IOWA CITY — When Bettendorf’s Nicholas Baer steps onto the court for the beginning of tonight’s season opener against Kennesaw State, he will be the first Quad-Citian in nearly two decades to start for the Iowa men’s basketball team.

The last Q-C starter was Davenport’s Ricky Davis, who started every game for the Hawkeyes during the 1997-98 season.

“It’s kind of new to me, at least since high school, but I did it in the exhibition game and I think it worked out well for me.’’ said Baer, who began his Iowa career as a walk-on but was rewarded with a scholarship after last season.

“I’m not sure if it’s a permanent thing,’’ he added. “It’s kind of the same thing I’ve always tried to do, just give a lot of energy and do my best out on the court.’’

Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said the 6-foot-7 Baer is starting because “he deserves to be in there.

“He knows where he's supposed to be, where everybody else is supposed to be, and he communicates that information to the younger guys,’’ McCaffery said. “He's valuable in that area.’’

Only a few other Quad-Cities athletes have played for the Hawkeyes since 1998, all as walk-ons. Bettendorf’s Jason Smith played in 41 games while lettering three times (1998, 2000, 2001) and another ex-Bulldog, Brett Wessels, played 20 games for Iowa in 2006 and 2007. DeWitt’s Kurt Spurgeon played in 33 games in the 2003 and 2004 seasons.

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