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CEDAR FALLS — With one of its deepest rosters in half a decade, Northern Iowa men’s basketball coach Ben Jacobson made team camaraderie a focal point of his message during Wednesday’s media day.
Jacobson, who’s entering his 15th season and is UNI’s winningest coach, began his remarks referencing an interview at this year’s Ryder Cup between NBA luminaries Michael Jordan and Steph Curry to illustrate his point.
“Steph asked Jordan about if any of the golfers had talked to him in terms of being a part of a team sport. One of the things that Jordan said in his answer was you have to be willing to give bits and pieces of yourself to your teammates and to your team,” Jacobson said.
Beyond the importance of getting his players to buy into roles and understand their playing time may leave them wanting more, Jacobson said his team has scrimmaged more than ever before, and attributed it to the returns of AJ Green and Antwan Kimmons who missed most of last season.
“It certainly has taken them a little bit of time. That’s where making the decision to scrimmage more, I think, has really been beneficial for both of those guys,” Jacobson said.
Green and Kimmons’ ability to shoulder ball-handling and passing duties within their flow offense has Jacobson encouraged heading into the season, as does having more of their offense installed at this point than in any of his previous seasons.
Elsewhere within UNI’s offense, forward Noah Carter has been inserted into a hybrid role. Assistant coach Seth Tuttle told The Gazette about the role originally in 2019, but said at the time they were not quite equipped to utilize that element of the flow offense.
“We’ve talked a lot about having two bigs. Having the opportunity to have a (flow) action happen on the other side of the floor, quicker, rather than having to wait for our five-man to get back and always initiate it,” Tuttle said. “So, Noah’s taken a whole different role on this year. One that we’ve been hoping for, for a while. That changes our offense a lot.”
Jacobson and Tuttle said Carter will play as a guard and forward. He’ll shoot and come off handoffs, but also get to be another ‘hedge, roll, pitch’ guy like Austn Phyfe has been.
“It’s been really nice being able to work in and out,” Carter said. “Whether I get a switch or whether there’s a smaller guy on me or bigger guy on me I have options. I think it’s really been beneficial to the team. That’s the thing that makes me the happiest.”
Defensively Jacobson said his team wasn’t where it needed to be until a closed scrimmage against North Dakota State this past weekend and pointed out communication. Green revealed they won the scrimmage against the Bison and acknowledged the defensive performance.
“Defensively, we had great energy. We were flying around, helping each other out,” Green said. “Getting into the ball, forcing turnovers. That’s something we’ve emphasized in practice. To see it carry over in our first scrimmage was good to see.”
UNI men’s basketball notes
- Bowen Born has been out with a hand injury and Jacobson said he could return anytime between Nov. 9 and Dec. 1.
- Cole Henry is suspended the first three games due to a violation of the team’s conduct policy this spring.
- Freshmen Michael Duax and Chase Courbat will redshirt. Meanwhile, Born’s injury has kept Jacobson from making a decision on whether or not to redshirt freshman Landon Wolf.