DAVENPORT, Iowa – Before leaving Thursday for Dallas and the start of training camp and her new WNBA career, Megan Gustafson took time Saturday to say thanks.
Three days after Iowa announced it was retiring the jersey number worn by the Hawkeyes’ consensus national college women’s basketball player of the year, Gustafson got an off-court workout during an appearance at Black & Gold in Davenport.
Hundreds of fans of all ages kept Gustafson busy signing autographs and posing for pictures from the start to finish of her two-hour appearance Saturday morning at the Hawkeye-themed store adjacent to North Park Mall.
Gutsafson signed everything from photos and shirts to newspaper clippings and caps during her appearance.
“The people in Iowa have been so good to me and I appreciate the support that they’ve given the Hawkeyes throughout my career,’’ Gutsafson said. “It’s good to take a little time to give back and meet some of the fans in Davenport.’’
Gustafson followed her appearance in Davenport with one at the Black & Gold location in Coralville on Saturday afternoon before she threw out the ceremonial first pitch Saturday night at an Iowa Cubs game in Des Moines.
Her signatures, smiles and conversation with fans on Saturday were complimentary although donations benefiting the Children’s Therapy Center of the Quad-Cities were accepted.
“Not only is Megan a great athlete, she is such a great person, a great role model for people and this turnout, it says a lot about what people think of Megan,’’ Angie Peterson, president and CEO of the Children’s Therapy Center.
As she did throughout her college career, the two-time Big Ten player of the year welcomed the chance to interact with fans as part of a whirlwind month of activities.
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“This means a lot to me and I’m having fun here today,’’ Gustafson said. “Everything that’s happened, I don’t take any of it for granted.’’
Her appearance came near the end of what she accurately describes as a whirlwind month.
Gustafson played her final game for Iowa in the Elite Eight of the NCAA tourney, jetted from one coast to the other to accept national player of the year honors, was selected by the Dallas Wings in the second round of WNBA draft and honored at the Iowa Statehouse before learning Wednesday during a team celebration event that no Hawkeye women’s basketball player will ever again wear jersey number 10.
“It’s been an unbelievable month, filled with so many incredible things,’’ Gustafson said. “I’ve met so many amazing people, Lisa Leslie, Ann Meyers, Zion Williamson, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, it still all seems a little unreal.’’
She has also managed to squeeze in a few final exams – three in upcoming days and two last week – and will return to Iowa to participate in graduation ceremonies next month after beginning training camp in Dallas.
“I’m excited to get to camp and get things started in Dallas,’’ Gustafson said. “I’ve been getting in three workouts a day and a doing some work on the weekends to be ready for camp. They have me doing a lot of different things.’’
She continues to work to keep her post game strong, but the Wings want the 6-foot-3 forward to work toward expanding her range.
Her training routine now includes spending time working on her mid-range and 3-point shot, working on scoring from different angles and developing that ability to be an effective pick and pop scorer.
“I’ve worked on some of those things for the past year or so, but it’s even more important now at the next level and it’s all about being ready to go there and compete,’’ Gustafson said. “It’s an exciting time and looking forward to getting down there and getting to work.’’