DES MOINES – The 2004-05 women’s basketball poster for the Iowa Hawkeyes featured a little girl in a long, blonde ponytail, facing away from the camera.
The theme: DREAM BIG.
The little girl? A 9-year old named Ally Disterhoft.
“I knew the coaches and they were looking for somebody about that size,” said Ally’s mother, Missy Disterhoft. “She (resembled) a little girl with a dream to look toward.”
In this case, art reflected reality.
Disterhoft will join the Hawkeyes next year, but that’s a story for another day. She’ll conclude a standout high school career for Iowa City West this week at Wells Fargo Arena, playing in her third straight state tournament.
“Win or lose, she’s going to go out at the state tournament, and that’s what she deserves,” said West Coach B.J. Mayer.
Before Disterhoft’s arrival at West, the school had never advanced to state. The last four years have produced an 82-16 record and three trips to Des Moines.
The Women of Troy are the reigning big-school state champions. They were runners-up the year before.
Leading a young and inexperienced squad, Disterhoft carried West this season, averaging a state-high 26.1 points per game. She posted 29 points (on 9-of-14 shooting, including 5-of-7 from long distance) and nine rebounds in a 55-42 upset of No. 1 Iowa City High in the regional final last week.
“I don’t think there’s anybody as glad that she’s graduating as me,” City High Coach Bill McTaggart Coach said afterward. “She’s the most complete player we’ve faced since I’ve been here.”
Disterhoft said, “I always thought we’d have a lot of potential. On paper, we weren’t expected to do as well.
“We were getting better, but it was at a slower rate than we wanted. But it paid off at the end.”
Tenth-ranked West (18-5) meets No. 3 Mason City (20-3) in a Class 5A quarterfinal at 6:45 Wednesday night. The game will match two of the leading candidates for Miss Iowa Basketball 2013 — Disterhoft and Mason City’s Jadda Buckley, an Iowa State signee.
Not surprisingly, Mayer feels Disterhoft deserves the top honor.
“Ally has done everything she’s done with most teams focusing on her,” Mayer said.
The Iowa coaches knew Disterhoft long before she began playing basketball. UI assistants Jan Jensen and Jenni Fitzgerald played alongside her mother (then Missy Slockett) at Drake in the late 1980s.
Ally started playing in fourth grade.
“I loved basketball from the first day,” she said. “I remember we had a (miniature) basket in the house. My (younger) brother (Nate) and me … we had a lot of intense battles. Most of the time, it ended up in tears or a fight.”
Disterhoft grew into a lean 6-footer who could score and defend, inside and out.
“As she progressed through her junior-high and high-school days, it was evident she was one of the better kids on this side of the state,” Jensen said. “She’s really good on defense. She has a good knack of getting to the rim.
“A lot of kids like to play, but Ally loves to play and has a high expectation to succeed.”
The first letter of interest from a Division-I program came when Disterhoft was an eighth-grader, from Drake.
“She was very excited about it,” Missy said. “We were on the road at an AAU tournament. She was so excited, and so tired.
“She fell asleep with (the letter) in her hand, at the hotel.”
But once Iowa showed interest, Iowa was where Disterhoft was going to go. She committed shortly after her junior season was complete.
“I kept my options open,” she said, “but Iowa was the place I really wanted to be.”
Just like the poster said, Disterhoft dared to dream big. But with the dream came willingness to work to make it happen.
“She’s not always the biggest, strongest kid, but she finds a way to compete,” Mayer said.
In victory or defeat, Disterhoft will compete for the final time for West this week.
“I’ve had a great run,” she said. “And it’s not over yet.”