Fans of the Prime Time League will get more this summer for the same cost of nothing. And they can thank the NCAA for it.
PTL commissioner Randy Larson said Wednesday that the league will expand from six to eight teams in order to create enough roster spots for members of the 2015-16 Iowa men’s basketball team. Larson had to add two teams to meet new NCAA guidelines for summer leagues.
The PTL schedule also will increase from seven to 10 games, with the last three games serving as the playoffs.
“The NCAA now counts incoming players against your two-per-team limit,” Larson said Wednesday. “So we had to go to eight teams in order to give everybody a spot.”
Everybody in this case are the eight returning members of the Iowa team, which includes walk-on forward Nicholas Baer, along with six incoming recruits. Twin brothers Michael and Steven Soukup, who are from Danville, also are expected to join the Iowa team next season as preferred walk-ons. They both played the last two seasons at Southeastern Community College in Burlington.
Larson said he expects all six members of Iowa’s incoming recruiting class to participate in the PTL, which will start on June 18 at the North Liberty Community Center.
Iowa’s incoming recruiting class consists of 6-foot-5 Chicago wing players Isaiah Moss and Brandon Hutton, 6-6 combo guard Christian Williams from Decatur, Ill., 6-4 shooting guard Andrew Fleming from Nashville, Tenn., 6-7 forward Ahmad Wagner from Huber Heights, Ohio and 6-8 junior-college transfer Dale Jones, who is from Waterloo.
“I don’t know if we have any starting lineup spots to fill necessarily,” Larson said of the Iowa lineup for next season. “But we’re certainly going to have three or four new guys that are in the rotation. So these are guys that are going to be depended on to contribute whether they’re starters or not.”
Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson will allow his players, which includes former West High standouts Jeremy Morgan and Wyatt Lohaus, to compete in the PTL for the second summer in a row after having taken a brief hiatus.
Larson will show his gratitude by playing three of the seven regular-season games at the SportsPlex in Waterloo. The tentative dates for the games in Waterloo are Sunday June 21, Thursday July 9 and Thursday July 16.
“I haven’t gotten it all nailed down with them yet,” Larson said of the games in Waterloo. “But they’ve always been really good about making it work.”
Iowa and Northern Iowa both are coming off seasons in which they advanced to the field of 32 in the NCAA Tournament. The Panthers defeated Iowa 56-44 last season and finished 31-4 overall.
Both teams also have to replace their star player now that Aaron White has used up his eligibility at Iowa, while Seth Tuttle has done the same at Northern Iowa. White and Tuttle were considered two of the top forwards in the country as seniors last season.
It’s unlikely that White and Tuttle would play in the PTL this summer, but Larson isn’t ruling anything out. He is also hopeful that former Iowa center Gabe Olaseni will play in the PTL before embarking on his professional basketball career.
“The graduating seniors are always the hardest to figure,” Larson said.
This marks the 29th year for the Prime Time League, which Larson, an Iowa City lawyer and restaurant owner, started in the summer of 1987. The PTL, which has no cost for admission, often gives fans their first extended look at the new players on the Iowa roster.
“At the restaurant I get questions every day about it,” Larson said of the PTL. “So people are still interested in it.
“The unique thing is simply it’s your first chance to look at the new guys. That’s for sure the biggest interest.”
In addition to the newcomers, Larson said he expects former Iowa all-Big Ten guard and Iowa City native Matt Gatens to play in the PTL this summer. Gatens has spent the past three years playing professionally in Spain, the Ukraine and Turkey. The 6-5 shooting guard led Iowa to the National Invitation Tournament as a senior in 2012.
The PTL playoffs will start on July 23, which is a Thursday. The semifinals will be held July 26 followed by the title game on Thursday July 30. All of the playoff games will be held at the North Liberty Community Center, which has air-conditioning.