He has a ways to go, but Hawkeyes' Adam Woodbury has the reach to get there
NORTH LIBERTY — Adam Woodbury isn’t quiet. He talks freely, loudly, excitedly.
Obviously, that means he isn’t shy. Which is good, because a lot of eyes will be on the 7-foot-1 Woodbury this winter. He is the focal point of Fran McCaffery’s 2012 Iowa men’s basketball recruiting class, the big man the Hawkeyes have long needed, the first Iowa prep Roy Williams set his sights on and didn’t whisk off to Kansas or his current North Carolina program.
But those who expect Sioux City’s Woodbury to start putting up 18 points, 10 rebounds and impeccable defense from the get-go may need to exercise some patience. So might Woodbury, as his first night of Prime Time League Play attested.
His linescore of 2 points (1-of-5 shooting), 8 rebounds, and 7 personal fouls (there are no foul-outs in the PTL) produced nothing that was YouTube-worthy. But it was a good start to his summer education.
Woodbury was defended by former Hawkeye post player Jarryd Cole, who will start his second professional season in August when he heads to France. Woodbury didn’t face any Jarryd Coles in high school.
“I want to work out with him a lot and I think that could really help me improve a lot,” Woodbury said, “because he’s a big, strong dude.”
Cole spots Woodbury six inches, but has four years of Big Ten experience in how to defend an opponent regardless of height. His advice to Woodbury:
“Be patient. He lets the player get him out of what he wants to do. Be patient, post up, settle, and then get the ball and go to work. But he wants to push you around, moves his feet too much.
“You have to be able to do what you want to do, and he has to establish that. When he does, I think he’s going to be a force.
Tuesday, Cole did a good job denying Woodbury the ball. When Woodbury did get it, he was well-defended. To his credit, instead of forcing up bad shots he usually passed the ball back out. He had two assists in the game’s first three minutes, both to Iowa teammate Zach McCabe for 3-pointers.
“I just want to win,” Woodbury said. “I’m going to do whatever it takes to win. If that’s getting five assists a game, if that’s scoring, defense, I’m going to do whatever.”
That sounds good, and it is good, but Woodbury’s ultimate mission is to control the inside. It will be a work-in-progress, one Cole understands.
“Playing the post position, center and power forward, you don’t know if you’re going to get the ball,” Cole said. “You’re battling big bodies, you’re going for the rebounds, you’re sacrificing a lot. So you have to be mentally strong in order to do that.
“Really, if you’re not a force, you’re a liability to the team.”
Freshman point guard Mike Gesell will be doing what he’s always done this season. He’ll have the ball in his hands and he’ll be directing the offense. So his early comfort-level will probably be higher than his longtime friend and AAU teammate Woodbury.
But Woodbury could benefit from not being needed to drop in 15 points a game in his first year. Double-teaming the freshman might be an unsound defensive strategy, since a Devyn Marble or Aaron White or Josh Oglesby or other Hawkeyes could feast on defensive openings.
Plus, it’s still four months from the start of practices and five months until the initial game. Woodbury can absorb a lot of basketball knowledge in the meantime.
“It’s a different speed, it’s a totally different game than high school, AAU and all that,” said Woodbury. “So getting acclimated to it, to the pick-and-roll and stuff, it’ll be good.”
Though he missed it when he tried it once on Tuesday, Woodbury’s left-handed baby hook shot looks like a potentially lethal weapon. Try to stop a 7-1 player from making that if he gets in the right position and has a soft shooting touch.
“That’s been my go-to move for five or six years,” he said. “It was a little bit off tonight, just by a touch. But that was enough to rim out.
“That’s definitely a move I try to work on and I’ve been using it for a while now.”
In Woodbury, Cole sees what McCaffery sees and what North Carolina’s Williams saw, what Williams has seen in the many excellent centers he has coached over the years.
“His length is crazy,” Cole said. “Whenever he figures out what he can and can’t do, I think it will benefit him and the Hawkeyes.
“I love his potential. He’s 7-foot, he’s long, he’s athletic. You didn’t really see that a lot tonight, but we will get to see that, and I’m excited about that.”