NEWTON — Iowa forward Melsahn Basabe admitted after the basketball season he has something to prove next year.
Apparently he said the same thing to Coach Fran McCaffery in their end-of-season meeting, and he’s lived those words this offseason.
“I said, ‘OK, Melsahn, evaluate your season for me,’” McCaffery said Wednesday at the Jasper County I-Club. “I want him to break it down. ‘You to break it down for me.’ He admitted that he didn’t prepare, he didn’t work. He wasn’t as mature as he should have been. To me that’s a huge step. You don’t make that step unless you’re around people who know about that.
“So now what he’s done is he’s taken a leadership role and he’s worked harder and he’s more serious and he wants to make the NBA. He’s on the right track.”
Basabe, who stands 6-foot-7, was a member of the Big Ten’s all-freshman team two seasons ago. He averaged 11 points and 6.8 rebounds that year and blocked 41 shots.
Last year as a sophomore, Basabe was at times sluggish and mostly inconsistent. He gained 25 pounds in the offseason, but it slowed him down. After combining for 37 points in his first three games, he totaled eight points in his next four games. He also had a long stretch during the Big Ten season where he totaled 41 points in nine games. After 52 consecutive starts at Iowa, Basabe was benched. He finished with a 7.9 point-per-game average with 4.7 rebounds a game.
Basabe enjoyed a resurgence in the postseason, scoring 15 and 17 points against Dayton and Oregon, respectively, in the NIT. Those performances have helped spur Basabe into a team leader and potential difference maker this offseason, McCaffery said.
“Mel has been spectacular,” McCaffery said. “Melsahn has taken on an incredibly different role as far as leadership. He was younger before; he just kind of did his thing. Now he’s demanding his teammates work as hard as he has. He has shown great progress.”
Basabe will have plenty of competition for playing time in the post next year. Iowa returns starters Zach McCabe and Aaron White, and Gabe Olaseni has made the most strides this offseason, McCaffery said. Plus incoming 7-foot freshman Adam Woodbury was a top-50 recruit from Sioux City, and 6-foot-10 incoming freshman Kyle Meyer hails from Alpharetta, Ga.
Whether it’s the prospect of losing playing time or the incentive of playing in the NBA, Basabe has moved forward as a player since March, McCaffery said.
“While he didn’t have the kind of sophomore year that we’d hoped, he has had one of the best springs that I can remember,” McCaffery said. “He’s grown up.”
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