June 15, 2011

McCaffery on Basabe

Starting later this week, Melsahn Basabe has an opportunity to represent the United States on the hardwood this summer. Coach Fran McCaffery thinks that his prize sophomore to be has a great chance to make the team this weekend. McCaffery talks about Basabe's spring improvements, how the team will be improved in the upcoming season, and much more.

Q: Is Basabe pretty excited about going to the USA Basketball tryout this weekend?

FRAN: He is very excited, focused, and really working diligently. He is in phenomenal shape. He has really worked on his overall skill set. He was a rebounder, shot blocker, and low post scorer last year. He has really worked on his perimeter game and putting it on the floor a little bit more, not excessively, and his jumper, not from three but out to 17-18 feet. He is really looking good in those areas.

Q: He could end up playing against international competition and Gatens and Cartwright are going on a tour against international players. What could that experience mean for those guys?

FRAN: It will be beneficial in a couple of ways. You can have workouts before you go and then you play when you are there. For Melsahn it would be a lengthier training time and he will get a lot out of that playing for Paul Hewitt and against the talented players on that team. That will be really beneficial for him if he is fortunate enough to make it. The other guys will get a couple of workouts in and then go and then have the opportunity to play against some of the best teams in the world. I think that will be great. In both instances I think it will be great for all three of them.

Q: Today was the first day that you could call the 2013 prospects on the phone. Were you working the phones today?

FRAN: Yeah, we were on the phone quite a bit.

Q: How was the reception?

FRAN: Very good. It was very positive.

Q: Hubbard seems to be handling all of this in a very mature manner. How about on the court? What type of player will he be?

FRAN: I don't think we will really know until we see him play on the court here. But, watching him play, he is really under control. He has a tremendous feel for the game. I saw him play in a championship game where his team was struggling and he wasn't scoring the ball like he normally does. He kept his composure, kept battling, and he understands all aspects of the game. That is what I like about him. He will rebound. He drives it. He is a terrific passer and he does have innate leadership skills. I suspect that he will be a mature player on the floor. We are all susceptible to the emotion of basketball at this level, so I don't think we can expect him to always be completely under control with his emotions because nobody is. But, I think you will see a guy who for the most part controls his emotions, plays well on the floor, overcomes nights when he doesn't play so well, and will be the consummate team player.

Q: You have gotten the Hubbard story out of the way with us in Iowa. Are you ready for it to recycle with the Big Ten?

FRAN: I think we have to be realistic, in particular if he starts to play real well. The better he plays, then all of the sudden the national guys are going to be asking the same questions that we just answered. I think it was important to do what we did today just to get out in front of it. We aren't hiding anything and he can, to the best of his ability, just live his life and have it be as normal as possible under the circumstances. I want him to enjoy and try to maximize this opportunity over the next two years.

Q: What would you say to someone who would look at Iowa's record the past few years and say that this is a desperate move to get the program back. How would you respond to that?

FRAN: I don't operate that way. I was 100% behind this decision. It has nothing to do with where we were at the time. It had to make sense for me. It had to make sense for Anthony and for our team. He had to bring a skill set that we need. When we started the recruiting process we had five scholarships. We have used four. What do you need? The beauty of him was that I was able to coach a season and we signed Josh and Aaron before I even coached a game here. We signed Melsahn and Bryce before I ever coached a game here. Now, having evaluated my team, that made me want to go find someone like Anthony. To me, that is a critical thing. In no way, if we were 28-3, well then we wouldn't have taken him. We would have done the same thing because he fit the need. Once we decided that he was a good enough person we explored more of the basketball side of it.

Q: How much improved is this program from where it was a year ago?

FRAN: Any team's success will always be a function of how healthy we remain. If the wrong two guys get hurt, then anybody would struggle. Assuming we stay healthy, then we have more weapons. We have more shooting, more size, more depth, and more experience. We are better capable of handling an injury because we have more depth. We have players like Brommer and Archie, who no one knew what they could do a year ago and now we feel pretty good about what they can do. We've got a variety of pieces that I think fit. To me, that is the key to recruiting, to get pieces that fit. You don't duplicate what you have and that is where Anthony fits in. That is why he can play with Eric May and Matt Gatens and Josh Oglesby and we can rotate all of those guys and increase our defensive intensity. We can extend our defensive pressure more. We can run more and take advantage of all the different talents that this team has. There is no question we are more talented. We are bigger, deeper, and hopefully that will translate into many more wins.

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