Hawkeyes are Confident for Season-Opener

Nov. 10, 2010

Coach McCaffery Press Conference Transcript

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Matt Gatens, who led the Iowa men’s basketball team with 12.3 points per game last season, had the cast on his left (non-shooting) hand removed Wednesday, although it is uncertain whether he will play Sunday in the season-opener against South Dakota State.

“They made me something to put on there to wrap up and tape up,” Gatens said. “I’ll give it a go Friday (in practice) and see how it feels. It’s still up in the air; I’m not 100 percent risk-free. But if I can take it and still be helpful and able to catch and shoot, I’ll be out there playing.”

Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery met the media inside the Carver-Hawkeye Arena press room before the start of practice Wednesday. He said Gatens was `real anxious’ to return to the court after suffering a tendon injury in his left hand. He had surgery Oct. 28.

“He’s maintained himself physically and I think from a cardiovascular standpoint he’ll be fine,” McCaffery said. “But in terms of getting your timing back down where it was…he was really in a groove. It’s understandable to think he might be a little rusty.”

The Hawkeyes, fresh off a 111-66 exhibition victory against Illinois-Springfield on Nov. 7, are scheduled to tip off against the Jackrabbits at 2:01 p.m. on Sunday. South Dakota State was 14-16 last season, 10-8 in The Summit League.

“(South Dakota State head coach) Scott (Nagy) does a really nice job in terms of how they execute their offense,” McCaffery said. “They spread you out, they share the ball, they’re not a mistake team. They make 3’s and they compete.”

The Jackrabbits return starting guards Clint Sargent (12.8 points per game) and Nate Wolters (10.1 ppg). Sargent, from Sioux City, is one of three Iowans on the South Dakota State roster.

Six Hawkeyes scored in double figures during the 45-point decision against Illinois-Springfield and Gatens enjoyed his courtside view.

“It was fun to watch,” Gatens said. “Obviously I would rather be out there being a part of it. From the sideline I enjoyed seeing them have success and doing the things we had worked on for the last month in practice and seeing it work well.”

Iowa’s top two point guards — Cully Payne and Bryce Cartwright — combined for 22 points and 15 assists in Sunday’s exhibition. McCaffery said he has been lucky to coach several talented point guards in his career like Courtney Eldridge at North Carolina-Greensboro and Kenny Hosbrouk, Kojo Mensah and Ronnie Taylor at Siena.

“We’ve become a lot smarter when we have point guards whose numbers are retired,” McCaffery joked.

He went on to say that Payne has been “phenomenally impressive” and that the Hawkeyes have “been using Bryce to take advantage of his scoring ability.”

Iowa dropped its first two games and four of the first five during the 2009-10 season, but Payne is part of a much more confident group this season.

“We won big, played together and played well (against Illinois-Springfield),” Payne said. “That gives us a confidence-booster going into the (South Dakota State) game. We really have confidence this year.”