Basabe's post presence vital in PTL championship

BY BEN SCHUFF | JULY 25, 2011 7:20 AM

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Melsahn Basabe's biggest impact in Sunday evening's Prime Time League championship wasn't his 17 points. Nor was it his team-high 13 rebounds and 5 assists.

Instead, it was his mere presence on the court.

At about the nine-minute mark in the first half, the Iowa sophomore abruptly walked out of the gym with his right hand on his stomach during an opponent's foul shot.

While the two teams had traded 1- or 2-point leads before Basabe's exit — which he blamed on an upset stomach due to food he ate before the game — his opponents made the most of the open driving lanes created by the 6-7 forward's departure.

"When we go to the lane, he's always there blocking a shot," said Chip Rank, a forward on Coach's Corner/Two Rivers. "When he was out, we tried to take advantage of it — and we did."

Rank and his teammates jumped out to what became the game's largest lead at 41-29 during Basabe's absence.

When the star Hawkeye returned after missing around five minutes of action, Coach's Corner/Two Rivers' lead quickly shriveled away. Basabe scored twice off of a pair of offensive rebounds, cutting the deficit to 5. By halftime, the native of Glen Cove, N.Y., had his team up by 1.

"Usually when I'm in the paint, I'm obligated — I feel like — to protect the rim," Basabe said. "I try to cover some of my teammates' mistakes by swatting the shots, and then [the blocks] also start breaks and get guys excited.

"It's just a positive effect all the way around."

Even when the All-Big Ten freshman selection wasn't putting the ball through the hoop, he made his presence felt on the offensive end. Basabe drew several double-teams in the post in the second half, opening up crucial opportunities for his teammates down the stretch in the 100-99 victory.

"He's just like an X-factor," Rank said. "You always have to be aware of him, and you always have to guard him. He's just such a presence in the paint."

Summer-league teammate Matt Gatens said his fellow Hawkeye came up big for their Prime Time team with his post play throughout the 10-game season.

"We weren't the biggest team," Gatens said. "[Basabe] was a guy who was able to rebound and a guy we could go into [in the post] and draw fouls with."

Following a freshman year in which Basabe seemingly outplayed everyone's expectations, Gatens said he's ready to see what his teammate can bring in his second year with the Black and Gold.

"Everybody has real high expectations for him," Gatens said. "He's ready to go into a campaign where people know what to expect of him and really prove those expectations.

"He's going to be big for our team come this fall and winter. He's a force inside, and I think he showed that throughout [the season last year]."

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