NORTH LIBERTY, Iowa – Iowa basketball’s past and future were on display during the Prime Time League late game here Thursday night at the Rec Center. Hawkeye fans were treated to an entertaining performance.
Former standout Matt Gatens teamed up with redshirt freshman Brady Ellingson and incoming freshman Andrew Fleming to lead their squad to its second win in as many games. The trio of shooting guards spread the floor and let Northern Iowa point guard Wes Washpun find them when he wasn’t hitting the open shot or driving the lane himself.
Gatens plays professionally in Turkey these days. He’s enjoying getting to know Ellingson and Fleming on and off the court.
"I’ve been really impressed. They’re mature guys for their age, play hard every play and can obviously stroke it. So, they’re definitely going to help out right away because of their feel for the game, the way they can shoot it. They play hard on defense. That’s all you can ask for out of guys. They’re good kids and they’re a lot of fun to play with," Gatens said.
Gatens finished his Iowa career in 2012 as the school’s sixth all-time leading scorer (1,635 points) and second in three-pointers made (239). A second-team all-Big Ten selection as a senior, he became just the second Hawkeye to reach 1,600 points, 450 rebounds, 250 assists and 125 steals (Roy Marble).
"He’s a great player," Fleming said. "I like watching him as he plays without the ball. That’s something I want to get better at, moving with purpose without the ball. I know I can put it on the floor and score and distribute. I just want to play more like him when it comes to playing without the ball."
Fleming scored 23 points Thursday after netting 25 in his PTL debut Sunday in Waterloo. He looked comfortable, nothing like a timid freshman, in adding eight rebounds and five assists on Thursday.
"Andrew, for a freshman, he’s got a lot of confidence," Gatens said. "It’s great to see. You don’t always see that out of a young guy coming in right away playing with older guys. He’s ready to come in and stroke it or get in the lane."
Ellingson knocked down open three-pointers like Fleming. He also showed off a mid-range game that could make him even more difficult to guard. He missed last year’s PTL with an injury that eventually caused him to redshirt during the 2014-15 season.
"Brady is coming off an injury last year but he got a lot of reps in practice. I remember I was back for a week and I went and watched practice and he was doing great things out there on the scout team,’" Gatens said.
Ellingson is taking advantage of his time with Gatens this summer. He’d like to learn what it takes to be a successful Big Ten shooting guard from someone who already has accomplished it.
"I think he uses his shot fakes well and he moves without the ball really well," Ellingson said of Gatens. "Just guarding him in open gym, he’s really hard to guard off screens, setting his man up. I think I can learn from that."
Gatens practices with the Hawkeyes away from the PTL when he’s home from Turkey.
"Matt is a great player," Ellingson said. "He helps us in telling us what to do, how to set up our man. He always tries to find us so it’s nice playing with him."
Ellingson played sparingly last year before deciding to red shirt. He’s been champing at the bit to get back on the floor since then.
"I’m totally fine with my health and it’s been great working out with the guys and get into the swing of things," he said. "The whole mental aspect, I know what to expect going into the year. Going up against those guys in practice helped so much."
Ellingson and Fleming could very well be competing for minutes this winter. But they look comfortable playing together.
"I think we’re unselfish. We complement each other," Ellingson said.
Said Fleming: "I feel like when we both play with confidence and knock down shots we could be a deadly duo in the Big Ten as well as (Peter) Jok. I just feel like whenever me and (Ellingson) are on the court we can draw some attention because we can get hot and knock down shots."