CEDAR FALLS | Jacqui Kalin hasn’t had to look far to find a source of inspiration as she continues to lead the University of Northern Iowa women’s basketball team a little over a year removed from surgery on her ACL.
MVP candidate Adrian Peterson’s impressive bounce-back season following his ACL operation has caught the Panther point guard’s attention.
“It’s kind of fun to watch people like Adrian Peterson who just come back in no time and have an unbelievable season,” Kalin said of the Minnesota Viking who recently finished nine yards shy of Eric Dickerson's NFL single-season rushing record. “There’s something to be said about watching people like that succeed and then believe that you can do it too.”
Through what has been the UNI basketball program’s most challenging non-conference schedule to date, Kalin is putting together an unbelievable comeback season of her own. Her production has increased across the board from her 2010-11 Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year campaign.
Kalin’s scoring average of 17.7 per game is up 2.6 points and leads the MVC, while she’s also shown growth in rebounding average (3.5 to 5.1), assists (3.1 to 3.8) and 3-point shooting percentage (32.8 to 36.5).
As UNI opens its MVC regular season schedule in a regionally televised 7 p.m. game tonight at Illinois State, head coach Tanya Warren continues to point out Kalin’s impact on this year’s youthful team goes beyond statistics. Simply put, she’s the type of leader who can give the Panthers a puncher’s chance at regaining the league’s championship won in Kalin’s most recent season of basketball.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that what took place a year ago, her tearing her ACL, was all a blessing for her to come back and lead this young team,” Warren said. “There’s nobody better to lead a young group, a team of 12 of the 16 are freshman and sophomores, than Jacqui Kalin.”
When UNI closed out its non-conference slate Saturday with a win at Saint Louis, Kalin was part of a starting lineup that included two sophomores and two freshmen. In contrast to her role on a veteran 2010-11 team that finished 27-6 — the most successful season in program history — the aspiring coach in Kalin has also enjoyed the type of internship opportunity she’s had this season.
“It’s a completely different role that I appreciate having, especially because I want to stay around the game,” Kalin said. “Maybe two years ago I could say something and they knew exactly what I was talking about, but this year I’ve got to think twice about how to explain something.
“Honestly, it’s been a really good learning experience. Sometimes I just feel so lucky that I had the opportunity to be here because I want to make a difference to these girls so that they can continue to have an unbelievable career and keep the program going down the road.”
The Panthers’ veteran point guard has Warren thinking back to a series of E.F. Hutton commercials that ran in the 70’s and 80’s.
“Every single one of these young women look up to her,” Warren said. “It is a position that Jacqui Kalin has earned from the time she has stepped on this campus. Back in the olden days, I used to talk about E.F. Hutton and she reminds me a little of E.F. Hutton. When she speaks, everybody listens.”