Although Iowa basketball fans have a long time to wait for next season to tip off, it’s never too early to take a look at what team they’ll have to look forward to seeing on the floor.
The Hawkeyes lose three big contributors from the 2013-14 campaign, including 1st team All-Big Ten selection Devyn Marble, and will need various players to assume increased roles in order to take the next step in the development of the program.
Not even head coach Fran McCaffery knows exactly how things will shake out once the games begin this November, but I’ll do my best to hopefully give Hawkeye supporters a closer look at the five players most likely to be on the floor for the opening tip of 2014-15.
Point Guard: Mike Gesell
To the surprise of few, and possibly to the chagrin of others, Mike Gesell is by far the best bet to be the man running the show for Hawkeyes next season. He may not have shot the ball well from a percentage standpoint this past year, but he does possess the requisite skills to be a threat with the ball in his hands on the offensive end.
The biggest reason you can expect Gesell to once again be Iowa’s floor general though, is due to the crucial aspect of ball security. Much like successful football teams can’t have a running back that fumbles often, the best hoops teams need a point guard who doesn’t cough up the rock, and can get it to teammates when and where they need it to score. With one of the nation’s highest assist to turnover ratios a season ago at over 3:1, you’d be hard pressed to find another Hawkeye on the roster worthy of supplanting this two year starter.
Shooting Guard: Josh Oglesby
One of the more fluid positions heading into 2014-15 is the off-guard spot previously occupied by star Devyn Marble. Nobody on the current roster is going to fill those shoes on their own, but the best bet to assume the position might be a 6-5 senior sharpshooter.
Oglesby bounced back following a horrendous sophomore season to shoot over 40% from beyond the arc, and provides a weapon opponents much constantly account for. As one of only three seniors on next year’s team, he also has the game experience to execute coach McCaffery’s gameplans to a tee.
Beyond shooting Oglesby won’t provide a whole lot, but unless an underclassman takes a huge leap forward this offseason he’s the most likely candidate to man this spot come November.
Small Forward: Jarrod Uthoff
This is another spot that’s likely up for grabs despite the fact that its holder from a season ago returns in Aaron White.
Jarrod Uthoff is a long and multi-skilled forward much like White, and the two could very well end up starting alongside one another. After getting his feet wet in Division I competition last year, this is a player fans should expect to see make a big jump in production and impact.
Uthoff provides a knock-down perimeter shooter with tremendous size on the wing, and handles the ball well enough to initiate the offense and lead the fastbreak. He is also an above-average shot blocker who should cause fits for opponents on both ends of the floor if his confidence increases.
Power Forward: Aaron White
There’s no doubt that White is a lock to be among the first five Hawkeyes to hit the hardwood in 2014-15, but as I mentioned earlier it could come from a different position than the one he has manned for the majority of the past two seasons.
After playing predominantly on the wing, the best option for both White and the team might actually be for him to match up with bigger defenders this winter. The senior-to-be thrives at attacking the basket and getting out in transition using his unique length and athleticism, but has often lacked the confidence in his jumper that would ultimately make him an all-around offensive threat.
Should his outside game and overall assertiveness take the next step in combination with his athletic gifts (see below), it would not surprise me to see White follow in Devyn Marble’s footsteps as the next Iowa 1st team All-Big Ten honoree.
Center: Adam Woodbury
Painful as it may be (I’m kidding…sort of), I can’t foresee a scenario in which Woodbury doesn’t start for the Hawkeyes next year. Despite a lack of glaring numerical production, the sophomore big man did show improvement offensively a season ago, and is the team’s most physical presence.
If Woodbury can continue to develop and become a player who can be relied upon for 8-9 points and 6-7 rebounds each night, you might as well pencil his name into the starting lineup card for the third season in a row.
Others not to be overlooked: Gabe Olaseni, Peter Jok, Trey Dickerson
In Olaseni the Hawkeyes have a tantalizing option that just might force his way into the starting lineup next season. For that to happen though, he might very well have to switch to the power forward position and play alongside Woodbury. With ever-improving skills, a tireless work ethic, and remarkable athleticism for a player his size, I’ll be the last person to count out the possibility of Olaseni nabbing a starting spot.
Peter Jok would likely have to overtake Oglesby in order to earn a starting role. Although he has the potential to be a very effective offensive player, Jok will likely still be too great of a defensive liability for coach McCaffery pencil him in ahead of a veteran.
Dickerson is a wildcard in that he will join the Hawkeyes from the junior college ranks. He is a very quick and athletic point guard who, should he pick up the schemes quickly enough, might be able to find a place in a two point guard backcourt next to Gesell.