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. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.
By MATTHEW WEITZEL
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Throughout an athlete’s career, obstacles emerge. The most common obstacle is injury, something University of Iowa freshman Cordell Pemsl has overcome prior to stepping on campus.
Pemsl suffered two meniscus tears six months apart at Dubuque Wahlert (Iowa) High School. After his second injury, the doctor recommended a distal femoral osteotomy, where the surgeon intentionally breaks the femur, places a wedge in the break, and realigns the leg.
Despite being plagued by injuries, Pemsl had a stellar prep career finishing with 1,611 points, 878 rebounds, and 184 assists. Pemsl acknowledges that the biggest hurdle he had to clear when he returned to the court was the mental aspect.
“I knew everything structurally was okay, but mentally it was hard to go out there and move laterally or go 100 percent all the time,” said Pemsl. “It was frustrating.”
Now, Pemsl is a Hawkeye and has been a consistent contributor off the bench the first month of the season. The 6-foot-8, 249-pound forward scored in double figures his first two games of his collegiate career, including scoring a season-best 18 points against Savannah State on Nov. 13. The rookie made all 11 of his shot attempts (seven field goals and four free throws).
It’s not just Pemsl’s scoring ability, but his poise and basketball I.Q. that have impressed teammates and head coach Fran McCaffery.
“Cordell is smart and skilled,” McCaffery said. “There’s no panic in his game. It’s rare to be that poised and under control on the court. You can’t speed him up. You can’t get him sideways.”
“I’ve been impressed with his passing ability; he sees the floor extremely well,” said Nicholas Baer. “He makes good reads, sets good screens, he’s strong, and is a tough guy to move out of the block. He’ll be an effective player.”
Pemsl said that having good court vision and awareness has been a strength since he began playing basketball.
“I watched a lot guys who are in my position and guys who I model my game after,” Pemsl said. “I observe how they’re effective with their moves and how they can get other people open. When I see that, I try to mimic them in my own way to benefit our team in a positive way.”
Pemsl was nervous during his first collegiate, afraid of “messing up.” But with each practice and game, his confidence and comfort grows.
“The coaches have given me the confidence to go out there and play my game,” said Pemsl. “I know if I go out there and do what I need to do, good things will come and I’ll be able to help the team.”
McCaffery loves his versatility and potential and is excited to watch his development.
“As he gets more comfortable, you will see him get better,” McCaffery said. “We can put him anywhere on the floor and he’ll be effective. It’s a great weapon to have.”
Iowa returns to the hardwood tonight when the Hawkeyes face Notre Dame in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. (CT) at the Joyce Center in South Bend, Indiana. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN2.