IOWA CITY — There’s nothing wholesale about how Fran McCaffery plans to run basketball practice this fall at Iowa. He doesn’t have to build a system or acclimate a new group of players to his style of play.
Instead, with basketball practice beginning Friday, McCaffery will concentrate on the finer details. The Hawkeyes won 25 games last year but were left out of the NCAA tournament. Iowa struggled in late-game situations and was 4-8 in Big Ten games decided by nine points or less.
That’s where the refinement starts.
“Now it’s about getting ready for situations,” McCaffery said. “Getting ready to win close games. To look at how different combinations form together in situations. Whether we’re working on pressing or zone or motion or sets, it’s what combinations work and making sure everybody understands all the positions that they might play rather than implementing a system. They know the system. They know how we’re going to play. They’re very comfortable. It’s all about refinement.”
The NCAA approved a rule change this spring that allows men’s basketball teams to conduct 30 days of practice over a six-week period before their first game. The flexible schedule allows for more off days in training camp. It’s possible some coaches will conduct more physical practices than before because the players’ bodies will have more time to recuperate.
The rule won’t change much for Iowa, at least not this year. The Hawkeyes have a veteran squad with 93 percent of its scoring back from a year ago. In August the team had 10 practices before a six-game foreign trip to England and France.
“We’re going to go slow,” McCaffery said. “We’re going to take our time. I think it’s a great rule. You have more time off and you can rest their bodies, rest their legs and not have this unbelievable pressure that you’ve got to get everything in.
“But the irony is, you’re not really getting extra days of practice. It’s same amount of practice days; you’re just spreading them out.”
Iowa point guard Mike Gesell will be able to practice after suffering a broken finger during the Prime Time League. McCaffery said Gesell “drove Bill Maxwell crazy” when the strength and conditioning coach put the sophomore through workouts on the foreign trip. Gesell was unable to play in Europe because of the finger injury.
“Bill Maxwell came up to me in Marseilles and said, ‘I’m all out. I have no more drills for this guy. He just keeps coming,’” McCaffery said. “He was in better shape than anybody. It’s a shame.”
McCaffery is counting on improvement in camp from his team, especially in the front court. He’s excited about senior forward Zach McCabe’s progress and the potential of sophomore forward Jarrod Uthoff, who is eligible to play after sitting out as a transfer last year.
“I think Aaron White is ready to be a superstar,” he said. “He’s obviously a great player, but I think he’s ready. I think (Melshan) Basabe’s ready to really have the kind of senior year we all anticipated he’d have from a consistency standpoint.
“I think Gabe Olaseni’s a guy that we saw as somebody that had that ability to continue to grow and take his game to another level. I think he’s done that. I think Adam Woodbury is a guy that’s really worked hard to be in unbelievable shape. He’s figured out what it takes to be successful at this level. It’s an adjustment from high school to college, and he was really good for us. But I think now he’s going to be really special.”
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