NORTH LIBERTY — Melsahn Basabe heard the whispers last year, and he didn’t like them.
Basabe’s inconsistent play as a sophomore provoked questions from Iowa fans about his off-season dedication. Looking back, he knows why. He described his approach to summer workouts as “lazy” last year. He has vowed to change this off-season, and the results are evident.
“I just keep putting in a process along with being a good teammate and letting people know that I’m not lazy,” Basabe said Sunday after scoring 29 points and grabbing 14 rebounds in a Prime Time League game. “I heard people say it … I’ve never been known to be lazy. I’ve always tried to be a player who tried to fight for what I wanted. Really I’m just trying to prove that I’m a player who’s determined and plays hard.”
Basabe, a 6-foot-7 forward and incoming junior, gained 25 pounds last year in an effort to bulk up in the post, but it backfired as he appeared sluggish on the court. Basabe then cut 10 pounds and at times regained some of the form that led him to a spot on the Big Ten’s all-freshman team in 2010-11. But he couldn’t do it consistently and was benched after starting the first 52 games of his Hawkeye career.
Basabe averaged 11 points and 6.8 rebounds a game as a freshman but those numbers declined last year to 8.2 points and 4.8 rebounds. He needed to make a change and he traced everything back to work habits.
“I wasn’t lazy in the sense that I didn’t work hard when somebody asked me to do something,” Basabe said. “I was just lazy and I didn’t constantly attack, attack, attack. That’s what I’m trying to do this year in the weight room, conditioning. Just giving 100 percent.”
Basabe’s attitude change this off-season coincides with the return of former Iowa teammate Jarryd Cole, who is a PTL teammate. Cole, who played internationally in Iceland last season, was a three-year captain at Iowa and universally respected by his teammates. Cole was a rock for Basabe two years ago, and Basabe appreciates him more every day.
“I think now as you can see, I’m trying to be what he was to me to other people, to our young guys,” Basabe said. “Because when the season comes, I’m going to have to do that. Jarryd was a safety net for me my freshman year.”
“So last year was really a blessing if you guys ask me. It taught me so much. That’s what I needed to maximize my potential. It just woke me up as a person.”
Basabe admits he went from “jovial” and “adventurous” as a freshman to dreading workouts last year. With renewed focus, Basabe has taken a leadership role. His teammates have responded.
“I’ve seen a different approach,” Iowa sophomore Gabe Olaseni said. “His work ethic is unbelievable. He’s always in the gym. He’s always getting me in the gym. He doesn’t leave the gym. He’s always, if someone’s there, trying to get their confidence up, trying to keep my confidence up. He’s helped me a lot.”
Basabe has put his focus on increasing quickness and conditioning in drills while working on ball-handling. He said he’s excited, happy and trying to stay humble as he prepares for his junior season.
“I’m not doing too much talking,” he said. “I just want to show results when I play here, when I play in the season. I’m just really excited just to show people I’m taking this seriously.
“I’ve got all the answers I need to be successful.”
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