April 4, 2013
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- 24 Hawkeyes to Watch
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.
NEW YORK — Thursday’s National Invitation Tournament championship game gives Eric May another opportunity to lead, to captain, to win.
Finality being the only difference between this and the 132 other games he has played for the University of Iowa men’s basketball team: win or lose, this will be May’s last time on a college basketball court.
Few of the greatest leaders in the history of battle have had the luxury of knowing when they entered the arena for a final time. There is no gray area now for May, not like there was when he laced the Nike’s for postseason games against Indiana State, Stony Brook, Virginia, or Maryland.
Washington had Yorktown, Grant had Appomattox, Schwarzkopf had Desert Storm, May has the Baylor Bears.
After 40 minutes of basketball against Baylor, May will leave Madison Square Garden with no regrets on a career that began with 10 wins in 2009-10, and could end with 26 wins in 2012-13 — the second-most in school history.
“I’m more invested in thinking about winning this game and going out with a win to end my career,” May said. “Not a lot of people get to do that.”
“I’ll tell you what, we have one of the greatest captains around. You don’t win 25 games without phenomenal senior leadership. We’ve got a great junior class that we rely on, but there’s one captain of this ship, and he is ( Eric May).”
UI head basketball coach
When May left Mediacom Court in Carver-Hawkeye Arena for the last time following a 75-63 win against Stony Brook on March 22, he waved to the crowd as he exited for the locker room. A storybook ending Thursday would be spending more time inside Madison Square Garden — cutting down nets.
“That’s how I want to leave, being on the court, celebrating with the team after a championship,” said May, visualizing either scissors or trophy in his sweaty postgame palms.
A native of Dubuque, Iowa, May is the lone scholarship senior on the Hawkeye roster. He left the high school ranks with a win in the Class 3A state championship game — a 70-67 victory for Wahlert against Harlan. That game was tied with two seconds remaining before May sank a 40-foot buzzer-beating shot.
“It would be cool to win a championship at both levels,” May said. “Hopefully it doesn’t have to be that dramatic, but I’m not going to complain if that’s what happens.”
May, a team captain for the UI, has played all 37 games this season with six starts. He averages 5.1 points and 3.7 rebounds a game, but numbers will never represent his true worth to this team.
“I’ll tell you what, we have one of the greatest captains around,” UI head coach Fran McCaffery said Tuesday following the Hawkeyes’ 71-60 win against Maryland. “You don’t win 25 games without phenomenal senior leadership. We’ve got a great junior class that we rely on, but there’s one captain of this ship, and he is (Eric May).”
May’s 3-point field goal with 61 seconds left gave Iowa a 69-60 lead that effectively thwarted any Terrapin comeback hope.
On Thursday, May will suit up and play for a 133rd — and final time — for the Hawkeyes. It is a culmination, he said, that “seems like a long road that also came pretty quick.” It is a career that began with two consecutive home losses, but ended with nine consecutive home wins. It is a career that began with a 2-10 record to close his freshman season, but one that could end with an 8-1 mark to close his senior season.
Championship teams need great leaders.
“I never had any doubts about where we were going and that we would get to this point,” May said. “That’s why I stuck with it because I believed in this program and that’s what it is — we all believe in each other.”
The NIT Championship game between Iowa (25-12) and Baylor (22-14) begins at 8 p.m. (CT). It marks the second meeting between the programs — the Hawkeyes defeated Baylor 67-44 on Dec. 2, 1983, in the first round of the Hawkeye Invitational in Iowa City.