Oct. 13, 2009
- Iowa and the Big Ten Network
- Big Ten Network: Free Hawkeye Video
- 24 Hawkeyes to Watch (2009-10 season)
- 2009-10 Men’s Basketball Prospectus
- 2009-10 Iowa History and Records Section
by Sean Neugent
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Matt Gatens, Eric May and Brennan Cougill are living their dreams of playing for the men’s basketball program they looked up to ever since they were kids on the playground and imitating the likes of Dean Oliver, Reggie Evans and Ricky Davis.
There is something more at stake in growing up in Iowa and playing basketball for the University of Iowa — it is about home pride, representing your state, and giving everything, not only for the love of the game, but also out of love of the Hawkeyes.
“All my family and friends come down to the football games, so it is really exciting to think that I will be starting practice Friday,” May said. “In less than a month we have a game, so I am really excited about it. Who wouldn’t want to be wearing this (Iowa jersey) right now? It is a dream to put it on and I’m having a good time.”
“It is really exciting and it has been a lot of fun,” Cougill said. “It is pretty big (playing for Iowa). I enjoy it a lot and love the people in Iowa City. There are a lot of fans out there that are really passionate about the Hawkeyes.”
Iowa features a young team that includes one senior, two juniors, four sophomores, and five freshmen. The excitement of getting practice underway was obvious Monday afternoon during media day, especially for the freshmen that wonder what it will be like to play Division I basketball in front of thousands of cheering fans.
Although they are picked to be basement-dwellers in the Big Ten Conference this season, the Hawkeye hopes are high and they know that with hard work and discipline they can compete with anyone.
UI head coach Todd Lickliter’s style of play is unselfish and it is not the name on the back that matters, it is the one on the front that really means something — it is about team unity and cohesion that can take the team to the top of the conference. It is the unselfishness that already has the Hawkeyes team meshing well.
“Everyone has come together,” May said. “It is relatively a young team and we all have to help each other to become a better team.”
“It’s going great so far, they (freshmen) have been with us all summer for the Prime Time League, open gym and lifting,” Gatens said. “They are a lot of fun to be around. We’re expecting a lot out of everybody, so all of the freshmen are going to be asked to step up right from the get-go. The quicker they are able to buy into everything, the quicker they see what the coaches expect, the better it is for us.”
“All my family and friends come down to the football games, so it is really exciting to think that I will be starting practice Friday. In less than a month we have a game, so I am really excited about it. Who wouldn’t want to be wearing this (Iowa jersey) right now? It is a dream to put it on and I’m having a good time.”
UI freshman Eric May
Gatens, a sophomore from Iowa City, already has a successful season under his belt. He averaged 10.8 points per game which ranked second on the team last year. This season brings in some more homegrown talent with May and Cougill. May is from Dubuque and Cougill hails from Sioux City.
“A certain amount of pride comes with playing in your home state and it is awesome to see the guys come here and leave a legacy of these in-state guys that (Jeff) Horner and (Adam) Haluska left for us,” Gatens said. “It’s a lot of fun having these in-state guys and I hope we can keep them coming here.”
“If Brennan and Eric were in another state playing basketball, I would have recruited them,” Lickliter said. “But it is nice to know that they grew up watching the Hawkeyes, and they’re going to represent their state. I think there might be some added incentive to that, and that’s a good thing. They’re plenty good regardless.”
Both Cougill and May enjoyed immense success in high school and they know how to win. Cougill (6-foot-9, 260 pounds) led Bishop Heelan to a state title as a senior and was named Iowa’s “Mr. Basketball.” He averaged a double-double in his final season (18.2 points and 13.2 rebounds) and he is only the 11th player in Iowa history to accrue 1,500 points and 1,000 rebounds.
May (6-5, 225) sank a 35-foot shot at the buzzer to help Wahlert High School to a state title in his junior season. He averaged 24.3 points and 9.1 rebounds.
“They’ve both won state championships, and they’re both a lot of fun to be around,” Lickliter said. “I think they’re absolutely the kind of student-athletes that I want to recruit and coach, and watch them have terrific careers. I’ve got a really strong feeling that they’re going to be successful throughout their career here and beyond. They’re exactly the kind of guys I want to have on this team.”
The Hawkeyes are in an underdog role this season, but youthful enthusiasm could take them far and into the top half of the Big Ten standings.
Iowa will have its first game on Nov. 8 at home in an exhibition against Marian (Ind.)University with a 12:35 p.m. tip.