Fall practice about refinement, says Iowa's McCaffery
Hawkeyes return 93 percent of their scoring from 25-win team
IOWA CITY -- There's nothing wholesale about how Fran McCaffery plans to run basketball practice this fall at Iowa. He doesn't have to build a system or acclimate a new group of players to his style of play.
Instead, with basketball practice beginning Friday, McCaffery will concentrate on the finer details. The Hawkeyes won 25 games last year but were left out of the NCAA tournament. Iowa struggled in late-game situations and was 4-8 in Big Ten games decided by nine points or less.
That's where the refinement starts.
"Now itís about getting ready for situations," McCaffery said. "Getting ready to win close games. To look at how different combinations form together in situations. Whether weíre working on pressing or zone or motion or sets, itís what combinations work and making sure everybody understands all the positions that they might play rather than implementing a system. They know the system. They know how weíre going to play. Theyíre very comfortable. Itís all about refinement."
The NCAA approved a rule change this spring that allows men's basketball teams to conduct 30 days of practice over a six-week period before their first game. The flexible schedule allows for more off days in training camp. It's possible some coaches will conduct more physical practices than before because the players' bodies will have more time to recuperate.
The rule won't change much for Iowa, at least not this year. The Hawkeyes have a veteran squad with 93 percent of its scoring back from a year ago. In August the team had 10 practices before a six-game foreign trip to England and France.
"Weíre going to go slow," McCaffery said. "Weíre going to take our time. I think itís a great rule. You have more time off and you can rest their bodies, rest their legs and not have this unbelievable pressure that youíve got to get everything in.
"But the irony is, youíre not really getting extra days of practice. Itís same amount of practice days; youíre just spreading them out."
Iowa point guard Mike Gesell will be able to practice after suffering a broken finger during the Prime Time League. McCaffery said Gesell "drove Bill Maxwell crazy" when the strength and conditioning coach put the sophomore through workouts on the foreign trip. Gesell was unable to play in Europe because of the finger injury.
"Bill Maxwell came up to me in Marseilles and said, 'Iím all out. I have no more drills for this guy. He just keeps coming,'" McCaffery said. "He was in better shape than anybody. Itís a shame."
McCaffery is counting on improvement in camp from his team, especially in the front court. He's excited about senior forward Zach McCabe's progress and the potential of sophomore forward Jarrod Uthoff, who is eligible to play after sitting out as a transfer last year.
"I think Aaron White is ready to be a superstar," he said. "Heís obviously a great player, but I think heís ready. I think (Melshan) Basabeís ready to really have the kind of senior year we all anticipated heíd have from a consistency standpoint.
"I think Gabe Olaseniís a guy that we saw as somebody that had that ability to continue to grow and take his game to another level. I think heís done that. I think Adam Woodbury is a guy thatís really worked hard to be in unbelievable shape. Heís figured out what it takes to be successful at this level. Itís an adjustment from high school to college, and he was really good for us. But I think now heís going to be really special."