Iowa basketball coach Fran McCaffery was curious to learn how Melsahn Basabe spent the summer back home in New York, but not just from listening to Basabe tell stories.
McCaffery wanted to see if his senior forward had followed his specific order to stay in shape outside of the team structure in preparation for Iowa’s six-game exhibition tour in England and France.
It appears that Basabe did.
“Better than I thought,” McCaffery said Monday when asked what kind of shape Basabe was in when he returned to Iowa City. “He was home for the whole summer. He got a lot of workouts in. He wasn’t able to play a lot of five-on-five, so I was concerned about his wind. But his energy level was great. He looks good.”
Participating in pick-up games was about all that the 6-foot-7 Basabe didn’t do this summer. He worked multiple jobs and also trained on a daily basis, usually waking each day between 5 and 6 a.m.
“I wouldn’t say I’m where I want to be,” Basabe said of his physical conditioning. “I feel like I’m in a decent place. I’m not behind to where I’m bringing my team down in scrimmages and stuff.
“Everything is just constant. You always have to keep working.”
Basabe can’t afford to fall behind because the competition for playing time will be fierce, not only in the Big Ten next season, but also during the trip to Europe, which starts with the team departing on Saturday.
Eric May is the only scholarship player that isn’t returning from last season’s team that finished 25-13 overall and runner-up to Baylor in the National Invitation Tournament. And though the 6-5 May played a pivotal role last season as a defensive stopper and senior leader, Iowa might have deeper rotation this coming season thanks to the addition of 6-8 Wisconsin transfer Jarrod Uthoff and 6-6 incoming freshman shooting guard Peter Jok.
The trip to Europe will allow McCaffery to mix and match and to experiment with different parts of his offense and defense.
“We’re going to have all different kinds of lineup on the floor,” McCaffery said of the European trip. “We can go big. We can go small. We can have a pressing lineup on the floor. We can have an offensive lineup on the floor or a defensive lineup.
“We’ve got a lot of weapons. I think our strength lies in the number of really good players that we have, just the fact that they are willing to play together and for one another.”
Iowa’s depth, which included a 10-man rotation for much of last season, has McCaffery believing his team can handle the challenge of playing six games in eight days and in two countries.
“Now we’re playing six games over there, which is a lot,” McCaffery said. “Probably one or two more than a lot of teams would play. I’m going to rotate the guys pretty much consistently throughout the games, keep subbing in and out, different combinations because you never know which guys are going to play well together and which guys aren’t.”
Iowa will be without 6-1 sophomore point guard Mike Gesell on the European trip because of hand injury, which he sustained in a Prime Time League game on July 18. Gesell’s injury is expected to be fully recovered by the start of preseason practice in late September.
The goal of the European trip is to mix business with pleasure.
But for junior center Gabe Olaseni, it’ll provide a rare opportunity to return to his hometown of London, England. Iowa will play its first two games in London before heading to France.
“Being from London I haven’t done a lot of the tourist stuff,” Olaseni said. “So that’s going to be a new experience for me.”
As for Uthoff, he just recently returned from a trip to Estonia where he participated with a select team of college players. And now he’s headed back overseas.
“It’s going to be a lot more fun with my teammates, people I know,” said Uthoff, who sat out his first two seasons in college, including last season at Iowa under NCAA transfer rules. “It’ll be a good bonding experience.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball