Iowa-Creighton showcased instate talent

November 21st, 2011

The usual thinking is that Iowa high school basketball is not all that great, at least compared to the brand of ball that is played in some other Midwest states.

Most experts will tell you it’s OK to have one or two Iowa kids on the roster, but you couldn’t ever assemble a quality team comprised completely of kids from the state.

If you watched much of Sunday’s game between Iowa and Creighton at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, you know that’s hogwash.

The game, won decidedly by Creighton 82-59, was a showcase for instate talent. Iowa-grown kids combined to score nearly half the points collected by the two teams (69 of 141).

Doug McDermott (Ames) led Creighton with 25 points and nine rebounds and Grant Gibbs (Linn-Mar) added five points, eight rebounds and six assists. The only other Iowan on the Blue Jays’ roster, Will Artino (Waukee), scored six points in just 10 minutes of action.

Iowa’s top two scorers were Josh Oglesby (Cedar Rapids) with 14 and Matt Gatens (Iowa City) with 13 while Eric May (Dubuque) contributed six points and six rebounds. Gatens and May are the Hawkeyes’ top two scorers for the season.

So, if you took all those guys and packaged them with North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes (Ames) and maybe Drake’s Seth Van Deest (Bettendorf) to give you a little added size, what would you have? It probably would be a team that could play with anyone in the country.

McDermott, who played on the same high school team with Barnes, was especially impressive Sunday for those of us who haven’t seen him play that often. At 6-foot-7, he can play pretty much anywhere on the court and do just about everything you’d want a player to do.

“I’ve seen very few players who are as comfortable both in the post and on the perimeter …’’ Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said.

Freshmen hard to gauge so far

November 16th, 2011

It’s too early to form any concrete opinions about Iowa’s incoming freshman class.

Based on the first game,, against Chicago State, Iowa fans would be giddy over what they can ex-pect to see of Aaron White, Josh Oglesby and Gabe Olaseni. Their combined totals for that game: 31 points and 16 rebounds in 46 minutes.

In game 2 against North Carolina A&T: 2 points and 5 rebounds in 19 minutes.

Olaseni didn’t even play in that game because coach Fran McCaffery worried how the 6-foot-10 England native would deal with A&T’s frenetic pressure defense. White didn’t handle it all that well, scoring just two points after debuting with a 19-point, 10 rebound effort. McCaffery later said he regretted not using Oglesby and White more in that contest just to expose them to that sort of game.

As good as White looked in that first game, don’t be surprised if Oglesby ends up being the one who makes the largest impact this season.

The Cedar Rapids Washington grad has yet to show the perimeter shooting skills he is expected to provide – he is 1 for 8 from 3-point range – but he has looked very calm and controlled. He has dealt out six assists and turned the ball over just once.

And McCaffery knows the kid is going to start hitting shots. He’s most concerned with making sure he keeps launching shots.

“I screamed at him ‘You’re not shooting’ a couple of times when he didn’t take a shot the other night …’’ McCaffery said. “You’ve got to have amnesia. If you miss the first three, then make the next three. If you miss four, make the next four. It’s difficult for him because he’s never been that kind of player.

“When he’s open he’s got the green light,’’ McCaffery added. “I don’t want him even thinking about it. I don’t care if he’s missed 10 in a row; take the 11th.’’

Fans already love Aaron White

November 12th, 2011

Iowa basketball fans are going to like this Aaron White kid. Just one game into his college career, that already is obvious.

White debuted Friday night with a 19-point, 10-rebound performance against Chicago State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. As far as Iowa officials can tell, it’s the highest scoring total ever by a Hawkeye freshman in his first game and it’s the first time an Iowa player has debuted with a double-double since Jess Settles did it in 1993.

But the performance was more workmanlike than spectacular. White isn’t the kind oif player who is going to scare opponents when he steps on the court. He’s a fairly average looking 6-foot-8 kid who doesn’t seem to possess great quickness and exceptional leaping ability. He just works very hard and seems to do everything right. He has tremendous instincts and always seems to be in the right place at the right time.

You can tell Iowa fans already have taken a liking to him. The kid got a standing ovation when he left the game Friday.

It remains to be seen exactly what White’s role will be as the season unfolds. It wouldn’t be a shock to see him get his first career start Monday against North Carolina A&T since senior Devon Archie doesn’t really provide the Hawkeyes with much at either end of the court. But once senior Andrew Brommer gets healthy, he probably will take over as the starting center, leaving the Hawkeyes free to use White as a jolt of instant energy off the bench. However they use him, the kid already is well on his way to becoming a fan favorite.



Too early to know about Hawks

November 11th, 2011

With the start of Iowa’s basketball season just a few hours away, many people are asking: How many games will the Hawkeyes win this season?

It’s too early to really give an educated answer to that question, especially since I was just thrust back into the Hawkeye basketball beat within the past week. My answer for now would be: More than last year.

There clearly is some talent on this team and a wealth of experience, more than most college basketball programs have. How all that translates into on-court success will depend on injuries, consistency, quality of opposition and a myriad of other factors that aren’t yet clear.

We’re not going to get a lot of answers out of these early-season games either. Tonight’s opener, for example, comes against a Chicago State team that won six games last year, has only 14 total starts back from a year ago and trailed St. Ambrose, an NAIA team, by six points in the middle of the second half of an exhibition game the other night. And St. Ambrose’s best player missed the game with an injury.

If the Hawks win by 40 tonight, we won’t know any more than we do now. We need a few weeks, probably a month, to know much about this team fits into the Big Ten race.

Derby slips ahead of Wienke on Hawkeyes’ depth chart

August 30th, 2011

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, speaking on the Big Ten’s first weekly coaches teleconference, said redshirt freshman A.J. Derby has slipped ahead of junior John Wienke as the Hawkeyes’ backup quarterback.

Junior James Vandenberg is entrenched as the starter going into Saturday’s season opener against Tennessee Tech but all those doubts about Derby possibly being switched to some other position apparently are in the past.

“If we played a game tormorrow, which we don’t, A.J. Derby would be the next guy in the game,’’ Ferentz said. “He’s very improved. John Wienke has continued to improve, too … but right now A.J. would be the next guy in the game.’’

Other comments from Ferentz on the teleconference:

On Tennessee Tech:

“They’re a very, very veteran team. I don’t know if we’ve ever played anybody that has 20-some starters back. They finished up on a postivie note last season and we’re going to have our work cut out for us Saturday.’’

On the depth at the running back position:

“Jason White (from Davenport) is an experienced guy who continues to improve and we’re going to find a role for him. We also have D’Andre Johnson and a couple of true freshman who are involved. You’ll probably see a couple of them in the game if not this week then in the next couple of weeks.’’

On the new divisional set-up and championship game for the Big Ten this season:

“I think it makes things a little more interesting for everyone. If you’re fortunate enough to get to Indianapolis, it going to be very exciting. I’ve never been a part of anything like that before.’’

Wrapping up the spring

April 16th, 2011

Random thoughts and observations from the Hawkeyes’ spring-ending workout Saturday at Kinnick Stadium:

– Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said freshman A.J. Derby and junior John Wienke are “neck and neck’’ for the backup quarterback job, but Derby looked much, much better in Saturday’s workout. He has a stronger arm and seemed to make better decisions. In fact, he probably looked better than starter James Vandenberg.

– Keenan Davis was the clear standout among the receivers but walk-on Steve Staggs looked like he could be a solid possession receiver comparable to Colin Sandeman.

– Three players were back fielding punts during the workout – Keenan Davis, Micah Hyde and freshman Kevonte Martin-Manley. Based on the way he looked on two interception returns for touchdowns last season, Hyde may be the favorite to win the job.

– Hyde was used at free safety this spring on sort of an experimental basis and looked good enough that it seems probable he will stay there in the fall. That sets up a major battle for his old cornerback job between veteran Greg Castillo and upstart B.J. Lowery. Those two had the only interceptions of Saturday’s controlled scrimmage.

– Neither of the two kickers – Mike Meyer or Trent Mossbrucker – looked very good in the work-out, but the cold and the wind weren’t exactly conducive to quality kicking.

– Several linemen – Thomas Nardo, Steve Bigach and Nolan McMillan – disappeared off the depth chart between the start and end of spring drills with very little explanation from the coaching staff. None of them suited up Saturday although all still are listed on the roster. They apparently are either injured or still recovering from winter workouts.

– Senior punter Eric Guthrie looked very erratic Saturday, alternating booming kicks with weak wobblers. Don’t be surprised if Australian-born freshman Jonny Mullings steals the job from him in the fall.

Rhabdo still being discusssed

April 8th, 2011

We had another interview session with “selected’’ Iowa players Friday and, as expected, there were a few questions about rhabdomyolysis, the ailment that hospitalized 13 Hawkeyes player following an extremely tough January workout.

There were questions. Not many answers.

“I haven’t even thought about the whole rhabdo thing,’’ defensive back Micah Hyde said. “While it was going on, it wasn’t that big a deal to me. I’ve been working out every day and haven’t missed a day.’’

It’s hard to believe Hyde hasn’t thought about it at all, especially since about half of the players who were affected play the same position he does. Surely, he noticed that fellow DBs Shaun Prater, Jordan Bernstine, Willie Lowe and Tommy Donatell went about a month-and-a-half without working out. Surely, he has heard that Lowe still is feeling the effects of the ailment and plans to transfer.

Iowa players have heard about Lowe, but the ones who were there Friday say they don’t really know anything.

“I haven’t seen him in awhile,’’ quarterback James Vandenberg told us. “I don’t know all the facts. I know he was a great guy when he was here. I liked him a lot. His locker was just down from mine and he was always a fun guy to be around.’’

Hyde, Bernstine auditioning at safety

March 31st, 2011

There are indications that Iowa has been doing a great deal of experimenting at the safety positions in the opening week of spring practice.

Tyler Sash and Brett Greenwood have started side by side at the back end of the defense for the past three years, but both are gone now.
Tanner Miller, who played sparingly as a true freshman last fall, is expected to replace Greenwood at free safety but he is sitting out the spring after undergoing shoulder surgery. That has left the door wide open for auditions at the two spots.

There is a handful of players who have been in the program for a few years who are contending for those spots — Collin Sleeper, Jack Swanson, Tommy Donatell, Nick Nielsen, Kyle Steinbrecher – but don’t be surprised if either Micah Hyde or Jordan Bernstine ends up starting alongside Miller. Both have been cornerbacks for their entire careers but both have lined up at safety in the past week.

Bernstine, regarded as the top prospect in Iowa when he came out of Des Moines Lincoln,  was projected to start at corner in 2009 but broke his ankle in preseason practice and has not been the same since. Hyde started every game at cornerback as a sophomore last fall, but he is a natural ballhawk who might be even better at safety. His brother, Marcus, was a starting safety at Michigan State last season.

Shaun Prater, a returning All-Big Ten player at the other corner, has been impressed by what he’s seen of both Hyde and Bernstine at safety. He said Bernstine seems more committed and dedicated now that he is down to one last season of college ball.

“I think you could put Micah in there right now,’’ Prater said. “I think you could put him and Jordan in there together and they’d fine. They are making it look so easy right now.’’

It will be interesting to see how it all shakes out. Hyde seems better suited to play free safety while Bernstine has the look of a strong safety. Our guess is that Bernstine could end up replacing Sash with Hyde either supplanting Miller at free safety or going back to his old corner position. If Hyde stays at safety, sophomore B.J. Lowery, who has been compared favorably to Amari Spievey, probably would start on the corner.

Lots of stat milestones

January 1st, 2011

Iowa’s 8-5 won-loss record wasn’t quite what fans hoped for, but the Hawkeyes reached more than their share of individual statistical milestones this season:

– Ricky Stanzi’s passing efficiency rating took a hit in the Insight Bowl – with two interceptions and no touchdown passes for the first time in 21 games – but he still ended up setting the school’s single-season record. Stanzi’s final efficiency rating was 157.6, topping the 157.1 mark by Brad Banks in 2002. Stanzi also became the fourth Iowa quarterback – and the first not named Chuck – to pass for 3,000 yards in a season, finishing at 3,004. His career totals of 7,377 yards and 56 touchdowns both rank third on Iowa’s all-time list.

– With nine points in the Insight Bowl, Mike Meyer broke Iowa’s freshman scoring record. Meyer kicked 14 field goals and 31 extra points to give him 73 points, breaking the previous record of 70 by Trent Mossbrucker in 2008. Ironically, Meyer replaced Mossbrucker as the regular kicker three games into the season.

– Only three players in Iowa history have collected a dozen interceptions and more than 200 tackles in their careers, and two of them played safety for the Hawkeyes this season. Brett Greenwood finished his career with 12 picks and 229 tackles and Tyler Sash will enter his senior season with 13 interceptions and 217 tackles. Damien Robinson (1993-96) is the only other player to accomplish the feat. Sash, assuming he does not turn pro a year early, has a shot at becoming Iowa’s all-time leader in interceptions. He trails only Nile Kinnick (18), Devon Mitchell (18), Jovon Johnson (17) and Robinson (14).

– Marcus Coker’s monster performance in the Insight Bowl left him with 622 yards for the season – the fourth best total by an Iowa freshman. Two of the better freshman totals came in 2009 when Adam Robinson went for 834 and Brandon Wegher for 641. The only other higher number was 679 by Ladell Betts in 1998. Coker’s 219 yards in the bowl game was the sixth best single-game total in Iowa history and the best by a Hawkeye running back since Tavian Banks went for 314 against Tulsa in 1997. Unbelievably, Shonn Greene never had as many yards in a game as Coker did. Greene’s career best was 217.

– By catching 53 passes this season, Marvin McNutt became the first Iowa receiver in six years to have more than 50 receptions in a season. Two players – Ed Hinkel and Clinton Solomon – did it in 2004. McNutt’s total of 861 yards is the 10th best in Iowa history and his career total of 1,546 is the 16th best. It would take a record-shattering senior season to get there, but Derrell Johnson-Koulianos’ career record of 2,616 may not be beyond McNutt’s reach.

– Adam Robinson is now 13th on Iowa’s career rushing list with 1,775 yards. Of course, it remains to be seen if A-Rob has played his final game as a Hawkeye.

– With five tackles in the Insight Bowl, Jeremiha Hunter finished with 269 career tackles, which ranks No. 20 on the career list.

Hampton, A-Rob are gone too

December 13th, 2010

As if Iowa football fans hadn’t endured enough in the past few weeks.

Three straight losses to finish the regular season. The stunning arrest and suspension of Derrell Johnson-Koulianos. The not-so-stunning official close of Brandon Wegher’s career.

Now the university has said that the program’s two most experienced running backs are gone, one permanently one for at least the Dec. 28 Insight Bowl. Sophomore running back Jewel Hampton is leaving the Iowa program to transfer to another school and sophomore Adam Robinson, who rushed for 941 yards this season, has been suspended from the team for the bowl.

Hampton, who has had surgery on both knees in the past 18 months but was expected to return at full strength next season, had hinted that this was coming with a series of posts on his Facebook page in the past several days. Last Wednesday, he wrote “NOBODY IS SAFE!!!!!!!” On Friday, he wrote “FAREWELL.’’ At about 9 p.m. Sunday, he wrote “Former Hawk-eye!!! wats next????’’

Several people, including Robinson and defensive end Lebron Daniel, commented on the post. Robinson wrote “hmm…. first and for most… LIVE IT UP!”