Stronger, more confident Fuller looks for breakout sophomore year


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As the Iowa Hawkeyes prepare for the 2009-10 season, strength is key.

Under the direction of strength and conditioning coach Rusty Burney, the players and coaches believe the men’s basketball players are going to be more physical than they have demonstrated during the first two seasons of the Todd Lickliter era.

A player who has made one of the biggest strides is sophomore Aaron Fuller. This off-season, Iowa assistant coach Joel Cornette said, Fuller has gone from bench-pressing 220 pounds to 280 and called it “a pleasant surprise.”

In fact, his ongoing development has one teammate convinced he is “one of the most improved players” Iowa has going into the start of practices.

“He plays so much stronger on the court and so much more confident,” senior cocaptain Devan Bawinkel said. “That lets him show off his talent. He’s a talented rebounder and scorer, so I think he’s going to be very versatile for us this year.”

The reasons supporting Fuller’s progression are justifiable. When the Hawkeyes took their trip to Italy and Greece over the summer, he was one of the most consistent Hawkeyes on the floor during each of their three exhibitions, posting a combined total of 44 points and 38 rebounds.

His season highs last year in points and rebounds were 16 points and seven boards.

Fuller was quick to credit the changes to the team’s workout regimen for making him a more physical and confident basketball player.

“When I first came here, I was easily getting pushed around,” he said. “I feel like when you get stronger, you’re able to hold your ground more and get more confident, so I feel like it’s really a big part in the game.”

His fellow Hawkeyes believe he has benefited from the team mindset of wanting to become, literally, a stronger squad. Fuller will still take outside shots from time to time, but his greatest improvement will be in the paint.

Among the reasons Cornette recruited him out of Mesa, Ariz., was for what the assistant called his “knack” for grabbing offensive rebounds and creating second chances.

With the strength the Hawkeye sophomore has added this off-season, Cornette believes Fuller will become that dominant presence the Hawkeyes are looking to have complement the play of junior cocaptain Jarryd Cole.

“Now I think with him physically improved, to go against the guys we play every night, he should be able to make a bigger impact on the glass,” Cornette said.

The players’ acknowledgment of the dedication Fuller has shown in the weight room and on the court was something that pleased Lickliter when he spoke at a press conference on Monday during the team’s media day.

The third-year Iowa head coach mentioned Fuller’s strength and eagerness to learn as keys that make him a successful player.

“He has a great understanding of what we want to do, the way we want to play, and now he’s developing the kind of body that the Big Ten requires,” Lickliter said. “So, it’s only natural he made the strides.”

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