IOWA CITY – Getting Josh Oglesby back from an injury in late December probably was viewed by Iowa basketball fans with mixed opinions.
It was good to have one more experienced player to put on the court. But Oglesby was widely viewed as a player who had underachieved in the past. It wasn’t necessarily regarded as something that would make a big difference in any games.
It’s apparent now that Oglesby may play a major role in almost every game.
It certainly was that way Sunday as the Hawkeyes pushed their record to 15-3, 4-1 in the Big Ten, with a 94-73 victory over Minnesota.
With the Hawkeyes’ big guns misfiring in the first half, Oglesby tossed in 14 points, including four three-point field goals, to keep Iowa in the game until Devyn Marble and Aaron White resumed their normal production in the second half.
Oglesby also made several big plays in a road victory at Ohio State the previous Sunday.
“Whatever it takes to win, I’ll do. Whatever coach tells me to do, I’ll do,’’ Oglesby said after the Minnesota victory. “Today I was hitting my threes and it helped our team win.’’
In six games since returning from a broken foot that prompted him to miss the first dozen games of the season, Oglesby is shooting 50 percent (15 of 30) from the field and 60 percent (12 of 20) from 3-point range.
He is averaging 16.7 minutes and 7.2 points per game and said he is playing with more confidence than at any other time in his career.
It wasn’t always this way. As he was being maligned by fans and media last season, the 6-foot-6 junior admitted that his confidence sagged.
“Last year it was obviously a struggle for me,’’ he said. “I was down a lot. I just kept believing in myself. Coach (Fran McCaffery) helped me through all of it. He just tells me to keep shooting. I’m very thankful for having a coach who has confidence in me and who kept going to me.’’
As McCaffery often has insisted, Oglesby is much more than just a 3-point specialist. He’s a solid defender and passer, and even grabbed a key offensive rebound in the second half Sunday.
“I think it's a combination of things,’’ McCaffery said of Oglesby’s recent success. “Number one, he is more experienced. He's healthy now. He's been through it. But he's a talented player … His defense (Sunday) was nothing short of spectacular. It was the same thing against Ohio State.
“We kind of look at him and say ‘OK, is Josh hitting threes?’ and then gauge him on that only. I don't. He’s not a mistake-maker. He defends, gets a huge offensive rebound. He just has an incredible feel and sense of how to play. Now, when he's hitting, now he's a superstar. But if he is not making shots, he is still an incredibly effective player.’’
Nevertheless, it is Oglesby’s ability to hit threes that is most noticeable.
“This is good for him for his confidence going down the stretch. He’s going to need it,’’ Marble said. “And we need him. It opens up the floor for a lot of opportunities for everybody. It’s good to have him back healthy.’’
Oglesby admits some of the criticisms of the past still ring in his ears, but he’s rising above it.
“A lot of people were talking about me and were down on me and stuff like that,’’ he said. “I’m just going to keep working and playing and hopefully keep winning.’’