Big Role for New Iowa Big Man

Oct. 27, 2012

Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa men’s basketball team is loaded with freshmen talent, but one player literally stands above the rest. Adam Woodbury, a 7-foot-1 center from Sioux City, Iowa, helped head coach Fran McCaffery lock down the state’s borders last year when he committed to Iowa’s nationally-ranked recruiting class. This year that commitment quickly becomes reality — and it may happen at the center of the Hawkeyes’ offense.

“When you have a legitimate 7-foot post presence, and I refer to him as a post presence because he’s pretty good offensively in the post, but what he is, is a guy that really understands how to play,” McCaffery said.

Iowa will feature a pair of freshmen at the point guard position, including Woodbury’s longtime AAU teammate Mike Gesell, but once the ball is in Iowa’s half-court set, McCaffery said the offense may run through the big man.

“You can run your offense through him, even if he’s not getting 25, his best attribute offensively is passing,” said McCaffery. “He will throw it in there, skip it to the weak side, we have a number of 3-point shooters, but he is a presence physically. He closes up the lane, holds his position, bangs people.”

That physicality should allow Woodbury to be a difference maker on defense, an area McCaffery continually points to following a season where the Hawkeyes ranked last in team scoring. The key to improving their ranking, according to McCaffery, is to lower the other teams’ shooting percentage by giving the opponent fewer scoring opportunities.

One way to do that is to improve defensive rebounding, and adding Iowa’s first seven-footer since Seth Gorney left campus in 2008 with his 7-foot-0 frame is a good start.

“When you’re going up against the really good post guys in the league like (Cody) Zeller,” said McCaffery, “it gives him somebody who can match him physically in terms of size. Last year we had a tremendous player in Zach McCabe, and though he’s 6-foot-7, it’s a difficult task for him, so it presents more promise for the teams that are preparing for us and gives us a weapon that we didn’t have before.”

McCaffery also says Woodbury’s approach off the court will influence Iowa’s ascent up the conference standings. Woodbury’s size and talent alone are great enough to be able to play in the Big Ten, but Iowa’s head coach says his intangibles will make the difference between competing and winning.

“The hardest thing for freshmen to do is to understand the discipline required to be good,” McCaffery said.

“The ones that excel are oftentimes not necessarily the ones that are the most talented, they’re the ones that are the most mature. I think Adam Woodbury is that kind of person. He’s focused, he’s diligent, his work ethic is incredibly consistent, and that’s how Aaron White was last year. You looked at him, he was a skinny freshman, but he was mentally mature in his approach.”

Last year White became the fourth Hawkeye in as many years to be named to the Big Ten all-Freshman team. He joins Melsahn Basabe, Eric May and Matt Gatens before him. It’s speculating to say Woodbury will continue the streak and add his name to the list, especially on a team loaded with other talented freshmen, but drawing early comparisons to Aaron White is an encouraging start to a freshman season.

“There might be somebody who works as hard as Aaron White, but there is nobody that works harder,” said McCaffery. “When you have a team consisting of players like that, then you have a chance to certainly be better and ultimately be very good.”