IOWA CITY, Ia. — Iowa’s basketball program took a step forward in 2012-13, but Aaron White felt like he was stuck in neutral at the offensive end of the floor.
“I don’t think I improved enough, last year to this year, as I should have,” the sophomore forward said. “I’m going to take that into account and work as hard as I possibly can to try and make a jump next year.”
And make a jumper.
“I was pretty ineffective outside the paint this year,” White said. “I got to the free-throw line better than I did last year, which is what I wanted to do. But if I wasn’t laying the ball in, or dunking it, or shooting free throws, I wasn’t scoring. Obviously, other coaches realize that and say, ‘Don’t let him drive. Sag off him.’ I’ve got to get in the gym and shoot, shoot, shoot.”
White got to the free-throw line 258 times, 69 more than anyone on his team. He increased his free-throw percentage, from .699 to .748. But his field-goal percentage dipped, from .504 to .468. Developing a pull-up jumper is at the top of White’s to-do list.
“I’m not totally comfortable shooting it,” White said. “It’s something I’ve never done in my life. My defense improved, but there’s still a lot to get better at. I’ve got to get in better shape, and get stronger. I’ve got to strengthen my hands. There’s a lot of stuff to work on.”
The fact that White burns to get better is a positive sign for a team that will enter the 2013-14 season with expectations. Anything less than the program’s first NCAA bid since 2006 will be considered an underachieving season.
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery will welcome back his entire team, with the exception of Eric May, and add redshirt sophomore forward Jarrod Uthoff, redshirt freshman forward Kyle Meyer and incoming freshman guard Peter Jok.
“What you’ll see is a group that is really hungry,” McCaffery said. “So this spring and summer, in particular, players will be coming in and getting extra work done, and working on their weaknesses and improving their strengths. I think you’ll see a much better team next year. A team much more capable of doing things on a consistent basis.”
Devyn Marble had a breakthrough season, leading the team in scoring at 15 points a game. The junior guard now has 12 career games with at least 20 points, including two of 30 or more. The go-to guy he replaced, Matt Gatens, had 18 career 20-point-plus games, including two of 30 or more.
Marble scored nearly as many points — 554 — as he scored in his first two seasons combined — 580. Another offensive season like that and he’ll be an all-Big Ten player and become one of Iowa’s top five career scoring leaders.
Iowa lost seven of nine games decided by four points or less or in overtime against Big Ten opponents. That, and a weak nonconference schedule that is expected to be more competitive in 2013-14, kept the team out of the NCAAs. But a five-game run in the NIT, which ended in a championship-game loss to Baylor, may prove more beneficial for the development of the team in the long run.
“There’s just no substitute for experience,” McCaffery said.
Iowa took big steps in several areas in 2012-13, none more than defense. The Hawkeyes allowed 62.8 points a game, compared to 72.5 a season ago. Rebounding margin went from a push in 2011-12 to plus-4.7.
“The key, coming into the season, was to improve defensively,” Marble said. “We’ve done that.”
Individually, players like sophomore center Gabe Olaseni made significant improvement. His length and shot-blocking ability bring another dimension to a team that set a school record for rejections in a game — 13 against Illinois — and season (183).
McCaffery used a 10-man rotation all season, and loses only May. Add Uthoff, Meyer and Jok as well as guard Pat Ingram, who was the first man out of that rotation, and it’s a sure bet the competition for playing time will be spirited.
Summer workouts, and an August tour of Europe that will include 10 practices before departure, will assist McCaffery in setting his rotation and provide more competitive experience.
“I think we’re developing a more confident group that feels like we can go on the road and win games, and protect the home court with our phenomenal fan base,” McCaffery said. “You just want to see that continue to improve each year.”
IOWA’S 2012-13 SEASON
RECORD: 25-13 overall, 9-9 Big Ten (sixth).
WHO’S GONE: Eric May (5.2 ppg, 3.7 rpg, top defender).
WHO’S BACK: Devyn Marble (15.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.0 apg), Aaron White (12.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg), Mike Gesell (8.7 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 2.6 apg), Melsahn Basabe (6.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 45 blocks), Zach McCabe (5.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg), Adam Woodbury (4.9 ppg, 4.8 rpg), Josh Oglesby (4.5 ppg, 1.4 rpg), Anthony Clemmons (4.3 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 2.8 apg), Gabe Olaseni (2.7 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 36 blocked shots), Pat Ingram (0.9 ppg, 0.6 rpg), Darius Stokes (0.7 ppg, 1.3 rpg), Kyle Denning (0.5 ppg, 0.1 rpg).
WHO’S NEW: Jarrod Uthoff, 6-8 sophomore forward, Cedar Rapids (transfer from Wisconsin); Kyle Meyer, 6-10 forward, Alpharetta, Ga. (redshirted in 2012-13); Peter Jok, 6-6 guard, W.D.M. Valley.
HIGH POINT: A strong finish, with wins in 11 of their last 15 games including a run to the NIT title game.
LOW POINT: Seven Big Ten losses by four points or less, including back-to-back road defeats at Minnesota, 62-59, and in double overtime at Wisconsin, 74-70.
COULD HAVE USED: Better perimeter shooting. Iowa was last in the Big Ten in 3-point shooting at 28.4 percent in league games. Designated shooter Josh Oglesby made just 26.9 percent of his 3-point attempts for the season.
MVP: Eric May was the glue guy, but it was Devyn Marble who carried this team to 25 wins, which tied for the second-most in school history. He scored 18 points or more in 11 of the final 15 games. His versatility — he started at three different positions — increased his value.
OPTIMISM FOR 2013-14: Everyone but May returns, and Uthoff and Jok are expected to get significant minutes to fill his void. If the perimeter shooting improves and defense continues to improve, this could be a Top 25 team that ends the year in the NCAA Tournament.
PROJECTED 2013-14 STARTING LINEUP
Guard: Devyn Marble, 6-6 senior — Has 70 career starts and 1,134 career points. Emerged as Iowa’s go-to guy as a junior.
Guard: Mike Gesell, 6-1 sophomore — Never backs down from a challenge. Relentless worker. Solid in all aspects of the game.
Forward: Aaron White, 6-8 junior — Runs the floor well, and gets to the line as often as anyone. Needs to refine game outside the lane.
Forward: Melsahn Basabe, 6-7 senior — Has 70 career starts. Has been inconsistent the past two seasons, but showed improved jumper and led the team in blocked shots as a junior.
Center: Adam Woodbury, 7-1 sophomore — Added strength will help him finish better around rim. Can score with both hands, and is a tremendous passer.
BY THE NUMBERS
Seniors 5.7 ppg
Returning 64.4 ppg
Seniors 4.3 rpg
Returning 34.8 rpg
Seniors 1.8 apg
Returning 13.3 apg
Seniors 0.9 spg
Returning 6.9 spg
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball