IOWA CITY. Ia. Melsahn Basabe started his first 52 basketball games at Iowa, then finished the 2011-12 season coming off the bench.
The junior forward will be in a reserve role again Friday when Iowa opens the regular season against Texas-Pan American at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“It could be more problematic for a guy like him who is right there,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “He would be No.6, and it’s hard when you can only start five. But he’s been terrific, and he’s been productive when I put him in, and I leave him in. He’s getting it done for us.”
Basabe started all 31 games as a freshman. He was one of four first-year players nationally to have at least four 20-point, 10-rebound games. He averaged 11 points and 6.8 rebounds. Basabe’s numbers dipped last season, to 8.2 points and 4.8 rebounds. He also lost his starting spot.
Now, on a team that is deeper and more talented than any squad he’s played on, Basabe will be competing for playing time in an expected 10-man rotation.
“Obviously this is a better team and we’ve got more talent, which is always a good thing,” Basabe said. “I do whatever coach needs me to do. I think about it no other way.”
Basabe said he’s not discouraged by not starting, and hopes his level of play will get him on the floor.
“Coach is not crazy,” Basabe s
aid. “He’s not going to take someone out if they’re playing well.”
McCaffery has always coached with a short bench during his career. But he’ll enter the game with a 10-man rotation, a first for him.
Freshmen Mike Gesell and Adam Woodbury, sophomore Aaron White and juniors Zach McCabe and Devyn Marble will start. The next five will be Basabe, freshman Anthony Clemmons, senior Eric May, sophomore Josh Oglesby and sophomore Gabe Olaseni.
Keeping everyone happy with their minutes might be a challenge, but the upside is the progress the team can make from competitive practices.
“I think in particular, when you look at Mike Gesell’s development,” McCaffery said. “Anthony Clemmons guards him every day in practice incredibly tough.
“He’s coming after his job every day.”
Gesell said he looks at every practice day as a chance to get better.
“The competition is very high in practice,” Gesell said. “If you’re not working hard, they’re going to let you know. They’ll take you out and get someone else in there.”
WHO: Texas-Pan American at Iowa
WHERE: Carver-Hawkeye Arena
TIME/TV: 8 p.m., Mediacom ch. 22
SERIES: Iowa leads 3-0
LAST MEETING: Iowa won 62-46 in 2006
NOTABLE: Iowa coach Fran McCaffery is 9-7 in season openers during his career.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball