Welcome to basketball season.
Most college football teams have not even kicked off their first conference game yet, but their basketball counterparts can begin working toward the start of their seasons today.
Iowa will wait until Saturday and Iowa State takes the court for the first time on Tuesday, but Illinois tips off its practices this afternoon following an NCAA rule change which alters the way teams will prepare for the 2013-14 season.
The traditional starting date of Oct. 15 has been scrapped and in its place, college programs can now begin practices 42 days before they play their first scheduled game of the season. Coaches are limited to 30 practice dates within those 42 days, a change made to provide flexibility and time for growth.
“I think it’s a good deal,’’ Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “Instead of having to present a lot of information in a short period of time and install a number of things quickly, you will have a chance to spread that out and allow players to absorb what they are being taught. I see a lot of benefits to it.’’
The Hawkeyes, returning 10 players from a 25-13 team which finished as the runner up in the National Invitation Tournament, will work to develop greater consistency on the offensive end of the court as they work toward a Nov. 8 season opener against North Carolina-Wilmington.
Point guard Mike Gesell has been cleared to practice at full speed after missing the chance to play in a summer exhibition trip to Europe because of a broken hand and incoming freshman wing Peter Jok has had a chance to let a hand injury which slowed him during the summer fully heal.
“We’ve got a lot of weapons,’’ McCaffery said. “Our strength lies in the number of really good players that we have and their willingness to play together and support one another.’’
Illinois, returning five players from a 23-win team, will follow today’s workout with a free public event on Saturday after a home football game.
At the Illini Street Jam, a portable court and bleachers will be set up at the intersection of Green Street and Wright Street near the Illinois campus for a 7:30 p.m. event which will include player introductions, fan interactive games and competitions.
Iowa State will begin its work Tuesday afternoon, when coach Fred Hoiberg will begin working to reshape a team which lost four of its top six scorers from a 23-12 team which reached the third round of the NCAA tourney last spring.
“I give our staff credit for getting the right pieces here, guys that fit how we play the game. I think we’ve got those guys again this year,’’ Hoiberg said. “We are going to be a lot younger than a year ago with the exception of DeAndre (Kane, a transfer from Marshall) and Melvin (Ejim). Now, it’s about how quickly can those other guys grow up?’’