March 19, 2012

Bright Future

Another Iowa Basketball season has come to an end and for the first time since the 2006-07 campaign, it ends with more wins than losses.

That alone should make Hawkeye fans feel good about the future of the program under the direction of Fran McCaffery. The second round loss in the National Invitational Tournament to Oregon and the 108 points scored by the Ducks on Sunday afternoon certainly stings a bit, but it shouldn't take away from a season of building towards a brighter future down the road.

While there were certainly bumps in the road, especially early in the year with losses to schools like Campbell, there were plenty of bright spots, including a season sweep of Wisconsin, who is now in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, and wins over Michigan and Indiana.

Before looking ahead, a tip of the cap to Matt Gatens, Bryce Cartwright, Devon Archie, and Andrew Brommer, Iowa's four seniors who saw their Hawkeye careers come to a close in Eugene late this afternoon.

Gatens will go down as one of the all time greats to ever wear an Iowa uniform. He finishes his distinguished career as the 6th best scorer in Hawkeye Basketball history with 1,635 points. Having spent many years around Gatens even before he put on the Iowa jersey, you won't find a better person off the floor.

Brommer and Archie battled injuries at points in their career and gave their best when they were called up during their Iowa careers. Heck, we will be talking about Brommer's Sportcenter moment with the length of the court trick shot for years to come.

It's too bad that Cartwright didn't enjoy a healthy senior season because when he was right, the Iowa Basketball team played some of their best games of the year. Cartwright finished in strong fashion on Sunday with 12 points, 10 assists, and four steals in the loss to Oregon. While Iowa went down against the Ducks, Cartwright was fighting until the very end.

The four seniors will be missed, but the future for the Iowa program is bright and most Hawkeye fans haven't felt this good about their hoops programs moving forward in many years.

Iowa will return their 2nd thru 6th leading scorers next season and 67% of the offensive productions. Gatens 15 points per game and leadership on and off the floor will be missed, but the Hawkeyes have plenty of ammunition returning and more help on the way.

The conversation about the future begins with Devyn Marble and Aaron White, who both ended the season as double figure scorers. Marble posted a career best 31 points on Sunday against Oregon and if he can continue to shoot the three point shot like he did on against the Ducks, Iowa will be in great shape moving forward. If he can continue his 2:1 assist to turnover ratio, even better.

White was certainly the surprise of the year simply because no one saw him averaging 11 points per game as a freshman. The good news is the lanky native of Ohio is just scratching the surface when it comes to his potential. White will look to add 15-20 pounds of muscle to his frame in the off season and that will help him battle in the paint moving forward. Perhaps his biggest contribution will be as a young leader on the Iowa team. White and Marble are both fearless when it comes to competing and they are gym rats that will put in the time in the off-season to get better and keep improving.

Also returning are Zach McCabe and Melsahn Basabe, who spent much of their sophomore season battling as undersized post players. While both gave great effort, they struggled at times against bigger opponents in the paint. McCabe had three 20 point games this year and when he was able to stay out of foul trouble, he was an effective player for the Hawkeyes.

After shining in his freshman season, Basabe experienced somewhat of a sophomore slump in year two. After averaging 11 points and nearly seven rebounds a game last year, the New York native feel back to 8.2 points per game and 4.8 rebounds. The good news is late in the season, Basabe appeared to snap out of an uneven season and play some of his best basketball of the season. In the final two games of the year, he scored 15 and 17 points and was active on the glass.

Eric May got off to a fast start this year, reaching double figures in the first three games of the year, including a career tying 20 point effort in the second game of the year. After that, he reached double figures in two games the rest of the season. May battled back issues through much of the Big Ten season and the main goal now will be to get healthy and then he will hopefully get back the confidence that he lost during the year.

A bright spot for the future could be Josh Oglesby. The freshman guard will likely be asked to help fill some of the outside shoot void left by the departure of Matt Gatens next year. Early in the season Oglesby probably deferred too much when it came to shooting the basketball, but as the year progressed he became more comfortable in his role and averaged 6.4 points per game. Included in his freshman season were 24 point performance against Indiana and 20 points against Michigan State in the Big Ten Tournament.

Freshman big man Gabe Olaseni didn't play a lot this year, but he has shown promise for the future. Iowa will need his big frame in the next three years if they are going to climb up the Big Ten standings and return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006.

In addition to all of the talent returning for the 2012-13 season, Coach Fran McCaffery will be welcoming a recruiting class that ranks in the Top 25 nationally. That class will be led by two Top 100 players in Adam Woodbury and Mike Gesell. Woodbury will provide immediate help in the interior thanks to his 7 foot frame. While expectations are probably going to be unrealistically high among Iowa fans based on his size and Top 50 national ranking, Woodbury will give the Hawkeyes a post presence that they lacked this year and it will certainly help White, McCabe, and Basabe, who at times played out of position.

Gesell could end up being handed the keys to the Iowa offense the day he arrives on campus. The 6 footer is a scoring point guard who will compete like crazy on both ends of the floor. Like many freshman point guards, he will certainly have his up's and down's during his first season, but Iowa fans will really enjoy Gesell the next four years.

Also arriving in Iowa City will be guards Patrick Ingram and Anthony Clemmons, along with forward Kyle Meyer. Clemmons is a combo guard out of Michigan with length who can score and defend. The hope would be he could provide help as a backup point guard as a freshman. Ingram is a 6-foot-3 wing guard out of Indiana who is known to be a very physical defender and explosive when it comes to attacking the basket. He will need to improve his outside shot at the college level, but Iowa could certainly use him on the defensive end. Meyer is a classic face-up four man who can shoot from the outside and stretch the defense. At 6-foot-9, he is a better athlete than he is given credit for being. The good news is that he will be allowed to develop thanks to Iowa's depth in the front court next year.

Coach McCaffery does have one scholarship that is still available to use this spring. He has been on the fence about using that scholarship saying it would have to be a player that could help and his focus has been on wing prospects. McCaffery and his staff have been looking at the prep and JUCO ranks and as of yet, they have not moved on a prospect as a top target. One other option that McCaffery has said he is open to is looking at potential D1 transfers who are leaving other schools. Those players will become available in the coming weeks, so it will be interesting to see if the Hawkeyes explore that option.

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