By BAILEY TURNER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Ryan Kriener, a native of Spirit Lake, enters his third season as a member of the University of Iowa men’s basketball team.
Kriener always wanted to be a Hawkeye growing up in the state of Iowa. His father, a fan of the Hawkeyes, played college basketball at Mankato State so basketball was always in the picture.
Last season he posted season bests in assists, steals, and scoring, and arguably played two of the best games of his career. The forward tallied a personal-best 15 points – all in the second half – in the team’s road finale at Minnesota. Three games later, Kriener scored a team-high 14 points in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament against Michigan.
“When I returned it was more of an attitude of not taking anything for granted,” said Kriener. “From that point on I have played every moment like it was my last. After my second concussion, I realized if I take another bad hit like that it could be the end of my career.”
This year’s roster boasts a lot of front court talent in Tyler Cook, Luka Garza, Jack Nunge, Cordell Pemsl, and Kriener (6-foot-9, 255 pounds) all vying for time on the hardwood. With Iowa being so loaded at that position time can be hard to come by, especially if you are not at 100 percent health.
“It was really frustrating,” Kriener said. “Especially my second concussion because it was like here we go again. I just really paid attention in practice and watched film when I could so I would be ready to go.”
With or without Kriener, Iowa did not have the year it had hoped a year ago. Iowa’s defense was not where it needed to be and the offense was ranked 19th in offensive efficiency. After the final buzzer sounded at Madison Square Garden and the Hawkeyes walked off the court, it was time for self-reflection.
After a long time to process what had taken place in the 2017-18 season it was time to turn the page and begin training and preparing for next season. Practice and meetings began in the summer and coach McCaffery came in with a different mantra for the upcoming season.
“We’re going somewhere cold for Spring Break,” said Kriener. “We didn’t really know what that meant. But coach kept saying we’re going somewhere cold and that has been motivating us throughout our workouts and it will do the same for us in every game this year.”
The Hawkeyes are poised to have a bounce back season returning its top nine scorers and all five starters from last year.
Kriener and the Hawkeyes will hit the hardwood for the first time this season against Guilford College in an exhibition contest today at 2:05 p.m. (CT) on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The Hawkeyes open the regular season Nov. 8, hosting UMKC in the preliminary round of the 2K Empire Classic benefiting Wounded Warrior Project.