IOWA CITY — In assessing the prospects for the Iowa basketball team this season, the conversation generally begins with Devyn Marble and Aaron White.
There also are high expectations for sophomores Adam Woodbury and Mike Gesell and seniors Melsahn Basabe and Zach McCabe, and high hopes for newcomers Jarrod Uthoff and Peter Jok and developing junior Gabe Olaseni.
Anthony Clemmons? Oh yeah, he’s on the roster, too.
If he wasn’t, the Hawkeyes might not be 2-0 going into their game with Maryland-Eastern Shore tonight.
Clemmons came off the bench, played almost the entire second half and made several big plays at big moments as the Hawkeyes came from behind to defeat Nebraska-Omaha 83-75 on Sunday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
While it’s not the first time the player teammates call “Sapp’’ has done something like that, he often seems be overlooked when experts dissect the Hawkeyes.
“I don’t know if he gets overlooked but he’s just a solid guard,’’ White said. “He showed that last year. He started 12 games for a reason. He’s a good athlete, a good defender, he gets us in our stuff. I think he’s just come into his own as a player in the past year.’’
Clemmons sometimes is typecast as an exceptional defender, but his offensive skills also are crucial to Iowa’s success. When he comes off the bench, he generally plays point guard, freeing Marble to do other things.
“He comes in and gives me the ability to go out on the wing and attack the basket and be more aggressive,’’ Marble said.
Clemmons also is a better scorer than he is sometimes given credit for. He scored a basket in the second half Sunday that put the Hawkeyes ahead after trailing for 25 minutes. He then knocked down a 3-point field goal with 6 minutes remaining that put them ahead for good.
“It was a big-time play at a big-time moment,’’ Clemmons said. “I put myself in the category of being a big-time player so I’ve got to be able to knock down shots like that. … We needed that three. It was just a shot that I needed to hit.’’
McCaffery said Clemmons, who finished with 11 points, was “tremendous at both ends’’ in the victory. He felt so comfortable with the way the 6-foot-1 sophomore was playing that he left him on the court for the last 15 minutes of the contest.
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“He just doesn’t seem to rattle at all,’’ McCaffery said. “I just felt real good with him in the game so we just left him in there.
“I kept asking him if he was OK because I was worried about fatigue. Basabe was playing great. I took him out. McCabe was playing great. I took him out. Aaron White was tired and I took him out for a minute, but I just left Clemmons in there.’’
With Gesell struggling — he has only four points in the first two games — Clemmons could end up playing an even larger role.
Whatever happens, he is confident the Hawkeyes are headed for a big season.
“We’re going down the right direction right now,’’ Clemmons said. “As long as we come out with an aggressive mindset, a mindset that we’re going to win, we’ll be fine.’’