Iowa Newcomers Competing for Limited Minutes
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Brandon Hutton hoped to get noticed. The Iowa freshman decided mixing it up with the star could make that happen.
Hutton closely defended Hawkeye Senior Standout Jarrod Uthoff, who didn’t appreciate the aggressiveness. They needed to be separated during an off-season workout.
"I remember them almost getting in a fight," Senior Point Guard Anthony Clemmons said during Wednesday’s annual media day. "They were going at it. I have to tell Jarrod sometimes that he’s going to have guys that are going to guard him like that, even better, seniors that have that same fight."
While Uthoff’s spot and minutes are secure, barring an injury, Hutton is competing for time. He’s contesting, among others, six newcomers on the roster, including five freshmen.
Hutton, Christian Williams, Isaiah Moss, Andrew Fleming and Ahmad Wagner are in their first year of college. Dale Jones comes to Iowa from Waterloo West High via Tyler Junior College.
"(The competition) has made it very intense but at the end of the day we’re all one," Hutton said.
In addition to Clemmons and Uthoff, starters Mike Gesell, Adam Woodbury and Peter Jok return from last season’s team that advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Sophomore Dom Uhl also figures into the mix for a spot in the rotation. Redshirt freshmen Brady Ellingson and Nicholas Baer aren’t about to give ground to the newcomers.
Dale Jones benefits from three seasons at Tyler. He’s physically more advanced than the true freshmen and if he can improve his defense should get minutes in a thin front court.
That leaves the five true freshmen battling hard for limited minutes. Even if any of them can overcome Ellingson, Baer and Jones, the six guys back who saw time in the rotation a year ago may not leave much available time.
"They all have caught my eye in a lot of different ways. How that will manifest itself specifically we have too much time to figure that out right now," Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. "I’m hopeful that certainly three or four of them can really rise to the top."
Fleming fits best at two guard, where Jok, Gesell and Clemmons could line up. Moss and Hutton are most comfortable on the wing, where the aforementioned veteran trio along with Uhl, Uthoff and Ellingson can run. Williams hopes to grab minutes at the 1-3 spots and Wagner works best at the two forward slots.
The best chance for the newcomers to garner time will be by showing versatility.
"Who can take what they’ve done so far and then go play three positions legitimately?" McCaffery said. "Everybody thinks they can play three positions, but a lot of guys can’t remember three positions because that means tech plays, out of bound plays, zone offensive, defensive teams. Now you’re the one, now you’re the three, now you’re the two.
"Certain guys can handle that and certain guys can’t. That will manifest itself over time. Who can play well when the TV lights come on? Who does it then? That’s a big difference for some guys."
All of the true freshmen are confident they’ll see the floor. Logic indicates that not all of them will.
"We’re all competitive out there, all the newcomers. Even the older guys are still competitive. That’s something we won’t lose," Wagner said. "But we’re all here to help the team out so whatever we can to do make the team better, we’re going to do it. If that means playing a lot one game and then not a lot the next game, it doesn’t matter as long as we get wins."
Wagner is well positioned to emerge from the pack as a guy who can help a front court that lost all-time Iowa great Aaron White along with key reserve Gabe Olaseni from last year’s squad. Hutton might be one of the team’s best and most versatile defenders.
Anyway you slice it, a five-man freshmen class could mean a lot to the future of the program no matter what happens this season.
"This a core group of guys but Dale is a junior so it’s not like we have six freshmen we have five freshmen. We also might end up red shirting somebody which would further separate the classes," McCaffery said.