It’s fair to say Melsahn Basabe struggled with consistency as a sophomore. The 6-foot-7 Iowa forward produced both terrific performances and those that made you wonder if he really wanted to play basketball.
Let’s look at the total picture. First, because he’s a student-athlete, let’s look at the positives. He scored in double-digits 14 times this season. He blocked a team-high 36 shots and was second in rebounding at 4.8 per game. He was Iowa’s fourth-leading scorer at 8.2 points a game and he averaged 20.1 minutes of action.
But Basabe, a Glen Cove, N.Y. native, failed to deliver on the promise he showed as a freshman, when he averaged 11.0 points and 6.8 rebounds a game. He gained 25 pounds before the season, then tried to peel it off after he lacked explosion and quickness. After starting the first 52 games of his career, he came off the bench for his last 14. He scored two or fewer points in nine games this year and often seemed to shut it down if he didn’t get in the action early.
However, Basabe produced his two most impressive efforts in Iowa’s final two games. Basabe scored 15 points and grabbed five rebounds with two blocks and a steal in 14 minutes in an 84-75 National Invitation Tournament win against Dayton. He played solidly on offense at Oregon (a 108-97 NIT defeat), scoring 17 points and pulling down eight rebounds before fouling out in 18 minutes. Perhaps most impressive is Basabe had no turnovers in either game.
“The last two games my body felt good,” Basabe said after Iowa’s loss to Oregon. “The whole season I felt out of place, but these last two games I felt good.”
So what does next season hold for Basabe? The answer is held this offseason. Playing time in the post will be uber-competitive next year. Freshman Aaron White and sophomore Zach McCabe were more consistent than Basabe, which is why they became starters by late January. White, whose numbers (11.1 points, 5.7 rebounds) were comparable to Basabe’s freshman statistics, likely won’t leave the starting lineup for the next three seasons. McCabe (7.8 points, 4.6 rebounds) is Iowa’s most physical post player, yet he can step out and hit both mid-range and 3-point shots. All three players averaged more than 20 minutes a game.
Iowa has two talented freshmen coming in, with 7-foot-1 Adam Woodbury and 6-10 Kyle Meyer. Gabe Olaseni (6-10) played sparingly as a freshman (90 total minutes), but has untapped physical potential.
For Basabe to erase last season’s disappointments and inconsistency, he needs to improve every day. Basabe, who’s never shy to reveal his thoughts, understands that and accepts the challenge.
“Just fully dedicate myself to the mental side of the game, conditioning and just maximizing my own ability to keep it simple,” Basabe said about how he plans to improve this offseason. “Working and dedicating myself every day to see if I really want it. Because if I don’t want it — what I really want — then I could keep playing and be a complementary player and accept the role and help the team any way I can.
“But if I want to maximize who I am, then it comes down to me dedicating myself or not. It’s that simple. Really I can’t do much talking. I can start right now and just prove it to everybody next season.”