GREENSBORO, N.C. – Injuries and defections forced Fran McCaffery to expect big things from his newcomers entering his first season as Iowa men’s basketball coach.
As the Hawkeyes (3-3) prepare for the ACC-Big Ten Challenge on Tuesday at Wake Forest (3-3), he’ll count on those newcomers to carry a large load on the road.
Junior Bryce Cartwright, a junior-college transfer, will handle point guard responsibilities indefinitely as sophomore Cully Payne recovers from sports hernia surgery, which is scheduled for Tuesday. Freshmen Devyn Marble, Melsahn Basabe and Zach McCabe also are expected to shoulder more responsibility in starting and key reserve roles.
“Those three (freshmen), I think – as we talked about prior into the season – are going to be counted on very heavily, and I think they’ve played really, really well,” McCaffery said.
Cartwright, who stands 6-foot-1, started last Friday in a 61-point win against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville. Cartwright played 21 minutes in that game, scoring 11 points and dishing four assists. He left the game midway through the second half after suffering a hard foul going up for a dunk.
Cartwright averages 9 points, 3 assists and 2 rebounds a game.
“I expect the same things from him,” McCaffery said about Cartwright’s switch from reserve to starter. “He set his teammates up. He scores the ball out of that position, which is very good. We want him to continue to do that. I want him to defend the other team’s point guard.”
The freshmen’s roles have changed, too. Basabe has learned both post positions after senior Jarryd Cole injured his left foot in preseason drills. Basabe has started every game at power forward and has put up 6.5 points and 5.8 rebounds a game.
“I think Melsahn, in particular, is just scratching the surface of what he can be,” McCaffery said. “He had a couple of great practices in a row, and we need him to do a little bit more. Five and five now is pretty good.”
McCabe, perhaps, is the team’s most versatile player. He started the team’s first two games when junior guard Matt Gatens recovered from hand surgery. McCabe averages 10.5 points a game and can play multiple positions.
Earlier this month McCaffery called McCabe his “most consistent” player.
“I think Zach McCabe has proven he does not play like a freshman,” McCaffery said. “He’s given us some pop from the 3-point line. He’s given us some depth and versatility in being able to handle the ball from a forward position and also be able to play some power forward.”
Marble, the son of Iowa’s all-time leading scorer Roy Marble, now is the primary backup at both point and off-guard. He averages 6.3 points a game, but his minutes have altered from 11 to 23.“I think Marble is a guy that’s shown he can provide offense off the bench and versatility,” McCaffery said. “He can hit a jump shot, get it to the rim, rebound his position and also in the last game play point guard, which is going to have to continue. I’ve been really impressed.”