When Kali Peschel committed to the University of Iowa women's basketball program as a junior in high school, she felt she was committing to a second family. Nearly two years—and one emotional injury—later, Peschel knows she found her home in Iowa City.
Peschel, a freshman on the UI women's basketball team, visited campus one day before her junior year of high school. She didn't have a scholarship offer from head coach Lisa Bluder, but had heard good things about the program. After one unofficial visit, Peschel knew she wanted to be a Hawkeye.
"It totally clicked for me when I was on the campus," Peschel says. "I remember leaving campus (immediately after the visit) and telling my parents that I wanted to come to Iowa."
Bluder and her coaching staff had their eyes on Peschel, who had put together an impressive playing résumé at Sauk Centre (Minn.) High School. She had started as an eighth grader for her high school team, garnering four all-conference awards through her junior season, including two conference MVP awards. She was a two-time all-state selection and held numerous school records.
Once the scholarship offer came, Peschel had an easy decision to make.
"The coaches were so personal and we had great interactions," Peschel says. "They made me feel like Iowa could be a home away from home. I knew this place could be the one for me to move forward with my basketball career."
Peschel was ready to enter her senior year of high school, eager to cap her playing career on a high note before starting the dream of becoming a Division I athlete. During a pickup game before her senior season, those plans quickly changed.
"They were very supportive and were there for me all along the way. It was great to receive that kind of support, considering I wasn't even at Iowa yet."
Peschel injured her knee and knew something wasn't right. During a visit to the doctor's office, Peschel heard the dreaded three letters no athlete wants to hear: ACL.
High hopes turned into tears for the standout guard, as she saw her senior season on the court potentially disappear. Her first phone call out of the doctor's office was to Bluder. That phone call helped Peschel realize what was ahead of her at Iowa.
"They were very supportive and were there for me all along the way," Peschel says. "It was great to receive that kind of support, considering I wasn't even at Iowa yet."
After months of rehabilitation, Peschel's doctor cleared her to play in mid-February. Her first game back happened to be the game that her high school planned on retiring her jersey. Peschel wanted to play, but knew a four-year collegiate career was ahead. Another phone call to Bluder made Peschel even happier about her decision.
"I called the coaches at Iowa and asked them if they would be OK with me playing," Peschel says. "Coach Bluder told me I was deserving of the chance to play in that game. I was choked up on the phone with her. That meant a lot."
Peschel played the final 11 games of her senior season and finished her career with 2,037 points. While her accolades on the court made her a Division I talent, she believes the rehabilitation off the court helped mold her into a better player.
"Honestly, the injury helped me gain the work ethic I need to be able to play at this level," Peschel says. "I was able to go through some low points and experience that. It made me work much harder."
It takes a mature person to turn a negative situation into a positive, and Peschel is mature beyond her freshman tag. Now that she is healthy and settled in at the school she loves, Peschel is ready to use that work ethic to help her new family be successful.
"I'm just here to give it everything I have and help the team as much as I can," Peschel says. "I want to help the team and the coaches in any way I'm able."
Black and Gold Blowout set for Oct. 19
The University of Iowa men's and women's basketball teams will make their first public appearance of 2012-13 on Friday, Oct. 19, in the Black & Gold Blowout presented by Herky's Locker Room. The re-engineered event will take place in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, starting at 8 p.m. (doors open at 7 p.m.). The event will take place the evening before the Iowa-Penn State primetime football game in Iowa City.
Tickets are $5 for adults and free for UI students and youth 18 and under. All seating is general admission.
Fans are encouraged to arrive early as there will be a number of prizes awarded to fans who arrive early. Also, both teams will sign autographs at the end of the event for 30 minutes.