IOWA CITY – In nearly a month of preseason practices, the Iowa basketball team hadn’t had a clunker.
Head coach Fran McCaffery said his players have been there every day ready to work, alert, committed, focused.
“We practiced today from 3 to 5 and it was our worst practice of the year,’’ McCaffery told reporters later Friday night, following the team’s annual Black and Gold Blowout scrimmage. “We really haven’t had a horrible practice. Today we had a horrible practice.’’
The fourth-year coach said he was sure it was because the players were excited about getting out in front of the fans later that night. He was confident things would be back to business as usual Saturday.
McCaffery said he hasn’t really made much progress in attempting to sort out how he’ll use all the depth he has at his disposal.
The Hawkeyes return nine players who saw extensive playing time a year ago for a team that won 25 games and finished second in the NIT. Wisconsin transfer Jarrod Uthoff and sharpshooting freshman Peter Jok have shown that they will push for playing time. For that matter, redshirt freshman big man Kyle Meyer looked good in the Blowout and junior walk-on Darius Stokes has been impressive enough to be put on scholarship.
Uthoff, in particular, has put himself in position for a major role and he felt Friday’s event, attended by 7,140 fans, only enhanced his progress.
“It’s nice to have things like this to get me more comfortable playing in front of fans,’’ he said.
McCaffery said the 6-foot-7 sophomore from Cedar Rapids, who scored 14 points during Friday’s brief scrimmage, is fitting in.
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“In every way,’’ the coach said. “Everybody likes him, he’s been very comfortable from the beginning. He’s got a game that’s perfectly suited to our style of play and he’s playing with confidence now. For him, that’s going to be the key. He’s been out for two years now but he’s got a lot of game. For him, it’s just a matter of getting out there and letting it rip.’’
Obviously, finding playing time for all those players could be tough.
“I haven’t looked at it as being a tough thing,’’ McCaffery insisted. “We’re going to pick five starters and then we’re going to rotate them in.
“There’s going to be some games when players are playing really well and they’ll play a little more. I may feel bad if somebody doesn’t get as many minutes as I would have liked to have gotten them, but we’re just going to have to accept that we’ve talked about it and we’ll go game by game.’’
Because there have been so few bad practices, McCaffery said the Hawkeyes are very close to being ready for real games. They host Augustana in an exhibition game next Sunday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, then open the regular season Nov. 8 against UNC-Wilmington.
“All we’re going to do now is try to sharpen everything,’’ McCaffery said. “We have most everything in. We have a few more things to get in, but very little. At this point, we just want to tighten it up.’’