See more of the story

Mallory Heyer was already doing a lot.

Heyer, from Chaska, was a part of the University of Minnesota women's basketball recruiting class that also brought in Mara Braun, Amaya Battle and Nia Holloway.

As a freshman, Heyer was one of two players to play and start every game. She was second on the team in minutes played. She was a 6-1 forward asked to defend at three positions — including, at times, down low at center — and do so much on offense. She was third on the team in threes taken, second in offensive rebounds grabbed and was one of the team's best at running the floor.

And now coach Dawn Plitzuweit is asking:


Heyer worked all summer on her ball-handling. Instead of just setting screens, she is being asked to come off them, read what she sees, react.

"She's like, 'I used to set all the ball screens,'" Plitzuweit said. "'This is a different skill.' She has made great strides."

Heyer made a big impact last season. She was third on the team in scoring, a 10.4-point average that rose to 10.6 during the rugged Big Ten Conference schedule. She was second in rebounding (7.1), overall field goal percentage (.451) and double-doubles (five).

She scored in double figures in 15 of her 30 games, had at least eight points in 20 and had 19 games with seven or more rebounds. Her best game came in an overtime loss at Wisconsin late in the season. Heyer had 28 points and 15 rebounds, made nine of 16 shots overall and five of seven threes.

And it was just the start.

"It was a great opportunity for me this summer to be able to grow my game," Heyer said. "I've been working on my ball handling, coming off screens, stuff like that."

In many ways, Heyer is the prototype of an offensive player in Plitzuweit's scheme, which rewards versatility. As Plitzuweit said, Heyer can do a little bit of everything. But now more is needed. Keep getting offensive rebounds and continue to run the floor. Maintain the intensity that sets her apart. Score on three levels more often, off the picks — even though, with Battle and Braun in the backcourt, sometimes it will be difficult to get a dribble in edgewise.

"She does everything for us," said Braun of Heyer, the team's second-best returning scorer. "She's a really good offensive rebounder. She just understands the game. She's active off the ball; when she's cutting to the basket, it's hard to defend."

Another thing Plitzuweit is asking for is that Heyer become more of a vocal leader. Her intensity has always meant she sets an example, but now Heyer is being asked to communicate more.

In some ways, this could be the biggest challenge.

"I feel I lead by example, that's my strength," she said. "But I've been working, a lot, on being more vocal."

As Braun said, it's something that doesn't come naturally for everyone.

"I'm more of a vocal player," Braun said. "Where she's more by example. She always knows the right thing to do. Being more vocal could take her out of her comfort zone, but hopefully she'll be able to adapt to that. Because a lot of people look to her."