callin Hake.

“She is going to be a versatile guard who can bring a lot of things to our team on the basketball court,” said NU coach Amy Williams. “I love that she is committed to playing hard on both ends of the court. Not only is Callin the perfect fit for us on the court, but she fits our family. She is not afraid to work and understands how to be a great teammate.”

Hake is currently a senior at Chanhassen, a 4A high school – the state’s largest for basketball – in suburban Minneapolis. After committing to NU in July of 2020, Hake signed her National Letter of Intent with the Huskers on Nov. 10. She’s set to join NU for the 2022-23 season.

“Nebraska really fits my style of play,” Hake said. “They are penetrating and then kicking it out and getting after it on defense, turning it into easy buckets. I like to pressure the heck out of everyone and want my on-ball defense to consistently keep getting better. I will talk it up on defense believing in chaos and noise as the best way to throw off your opponent.”

Among the first things Williams said to Hake was that she liked her heart and passion. “That just spoke to me because it’s true,” Hake said. “That can carry you a long way because you can’t teach those things.”

Hake brings impressive credentials as the No. 7 player in Minnesota and the No. 64 player in the nation by Prep Girls Hoops. Hake is already Chanhassen’s career scoring leader, having played on the varsity level as an eighth-grader, and is poised to hit 2,000 career points.

Hake started playing high school basketball as an eighth-grader.
Hake started playing high school basketball as an eighth-grader.

She averaged more than 20 points a game as a freshman, sophomore and junior. Hake also played for the Minnesota Fury, a highly competitive AAU program.

Hake’s high school coach calls her “the best player by far that we have had in our program.”

“She is the hardest worker that I have ever seen in high school or college in my coaching and playing career,” said Chanhassen coach Kayla Walsh, who played one college season at Iowa. “She has always been our go-to guard and can really do it all at either point or on the wing. She is the first one in the gym and last one to leave. She is always in the weight room and does personal film sessions with me. The sky is the limit for her.”

Hake uses strength and tenacity to be a factor on both ends. Walsh described her as a lockdown defender with a great ability to drive and finish. But that’s not all. Walsh said Hake can hit from mid-range and from 3-point range. Plus, her basketball IQ is top-notch.

“She is a natural leader, being a two-year captain for us,” Walsh continued. “She is a natural coach and could run practices for us if she had to. She is always calm, cool and collected. You are never going to see her eye-rolling or getting upset.”

Walsh believes Hake’s speed and quickness is Big Ten caliber and that her work ethic will have her in position to play early. “Nebraska is big on family and Hake has that whole mindset,” Walsh said. “They are a close-knit team with coaches that are supportive.”

Nebraska has had success recruiting Minnesota. Sam Haiby, Annika Stewart and Kendall Coley all have turned out to be good Husker fits after moving south. In particular, the versatile Haiby is a prime example upon whom NU would like Hake to model her game.

“We are fortunate right now where we have a lot of kids who are capable of playing that point-guard position,” Williams said. “But in certain situations and circumstances like set plays, we have some kids who can run the point position. Sam has the ability to go back and forth for us so we can have multiple point guards on the court at the same time.”

Hake’s background and upbringing has enabled her to be a flexible player with an all-around skill-set.

Hake’s parents both went to Wartburg College in Iowa, where her mom was a track-and-field athlete and her dad played football. Her parents had her play almost every sport available at the youth level, and her dad coached her in basketball since the second grade.

But Hake credits soccer as the sport that improved her game most. In fact, she liked soccer more than basketball until seventh grade when that feeling switched.

“I fell in love with the physicality and speed of the game of basketball,” she said. “Soccer made me a better basketball player because of the technicality, focus and IQ you need with soccer. The foot skills in soccer increased my footwork on the basketball court.”

On the academic side, Hake plans to major in marketing with a minor in biology. Her plan is to someday go into medical sales.

“The university provides endless opportunities that other schools in the Midwest do not have,” Hake said. “Nebraska checked all my boxes for me and my family. The coaching staff and the team’s character are unbelievable. You can just tell the girls on the team are best friends on and off the court.”


Nebraska Nabs High-Level Recruit in Volleyball and Basketball

Story by Mike Malloy • Photos by the Deseret News

There comes a time when a great multi-sport athlete has to make the difficult decision to specialize. It’s still not that time for Maggie Mendelson.

Mendelson, a Fremont (Utah) High School junior from North Ogden, will enroll a year early at Nebraska and intends to play volleyball and basketball next season. Such double duty is rare, but so is an athlete like the 6-foot-5 Mendelson.

“Some people are like ‘you got this’ and some people are like ‘I don’t know how you’re going to do it. It’s so hard,'” Mendelson said. “I’ve got some really good supporters and some people to prove wrong.”

Asking Mendelson which sports she prefers is like asking a parent the same of their children. The love is equal though the sports are different.

“(Volleyball) is more of a perfectionist’s game. You have to know what the other team is doing at all times; know what holes are open, what route you need to run,” Mendelson said. “In basketball you have to run your plays, but for the most part you’re doing what you’re doing and in volleyball you have to play off the other team more.”

Mendelson looks to score during the Utah state tournament in 2021. The 6-foot-5 athlete will be playing basketball and volleyball starting this fall for Nebraska.
Mendelson looks to score during the Utah state tournament in 2021. The 6-foot-5 athlete will be playing basketball and volleyball starting this fall for Nebraska.

Her resume shows why picking one would be so difficult. Last June, Mendelson earned a spot with USA Basketball’s U16 team after competing in a national tryout. The next month, she did the same for USA Volleyball’s U18 team. Each team limits its roster to 12.

She played in international tournaments with both teams this fall.

“Playing against all those amazing girls, and with the best in the U.S. Most kids won’t get that opportunity,” she said. “And they let me keep the jerseys; I got five.”

Mendelson’s been playing beyond her years for quite some time. She joined an Under-17 volleyball club when she was 14, catching the attention of Eric Howard, director of Mendelson’s club volleyball team, the Utah Hive.

“She looked as good as any kid in Utah,” Howard said. “Maggie is legit. There is more than a ‘wow’ factor when you watch her play. She just blows my mind with how well she moves with her size.”

Lisa Dalebout, Mendelson’s high school basketball coach, had a similar first impression when Mendelson was a mere 6-1 fifth-grader.

“She probably could have played on the sophomore team,” Dalebout said. “She wasn’t that gangly tall girl; her speed and athleticism was what made her special.”

Back then, basketball was pretty easy – “I just had to keep the ball high,” Mendelson said – but along the way she’s developed an outside game. Mendelson loves the look on a defender’s face when she makes a 3-pointer.

“It’s one of the best things,” Mendelson said. “They’ll think, ‘I can slink off; she’s not going to shoot it.'”

As good as Mendelson is, the question persists: how can she manage six straight months of competition on top of schoolwork? Laura Buttermore is one of the few who knows what it takes.

The then-Laura Pilakowski was the Nebraska Female Student-Athlete of the year in 2003 after excelling at both sports. That, however, was not the plan.

Two days after Buttermore’s senior volleyball season ended, the two-time All-American’s phone rang. It was then-women’s basketball coach Connie Yori, whose team was short of players and short in stature.

Buttermore, an outside hitter on Nebraska’s 2000 national championship volleyball team, declined Yori’s initial invitation, but eventually agreed to pull on a pair of high-tops for the first time since graduating from Columbus High.

“I was not in basketball shape; that’s for sure,” she said.

Still, she was second on the team in rebounding and played in 18 games, starting three, in her only basketball season with the Huskers.

Could she have imagined playing both sports four years in a row?

“No,” she said. “It was harder mentally. Christmas break is amazing – just take some time for yourself. (Mendelson’s) not going to have that.”

Buttermore, now a strength coach at the University of Nebraska Omaha, said training for both sports is similar, with important differences.

“You still have to have first-step quickness in both sports, but it’s not the repetitive jumping in volleyball or the repetitive running in basketball,” Buttermore said. “The (weight) lifting program for volleyball and basketball are going to be pretty similar; you don’t want to get too sports-specific in the weight room (to avoid) repetitive motion injuries.”

The most valuable part of downtime is developing as a player. Buttermore said she made big strides as a player by going through a spring weight-training program between her freshman and sophomore seasons.

While Mendelson will have it both ways on the court, another decision forced her to choose.

Mendelson led Fremont High to an undefeated state girls basketball championship last spring while averaging 15 points and nine rebounds. A few months later, she decided to reclassify and graduate a year earlier than planned.

“It was thought through but it was a quick decision,” Mendelson said. “It was hard to leave all my friends. It sucks not being able to have my senior-year experience but I’m excited to see what I can do at Nebraska.”

Fremont finished seventh last fall at the state volleyball tournament. In what was her final high school season, Mendelson had 407 kills in 85 sets.

Dalebout, Fremont’s girls basketball coach, said she’s never heard of a Utah high schooler reclassifying but she respects Mendelson’s decision.

“I’d be a fool if I didn’t have some major sadness about her leaving, but I’ve always supported her,” Dalebout said. “We always knew it was a possibility; she was really open and honest about the process.”

Mendelson hit the recruiting trail wanting to find a school that would let her pursue her two-fold dream. After a July visit to Lincoln, her mind was made up.

“I think she’s good enough to start for both (teams),” volleyball coach John Cooke said at a press conference in November.

And Mendelson will have more on her mind than sets and shots. The National Honor Society member carries a 4.0 grade-point average and will major in environmental sciences.

“I’ve always been passionate about helping the Earth. That’s a cheesy thing to say, but I’ve always wanted to help out; lessen my carbon footprint,” Mendelson said.