UNI Panthers

Influx of skill, competition to UNI men's basketball has Ben Jacobson enthusiastic

Northern Iowa Panthers head coach Ben Jacobson. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Northern Iowa Panthers head coach Ben Jacobson. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

WATERLOO — With the sun beaming onto the amphitheater patio in downtown Waterloo, UNI men’s basketball coach Ben Jacobson spoke with measured optimism about his freshly assembled 2018-19 roster at the final stop of Northern Iowa’s second-annual Panther Caravan Tuesday night.

After securing four-star point guard AJ Green — the Panthers’ highest-rated recruit in program history last summer — Jacobson and his staff pieced together a recruiting class of four signees that the soon-to-be 12th-year head coach says add skill and competition to their group of returners.

“Biggie (Goldman) and Tray (Croft) are both really skilled guys,” Jacobson said. “(Goldman) gives us the ability to keep stretching that floor out. The last two years, as we’ve talked about, that’s been a challenge for us.”

“Tray’s a gifted offensive player. What sold us on him is he’s a great passer. When he came over and worked out with the guys he could really, really pass. And that’s a big deal. Just felt like the right fit as we got into the workout.”

Trae Berhow, a 6-foot 5 guard that transferred to UNI from Pepperdine will sit out this upcoming season due to NCAA rules. Berhow, who averaged 10 points per game for the Waves last season, is poised to fit in well given the recruiting history between him and UNI.

“We spent a lot of time recruiting (Berhow) out of high school,” Jacobson said. “So the relationship that we had with him and his family and his coaches that made that an easy one on both sides. We feel great about him because we know him so well and he knows us.”

With four new “skill players,” as Jacobson called them, on the roster after a pair of seasons with less perimeter ball movement in favor of interior post-ups, he anticipates this year’s team looking more like the 2015-16 team. He cautioned that before games begin in October there will be a long way to go defensively, but reiterated that the offense is likely ticketed toward a more perimeter-oriented attack.

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“Our team will shift a little bit now,” Jacobson said. “You think two years ago when we had Wes (Washpun), Paul (Jesperson), and (Matt Bohannon). When we had those guys and Klint (Carlson) at the five we could get going a bit more. Get the ball popping around. Defenses had to stretch out, chase guys on the 3-point line. Just that feel of — it wasn’t like we were scoring 90 (points) — but it was a feel of ‘man, these guys got that ball moving.’ It’s got a chance to look more like that just because the personnel is going to be different. It’s going to fit that better.”

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