IOWA CITY — Zach McCabe is taking nothing for granted, and he’s not alone.
The Iowa senior from Sioux City Heelan is among players who view the Hawkeyes’ exhibition tour of England and France as a chance to earn minutes in a crowded competition for playing time.
“I think the 10 practices we have here and the games, they all matter,’’ McCabe said. “The coaches have said they are going to be looking for combinations that they believe can work during the regular season and everybody is working to make the most of any minutes we can get now.’’
That has led to a comparatively intense summer situation for the Hawkeyes, who play the first of two exhibitions against the London Lions today at 1:30 p.m.
“I don’t think guys are taking this lightly, looking at it as a vacation or anything like that,’’ McCabe said. “Guys want minutes. Guys want to play. Every practice for us is a chance to get ahead of a couple of other guys.’’
Iowa lost just one senior, Eric May, from a 25-13 team that reached the championship game of the NIT, and players are vying for a slice of the 21.8 minutes per game he averaged.
With three newcomers — transfer Jarrod Uthoff, redshirt freshman Kyle Meyer and true freshman Peter Jok — in the mix for playing time, competition for minutes has been intense.
Coach Fran McCaffery settled on a 10-player rotation last season. Before Iowa departed Sunday for London, he indicated that there might be room for more on the floor for the Hawkeyes during the upcoming season.
“I think we can go 11, because what we are going to try to do is ratchet up the defense. We’re going to run on the other end,’’ McCaffery said. “Nobody complains about coming out when they are exhausted.’’
McCabe is among the players angling for a role as Iowa begins a series of six games over the next eight days. The trip includes competition in Paris and the south of France following games the next two days in London.
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McCabe has shed 15 pounds since Iowa ended its NIT run in early April. Instead of playing as undersized post defender, a necessity early in his career, greater interior depth will allow McCabe to play more at the forward position May filled at times last season.
“It’s my senior year and I want to put myself in a position to make the most of it,’’ said McCabe, who now packs 220 pounds on 6-foot-7 frame. “I feel lighter, which should let me go up and down the court better and I feel like I’ll be able to help inside and out. Everybody is looking to find their niche.’’
McCaffery likes that type of attitude, something he has seen from his entire roster.
“The guys came back in pretty good shape. They’ve been working hard this summer and it shows,’’ McCaffery said. “We’ll miss Mike (Gesell, Iowa’s injured point guard) not being out there, but so far, we’ve had a good healthy competition for minutes. Our guys are competing hard and that will only help us moving forward.’’