IOWA CITY — Jaime Printy surprised her teammates, her family and herself during a Senior Night postgame speech.
“I’m a huge crier,” she said. “And I’m sure I will be very emotional when the season is over.
“But that night, I wasn’t saying good bye. Not yet.”
The Iowa Hawkeyes expect to make the NCAA women’s basketball tournament for the sixth straight year. If they qualify, they will host first- and second-round games March 24 and March 26.
That will be Printy’s final appearance at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. And that’s probably when the tears will come, win or lose.
“It’s hard to imagine this program without Jaime in it,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “And I don’t want to. There are so many things I’m going to miss about her.
“We have a tradition (during pregame introductions). She’s the last off the bench. We hold hands for just a moment or two before she goes out. It seems so ridiculous, but after four years, I’ll miss that.”
Printy has been a starter — and a big scorer — for four years. She has been a Hawkeye much longer.
She committed to the program as a 15-year-old, when she was a freshman at Linn-Mar High School. Only one other time has Bluder offered a scholarship to a ninth-grader, and that was eventual Tennessee All-American Candace Parker.
Printy visited Iowa State — Bill Fennelly actually offered her first — then set up a visit with Bluder, who also offered her.
“I had grown up a Hawkeye fan, and I’m really close to my family. I would get homesick if I was just staying overnight at a friend’s house,” Printy said.
Within a couple months of the offer, Printy selected Iowa.
She became a starter immediately. After averaging 14.7 points per game as a rookie, she was the Big Ten freshman of the year.
Her scoring average increased to 16.8 points per game as a sophomore (earning honorable-mention All-American honors), then 16.9 as a junior before she suffered the second torn ACL of her career late in an overtime win at Wisconsin in February 2012.
At the time, she was on pace to become the leading scorer in school history.
“Everything happens for a reason,” Printy said. “It’s the same reason God had for me suffering the first one (as a sophomore at Linn-Mar).”
Printy ranks No. 3 on Iowa’s all-time scoring chart, with 1,822 points. She’s No. 2 in 3-point makes with 251 — 10 behind Lindsay Meder — and fifth in assists 407.
Then there’s the free throws, the silver lining of her knee injuries.
“I credit my free throw shooting to the ACL,” she said. “That’s the first thing you’re cleared to do. So I shot free throws. A lot of free throws.”
Printy is an 89-percent career shooter from the line, including an Iowa-record 92.1 percent this season. That ranks fifth in the country.
Meanwhile, her other shooting numbers have dipped this season — 35.1 percent from the field, 29.0 percent from 3-point range. Her 12.9 points per game is a career-low.
And (again, assuming they qualify) if the Hawkeyes are going to advance beyond Iowa City, it’s a must that those numbers improve.
“I know she’s hurting. She’s got the knee issues, obviously, and she sprained her ankle at Nebraska,” Bluder said. “But like I told her, we need her to be Jaime Printy.
“We need her to focus on the million times in her life that she has made shots, or the million times in her left that she has taken the ball hard to the basket.”
In Printy’s four years, the Hawkeyes have racked up an 81-47 record.
She has developed an extremely close relationship with her senior teammates; she has shared an apartment with backup guard Trisha Nesbitt and starting center Morgan Johnson for the majority of their careers.
“A lot of people don’t understand it, but when you’ve worked out — gone through the wins and losses, the sweat and tears — it creates a bond,” Nesbitt said.
“Jaime’s a very hard-working person, but pretty laid-back. She likes to have a good time and relax, but she’s also one of the most compassionate persons you’re ever going to meet.”
Nesbitt is engaged to former Iowa men’s player Jarryd Cole. Printy has a serious boyfriend in former Iowa women’s manager Danny Brandt, but said the couple is “not in any big rush” to marry.
A recreation and sports business major, the 22-year-old Printy is undecided on whether she will continue her basketball career beyond this season.
“I think her true calling, someday, would be to become a teacher and coach,” Bluder said. “She would be so good. She could benefit so many people that way.”