DES MOINES — Jennie Baranczyk has returned home with a mission in mind.
“We don’t need to develop a tradition here,” said Baranczyk, the first-year women’s basketball coach at Drake University. “We just need to re-ignite it.”
Baranczyk will make the perfect fuse, said her college coach.
“What made her a great player is what is going to make her a great coach,” said Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder. “She was a little undersized to play her position, both in height and in strength. But she made up for it through her passion.
“She made up for it through hard work and the competitive fire that she brought to the game every single day on the court in practice and in every single game.”
As Jennie Lillis, Baranczyk played at Iowa from 2000 through 2004. She is No. 4 on the school’s all-time scoring chart with 1,762 points. She ranks fifth in blocks, sixth in rebounding, eighth in steals and 13th in assists.
A native of Des Moines (she was an all-stater at West Des Moines Dowling), Baranczyk served as an assistant at Kansas State, Marquette and Colorado. She was named the head coach at Drake in April.
“Drake is a very, very special place,” Baranczyk said. “It’s the capital city, a vibrant city. I love the feel of the university.”
Baranczyk welcomes her coach to town when Drake (3-5) hosts Iowa (7-3) at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Knapp Center.
“This will be the first time I’ve ever rooted against Iowa,” Baranczyk said.
The Hawkeyes have owned this series recently, winning 10 straight games. The Bulldogs were at a peak during Bluder’s time there (187-106 in 10 years, ending in 2000), but the program has backtracked somewhat in recent years.
Baranczyk succeeded Amy Stephens. One priority is to make the attractive to in-state players. There are no Iowans on the current roster.
“I’m going to recruit Iowa, and I’m going to recruit the Midwest,” she said.
Baranczyk is the mother of a 7-month-old son, Elijah. She said she has turned to Bluder about the balancing of career and family more than she has about X’s and O’s.
“I really value her perspective on that,” Baranczyk said. “That’s huge to me.
“And Coach Bluder is a great teacher of the game. Her teams are very disciplined.”
Iowa will be playing its first game since Dec. 6, when it defeated Iowa State. Finals are over, and basketball is back.
“This is my favorite time of the year,” Bluder said. “During holiday break, all you have to do is play basketball, eat, sleep and spend time with the team.”