NIU women’s basketball: Ally Lehman aims high for future role


Sophomore Ally Lehman (31) shoots a free throw Feb. 11 in the game against the Western Michigan Broncos at the Convocation Center. Lehman has played in 53 games, starting 50 of them, during her two seasons at NIU.

By Walter Douglas

Women’s basketball’s sophomore Ally Lehman is preparing to have a larger role offensively and leadership-wise next season.

The focus is on Lehman because the graduating class of 2015 includes four key players: guards Danny Pulliam and Amanda Corral and forwards Jenna Thorp and Alex Dumoulin. Lehman will be one of few upperclassmen with starting experience next year, and she’s setting the expectations for her leadership at a higher level.

Even though Lehman’s started 50 games at NIU, she is adjusting to the pace of college basketball.

“It was definitely a harder transition trying to keep up with the pace, thinking ahead and trying to play in the moment,” Lehman said. “In high school it was easy to jump over people to get rebounds. Now you have to box [out] and the tempo is completely different.”

Lehman’s decision to come to NIU was based on the potential of being able to play right away and succeeding in the future.

“I really just wanted to pick a school that I could hopefully make a difference for … and I really loved the coaching staff,” Lehman said.

Lehman was setting career highs during her senior year at Indian Creek High School in Trafalgar, Ind. She averaged 24.2 points per game and was named to’s All-Indiana team.

This season, Lehman is averaging nine points and 7.4 rebounds per game. She approaches the game with the same mentality as she did in the past even though she isn’t depended upon for as much of the scoring as she was in high school. Lehman said she knows her role as a sophomore and also knows that role will change when the seniors leave.

“I definitely … am going to have to step up and be more vocal than now,” Lehman said. “I think it’s going to have to be a on-the-court, off-the-court thing, and just getting more involved.”

Lehman said the pressure of being a leader next season doesn’t frighten her and she’s “up for the challenge.”

Pulliam and Corral said Lehman has to learn a few more things in order to become the best version of herself but her future is bright.

“As a freshman [Lehman] was a little timid, and now as she has grown up and gotten more experience,” Pulliam said. “She’s very confident in everything she’s doing. … She’s been more versatile. She’s doing really well.”

Corral will take her team-high 16.7 points per game with her when she graduates, so she is going to pass the torch to Lehman to help her become the leader.

“I’m already trying to get her involved in the things that I do,” Corral said. “The team is going to need her and is going to need her to take a big leadership role.”

Head coach Kathi Bennett, who recruited Lehman, said the sophomore has done a good job adjusting to the college pace and there is more to come from her.

“I think the best has yet to come for her, and I think she just keeps getting better,” Bennett said. “I think the area where she’s grown the most in is leadership and her talking and communicating with the team and her coaches.”

Bennett said this offseason the coaching staff is going to work on Lehman’s jumper and 3-point shot to get it to become more consistent and steady. They also will help Lehman become more explosive and stronger and aid her in working better off the ball.

Even though there are high expectations for Lehman — from herself and the coaching staff — Bennett does not want her to try to be anyone other than herself.

“I want her to be the best Ally Lehman she can be,” Bennett said. “I definitely think she can be more of a scorer, and I want to see her grow as that combo guard. … I think she can definitely become a better offensive player. She has done a great job defensively for us. She has grasped the system, and I want her to keep getting better in all those areas.”