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PEOSTA — Iowa graduated two senior power forwards last weekend, and the men’s basketball program didn’t replace either one on the recruiting trail this year.
For most programs that’s a problem. Melsahn Basabe was one of only 10 Iowa players to score more than 1,100 points and grab more than 750 rebounds in a career. Zach McCabe played in a school record 137 games, scored 871 points and pulled down 509 rebounds. Both were physical inside players, something Iowa lacks at forward.
But Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery has a plan to replace those two. All-Big Ten senior Aaron White (6-foot-9) heads back to his more natural position of power forward after opening games at small forward last year. Junior forward Jarrod Uthoff (6-9) came off the bench to average more minutes than both Basabe and McCabe. He outscored both players and was fourth in rebounding, just a shade behind Basabe.
Senior center Gabe Olaseni also figures to shift to power forward at times to fill that void. Olaseni (6-10) averaged an offensive rebound every six minutes and finished second in Big Ten offensive rebounds. Olaseni tied for the team high with four double-doubles, which were the most for a Big Ten reserve this year.
When asked who would replace McCabe and Basabe’s production and minutes, without hesitation McCaffery said, “Uthoff and Gabe, I would think both of guys. I think Jarrod should rise to that occasion and be that guy.”
Neither Uthoff nor Olaseni started a game last year. Uthoff figures to open games at small forward, but can play either spot. Olaseni backs up junior center Adam Woodbury but the duo played comparable minutes last year.
Woodbury played 16.9 minutes a game; Olaseni averaged 16.7. Olaseni put up 6.5 points and 4.9 rebounds, while Woodbury charted 5.7 points and 3.9 rebounds a game. Woodbury was the stronger post defender and performed the non-statistical tasks on offense. Olaseni provided explosiveness and finished ninth among Big Ten players in blocks.
To provide size and toughness, McCaffery said he’s likely to play Woodbury and Olaseni together at times with Olaseni manning the power forward slot.
“I’m to the point now where I’m comfortable with doing that,” McCaffery said before an I-Club gathering at Thunder Hills Country Club on Tuesday. “Two years ago, maybe not so much. But now they know what they’re doing, and they’re both veterans.”
Incoming freshman Dominique Uhl (6-9) also will play a role on the front wall, although his build is more comparable to Uthoff and White and doesn’t match neither Basabe nor McCabe’s thickness.
“Dominque Uhl is very much along the line of the players we recruited in the past,” McCaffery said. “He’s 6-9, long, versatile, can dribble, pass and shoot. He’s athletic.”
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