Prime Time warms up

BY MATTHEW CABEL | JUNE 08, 2012 6:30 AM

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The Iowa men's basketball team finished its 2011 season with a 17-16 overall record that included wins over Wisconsin, Michigan, and Indiana and Iowa basketball's first postseason berth since 2002. Expectations are flying high in Iowa City.

The regular season doesn't tip off until November, but members of the Hawkeye basketball team and ex-Hawks will hear their names called on June 13, when they will be selected for the 26th season of the Prime Time League. The coaches of the four teams — Kevin Lehman, Dan Ahrens, Ron Nove, and league Commissioner Randy Larson — will draw random numbers out of a hat to determine drafting order. The selections will begin at 6:30 p.m.

The hoopsters are eager for the summer season.

"Anytime you get 10 guys on the court competitively, it's definitely going to help you out, especially when you're playing against top-tier opponents such as guys from Drake, UNI, and Iowa," former Hawkeye forward Jarryd Cole said. "You can definitely get some good ball there. It definitely helps with the mentality, I would say, and for the most part I think it does benefit the guys."

Cole is returning to the Prime Time League this summer after playing a season in Iceland following his graduation from Hawkeye basketball in 2011.

The league offers an up-close and personal look at college basketball players and is open to athletes from high school to the professional level. Larson and the three other coaches will host tryouts on the evening of June 10, where potential players from outside the UI will see if their talents meet the standard for the league.

Teams usually feature players from Iowa, Northern Iowa, and smaller universities or community colleges, such as Upper Iowa and Kirkwood. A new NCAA rule was passed during the 2012 season, however, that allows four practices a week. Players from Northern Iowa will not participate in the league because head coach Ben Jacobson doesn't want to over-commit his players.

The number of teams has been reduced from six to four. This change will result in more Iowa players per team, each including two former and current Hawkeyes and as many as two incoming freshmen. The Prime Time League will offer an in-depth look at the nationally ranked incoming freshmen, including center Adam Woodbury, and point guard Mike Gesell, both of whom are expected to make an immediate impact come November.

Expectations are high as well for junior forwards Melsahn Basabe and Zach McCabe and sophomore guard Josh Oglesby, who could all be competing for larger roles during the upcoming season. Newly committed forward Jarrod Uthoff — who announced his transfer from Wisconsin on Wednesday night — is also expected to play.

"Every time I get a chance to play with the guys, it builds team chemistry and helps to learn their tendencies on the court," incoming freshman guard Gesell said. "Team chemistry is a big part of winning in basketball, and getting a chance to play with my teammates in the Prime Time League will be a big part of our success."

For the first time, each Prime Time game will be broadcast locally on the Mediacom 22 channel, and league director Randy Larson expects there to be standing room only for most of the games.

"I benefited from [the Prime Time] last year," sophomore forward Aaron White said, who was a member of last year's Prime Time championship-winning team. "It's always good to play. We do play pickup as a team, but it's different playing with referees. It's beneficial for the incoming freshmen but also for everyone else involved as well."

League play will begin on June 19. The four teams, which are sponsored by an array of local businesses, will play one game per week until the regular season concludes on July 15. The teams will then compete in the league's semifinals, and the winners will advance to the Prime Time championship game on July 24.

"To play college basketball, the transition from high school to college is a huge one," Cole said. "And it's not the stuff you have to prepare for physically, it's also a mental change. I think playing that playing with Prime Time will definitely help [the incoming freshmen] bridge that gap."

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