By SHANE STURTZ
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Two incoming freshmen. A graduate transfer. Three players coming off a redshirt season.
The University of Iowa men’s basketball team has a number of players who will have a chance to step up this season and make an instant impact. Redshirt sophomore Jack Nunge, who sat out last season, is one of those Hawkeyes.
“I improved a lot this past year and I have a lot to prove after a redshirt year,” Nunge said.
During his redshirt season and during summer workouts, the weight room was Nunge’s best friend. He has bulked up to nearly 250 pounds, 10 more pounds — of pure strength — than he weighed last year.
“Battling every day and having to go against (Tyler Cook) and Luka (Garza), I can tell the strength helps a lot battling down in the post,” said Nunge, who averaged 5.7 points and 2.8 rebounds per game as a freshman. “Guys try and back you down and you can hold your position well. Once that strength gets up, you can use that to back them down.”
Defensively, Nunge’s game in the paint as a rim protector should see a boost, too. He blocked 25 shots as a freshman — the second most on the team — and isn’t afraid to meet anyone at the rim.
“I’ll try to get as many blocks as I can,” he said. “I’ll use my length to the best of my ability.”
At 6-foot-11, Nunge is a versatile player at the forward position. His added strength makes him more of a presence down low, but he still has the ability to stretch the floor and impact the game from the perimeter.
“I worked on every asset of my game,” he said. “The college 3-point line moved back, so that’s another thing — we’ll see who can shoot it well.”
Nunge shot 33.3 percent from the 3-point arc on 57 attempts during his first year, and doesn’t see the deeper 3-point line affecting his jump shot.
“It’s taking some time to get adjusted to, but it’ll help a lot with the spacing on the floor, especially for our system,” Nunge said.
Iowa’s 78.3 points per game last season was atop the Big Ten, while the Hawkeyes owned the third best shooting percentage from the floor (45.6) and from 3-point range (36.4).
The Hawkeye offense boasts a frontcourt full of unique skillsets, including that of Nunge’s, who became a more complete and smarter player during his redshirt year.
“At first, it was hard (to sit and watch), but I had to use that to my advantage,” he said. “Seeing how these guys prepare, how I can help them, and how to be vocal and show them things they didn’t see on the floor. It was different, but it was beneficial to me to learn more about the game.”
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