It’s led to some late nights, but former Iowa guard Matt Gatens hasn’t let his new career as professional basketball player in Spain stop him from keeping tabs on his former team.
Gatens has watched as many Iowa men’s basketball games as his schedule would allow him to this winter despite the six-hour time difference between Iowa City and where he lives in Spain. He’s also tweeted back and forth with current Iowa players Aaron White and Devyn Marble since the Hawkeyes began competing in the NIT last week.
Iowa will play at Virginia Wednesday in the quarterfinals with the winner earning a trip to the famed Madison Square Garden in New York City for the semifinals April 2. The Hawkeyes reached this point by defeating Indiana State 68-52 in the first round and Stony Brook 75-63 in the second round.
Both games were played before sellout crowds of 15,400 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Wednesday’s quarterfinal will be played at John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, Va., where the Cavaliers have the nation’s fourth longest winning streak at 19 games.
“Hopefully, it keeps going Wednesday night,” said Gatens, who plans on watching the Virginia game even though it won’t tip-off in Spain until midnight. “It would be really cool to see them get to the garden and fight for a national championship (in the) NIT.
“It’s the next step in the program. And obviously, they want to get to the NCAA (Tournament). But the next best thing is a deep run in the NIT.”
Gatens was Iowa’s go-to player last season as a 6-foot-5 senior shooting guard. The former City High star made second-team all-Big Ten, led Iowa to the second-round of the NIT and to its first winning season (18-17) in five years.
The 6-6 Marble has replaced Gatens as Iowa’s go-to player, but especially in the NIT where Marble combined to score 54 points in the first two games while playing mostly at point guard.
Gatens stayed awake well past midnight in Spain last Wednesday to watch Iowa’s victory over Indiana State. Marble stuffed the stat sheet with 24 points, six assists, five rebounds, four steals and just one turnover
“He’s just kind of trying to take over games and take care of the ball,” Gatens said. “His assists are up. His points are up. He’s scoring late in key situations, which is something the team sort of missed in the middle of the season when they lost so many close games.”
Marble has played more at point guard since freshman point guard Mike Gesell has been hampered by a stress reaction in his right foot. Gesell missed the last four regular-season games and has played more at shooting guard since returning.
“It’s an interesting situation with Mike being kind of injured and being on and off the court,” Gatens said. “But Devyn’s been huge for the team.”
As for Gatens, he is three-fourths of the way through his first season with the team for which he plays in Murcia, Spain. He is averaging 10.1 points per game while playing an average of 25.5 minutes per game for UCAM Murcia, which has a 10-15 record.
Gatens had one of his best performances on March 17 when he made 6-of-7 field-goal attempts, including all three of his 3-point shots, and both of his free throws while scoring 17 points. He then made four 3-pointers in his most recent game this past Sunday.
“Lately, I’ve felt good,” Gatens said. “It’s been kind of up and down. I’d have a pretty good game and then a down game. I’m just trying to find some consistency. The last two games have been good.
“It’s been a good ride, a good experience against some really good competition.”
Gatens might play in a professional league this summer, but he said “nothing is set in stone.” He looks forward to returning to Iowa City and training during the offseason as part of his quest to play in the NBA.
“I’ll probably learn more about what I’m going to do when it gets closer to the end of the season,” Gatens said. “I’ll mostly be back in Iowa City working out and staying in shape.
“And whatever calls come my way to go workout or from some summer league, I’ll be ready to go do those and see what I’ll do next season.”
Gatens said he might even compete in the Prime Time League if can fit it into his schedule. The Prime Time League starts in June and runs through most of July. The games are held at the North Liberty Community Center and feature current and former Iowa players.
“It’s possible,” said Gatens, who started playing in the PTL as an eighth grader. “We’ll see what my agent wants me to do and if a summer league conflicts with that.
“But if I’m open, it’s always a good way to stay in shape and get some games in.”
Gatens is represented by former Iowa and Chicago Bulls point guard B.J. Armstrong and the Wasserman Media Group of Los Angeles, Calif.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball