116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
INDIANAPOLIS — He should have had the inside track on how to slow down Iowa basketball recruit Jack Nunge.
After all, Brian Gibson had just coached Nunge during the previous four seasons at Castle High School in southern Indiana. But this time, the two were on opposite ends of the sideline.
Nunge was a member of the Indiana All-Star team, while Gibson was coaching the junior counterparts as the teams played in two exhibition games before the senior team playing a home-and-home series with the Kentucky All-Stars.
And the best chance to slow Nunge? Well, if anything was going to work, go back to one of the knocks against Nunge early in his career.
'Well, your best chance is to get really physical with him,' Gibson said, 'but he's gone to great strides to make himself stronger and that was apparent (in the exhibitions).'
Nunge wasn't going to be slowed down and he played his best game of the week when needed the most.
The junior all-star team defeated the seniors in the first exhibition, 122-110. And Indiana Mr. Basketball Kris Wilkes, a UCLA recruit, was suspended for the second exhibition due to violating a team rule.
That left Nunge, the runner-up for Mr. Basketball, as the top option to help the seniors gain redemption against their younger counterparts.
Nunge delivered with 28 points, 13 rebounds and 3 assists in the seniors' 134-92 win.
'He's a very, very skilled basketball player but the thing I like about Jack the most is just how competitive he is,' Gibson said. 'I knew that losing the other night to (the juniors) — those seniors have a lot of pride, especially Jack, and they played very, very well.'
That competitiveness will carry over to Iowa immediately, but he's also bringing an aura of leadership that has developed over the past two seasons. As a junior, Nunge was on a team without a senior.
'He came in and never said a word,' Gibson said. 'And out here with the other best players in the state, you could hear him talking and telling people where to go, and what to do. That's just a level of maturity that he didn't have last year and has made him a really special player.'
Nunge provided 12 points, 9 rebounds and 3 assists for the Indiana All-Stars in a 94-89 win over the Kentucky All-Stars in Indianapolis.
Nunge did not play in the game at Kentucky on Sunday, a 111-110 loss in double overtime that broke Indiana's 17-game winning streak in the series. Nunge had to leave for Iowa after Saturday's game so he could attend orientation Sunday.
Missing the second all-star game wasn't ideal, but starting his collegiate career helps ease any disappointment.
'I've been counting down the days to be on campus,' Nunge said.
Playing for the all-star team is a good preparation for the increase in competition Nunge is about to experience. He played with recruits from UCLA, Purdue and Butler.
'Being here helps a lot getting myself ready to play,' said Nunge, who echoes all of the right things to say about his role with the Hawkeyes. 'I'm just going to do whatever they need me to do, play whatever position coach wants me to play. It's up to coach.'
Nunge is a big kid — standing 6-foot-10 — who can do a little bit of everything, playing inside and also able to drive from the outside. And while he's improved his physicality, Gibson warns the transition will be difficult.
'There's no freshman that is ready for (the Big Ten), especially a big kid,' Gibson said. 'The beating that you take daily in practice, let alone in the games, is just something you can't prepare for in high school because there just aren't that many big strong kids around to beat on you on a daily basis.'
But what Nunge lacks physically early in his Iowa career, might be made up for with his mentality.
'He wants to get better and he wants to learn,' Gibson said. 'He'll do whatever it takes to be successful at Iowa.'