Nov. 3, 2010
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — Fran McCaffery’s recipe for success during Sunday’s men’s basketball exhibition against Illinois-Springfield includes defense, rebounding and effort. In other words, get out there and compete.
McCaffery makes his University of Iowa coaching debut against the Prairie Stars on Nov. 7 at 3:35 p.m., inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. He met with media Wednesday for the first of two November press conferences.
“Number one, we want to really compete,” McCaffery said of his Sunday expectations. “We want to defend. We want to get on the glass, take care of the effort aspects of the game.”
And though much has been made of incorporating an up-tempo style, McCaffery wants to make sure the Hawkeyes — which will start a lineup of two freshmen, two sophomores and a junior — are under control.
“We don’t want to play so fast that we’re turning the ball over and driving into packs of people and making poor decisions,” McCaffery said. “I think that will be a true test. Everyone is going to want to come out flying — the crowd wants to see it, I’ve been talking about it. But you can run yourself right into a butt-kicking if you don’t know how to play fast. That’s been the hardest thing I think for us in the first couple weeks, is sometimes you go fast to probe the defense, then you pull it back. There’s nothing there. Now we grind it.”
“We don’t want to play so fast that we’re turning the ball over and driving into packs of people and making poor decisions. I think that will be a true test. Everyone is going to want to come out flying — the crowd wants to see it, I’ve been talking about it. But you can run yourself right into a butt-kicking if you don’t know how to play fast.”
UI head coach
With senior Jarryd Cole bothered by a sore foot and junior Matt Gatens out with an injury to his left hand, Iowa will start junior Bryce Cartwright and sophomore Cully Payne at guard, sophomore Eric May and freshman Zach McCabe at forward and freshman Melsahn Basabe at center.
McCaffery said McCabe, from Sioux City (Iowa) Heelan High School “may very well be our most consistent player.”
The Hawkeyes are 16-1 in exhibition games since the 1999-2000 season. They won’t be alone with an inexperienced starting lineup. At tip-off, Illinois-Springfield will have just two players that competed for the Prairie Stars a year ago (senior guard Brandon Farmer and senior forward Ryan Thornton). Iowa counters with sophomore veterans Payne (8.7 points, 3.8 assists per game) and May (9.0 points, 4.6 rebounds per game). McCaffery said May could be the team’s “shutdown guy” on defense.
With the temporary loss of Cole and Gatens, several other Iowa players have gained valuable repetitions in practice.
“McCabe and Basabe and Bryce Cartwright and Marble, they have really gotten a ton of reps,” McCaffery said. “We had a scrimmage against Ball State on Sunday and those guys played a ton of minutes, got to make mistakes, got to make great plays, got to see what it was like. So from that standpoint, the young kids I think are developing. Long term we need (Cole and Gatens).”
McCaffery sees similarities between his first team at Iowa and his first team at Siena. The latter was picked to finish at the bottom of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference in 2006 and ended up with 15 wins and a 10-8 record in the league. The Saints followed that with four straight 20-win seasons.
“A lot of similarities from the standpoint that we only had a core group of guys. The one thing you’ve heard me say over and over to a man, they’ve bought into what we’re doing,” McCaffery said. “That’s step one. Step two is we had great senior leadership from Antoine Jordan that year. I’m getting that same thing in Jarryd Cole. Antoine ended up being a first team all conference player. I think Jarryd could be a really good player for us if he stays healthy. Antoine stayed healthy. We took care of all the things we needed to take care of (in 2005-06). I think you’ll see this team do the same thing. Our turnovers will be down, our shot selection will be good.”
The first regular-season game for the Hawkeyes is Sunday, Nov. 14, against South Dakota State.