Iowa basketball: Mid-season superlatives

With conference play starting up in just a few days it’s time to take a look back at some mid-season superlatives for the Iowa basketball team. While not every player will be mentioned, those that are will surely stick out to Hawkeye fans for their accomplishments on the court in 2013.

Biggest Surprise 

The quick emergence of Jarrod Uthoff has been a welcome addition to the Hawkeyes. (Photo Credit: AP Photo/Bahamas Visual Services, Tim Aylen)

The quick emergence of Jarrod Uthoff has been a welcome addition to the Hawkeyes. (Photo Credit: AP Photo/Bahamas Visual Services, Tim Aylen)

Jarrod Uthoff

While I’m sure that certain fans had their own outlandish expectations for the Wisconsin transfer playing his first live competitive games in two years, the reality is that nobody really knew what to expect from Uthoff.

After 13 games it is safe to say that he has widely met, if not surpassed everything that a rational Iowa fan could have hoped for.

On a team loaded with returning contributors, Uthoff has meshed seamlessly with his teammates. The redshirt-sophomore is currently 3rd in minutes played as a part of an extremely deep rotation. Not only has he consistently been on the floor, but he has produced at an extremely efficient level while out there.

Uthoff leads the Hawkeyes in rebounds at almost seven per game, three point shooting at over 52 percent, and ranks in the top three on the team in four other statistical categories. Every minute he spends on the floor is characterized by efficiency and versatility. At 6-9 he affects the game at both ends while resisting the temptation many players have to try things above and beyond their capabilities.

Uthoff’s unique versatility and skill set have often made him a pivotal part of Iowa’s rotation at the end of games. So long as he continues to produce near the level at which he has thus far, Uthoff will have a strong case at the end of the season as one of the premier players in the country to come off the bench for his team.

Most Improved 

Gabriel Olaseni

The London native has seemingly improved his game with every additional minute spent on the basketball court. Though still relatively raw, Olaseni has more than doubled his points, rebounds, and assists outputs while leading the Hawkeyes in blocked shots in his role off the bench. Although his field goal percentage may not reflect it (42.9%), the 6-10 athletic freak has shown an increased amount of confidence on the offensive end that is now forcing opponents to account for him.

Olaseni is nowhere near a finished product, but the numbers he manages to put up in a fairly small amount of minutes has been a true testament to his growth and willingness to improve as a player. Maybe most impressive about the junior who only picked up the game of basketball as a teenager is his stroke from the free throw line. In an era when even polished centers seem to struggle from the charity stripe, Olaseni makes the opposition pay by knocking down almost 75% of his attempts.

Least Heralded, but Vitally Important 

As Iowa's floor general, Mike Gesell has done a masterful job both initiating the offense and getting his teammates open looks. (Photo Credit: dearoldgold.com)

As Iowa’s floor general, Mike Gesell has done a masterful job both initiating the offense and getting his teammates open looks. (Photo Credit: dearoldgold.com)

Mike Gesell

Much like Olaseni, if you were to take a look at only the field goal percentage of Gesell you might be quick to assume that he was having a disappointing season. In fact, the exact opposite is true.

Since moving back to the point early in the year Gesell has been more protective of the basketball than a mother of her baby. Simply put, he refuses to make mistakes with ball both in the half-court and transition. His 4:1 assist to turnover ratio currently is the 4th highest in the nation.

Besides running the point for the Hawkeyes Gesell has also been one their more consistent outside shooters and perimeter defenders. The defensive end in particular has been impressive, as the sophomore has taken the challenge of hounding the opposing team’s best perimeter player on multiple occasions.

Gesell may not be garnering much media attention, but those close to the program realize his importance to this Iowa team.

Most Impressive Performance 

Devyn Marble (vs Xavier) and/or Aaron White (@ Iowa State)

In Iowa’s first true test of the season the Hawkeyes found themselves being hit in the mouth by the Xavier Musketeers. While seemingly every other Iowa player was having trouble putting the ball in the basket Marble continually kept his team in the game with bucket after bucket. Despite being sidelined late in the game with a severe leg cramp, Marble’s 30 points almost single-handedly helped the Hawkeyes overcome a 15 point second half deficit to grab the win.

Despite it coming in a loss, it would just be wrong to ignore the monstrous performance put on by Aaron White on the road against Iowa’s in-state rival. White seemed to flip the switch on his offensive aggressiveness against the Cyclones, going a ridiculous 11-15 from the field, plus perfect from 3 and the foul line. He also pulled down a career high 17 rebounds to go with his 25 points. As much as the team loss hurt Hawkeye fans, the display put on by this junior forward should not soon be forgotten.

Best Player 

Aaron White

When Aaron White has been in attack mode Iowa has played its best basketball. (Photo Credit: David Scrivner)

When Aaron White has been in attack mode Iowa has played its best basketball. (Photo Credit: David Scrivner)

The 6-9 junior has been a model of efficiency ever since the season began, often at his best in the biggest of games. In a strange combination White leads the Big Ten in both free throw shooting (85.7%) and field goal percentage (67.8%), the latter of which places him 3rd nationally in the category. Although he is playing the fewest minutes per game of his career due to Iowa’s depth, White has continually found ways to impact the game in the time he’s on the floor.

As the Hawkeyes enter conference play in the coming days an aggressive Aaron White is the type of player that could make a run at a postseason all-Big Ten selection.