Basabe looking to restart career as men's basketball opens 2012

BY TOM CLOS | NOVEMBER 09, 2012 6:30 AM

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The Iowa men’s basketball team will open the season against Texas-Pan American tonight with much in tow.

The Hawkeyes boast a shiny new pack of freshmen and veterans from a team that ended a postseason drought last season. And, hopefully for Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery, the squad has a rejuvenated sixth-man, too.

Two seasons ago, Melsahn Basabe started 31 games and averaged 11 points, 9 assists, and 6 rebounds per game en route to being named to the All-Big Ten Freshman team.

He arrived at summer camp a bit out of shape with added weight last season, and it showed on the stat sheet. The forward’s production dipped to the tune of 8 points, 4 rebounds, and 11 assists in only 21 starts.

Now the Glen Cove, N.Y., junior has returned one year older and, he claims, one year wiser.

“Mentally, I wasn’t ready last year, and I wasn’t in shape,” Basabe said. “This year I feel good and need to get it done.”

Basabe’s reclamation project will have to find its early footing from the sidelines. After two years of opening the season on the floor, the upperclassman will begin 2012 on the bench as the Hawkeyes “sixth-man.”

Basabe didn’t seem thrilled with the idea of not being among the roster’s top five, but he maintained a team-first mentality. He expressed his desire and willingness to do whatever it took to help his crew, no matter where he sat on the depth chart.

“The only thing that matters is if I’m helping the team,” he said. “If I’m playing well enough, I’m sure coach will start me if it’s needed.”

His head coach felt the personnel move best fit Iowa given the influx of new talent the Black and Gold acquired this summer, in particular freshman center Adam Woodbury.

“Aaron White came here and was one of the best freshmen in the country, and Woodbury comes in and gives us a legitimate 7-1 presence,” McCaffery said. “[Starting] is probably a better fit for Woodbury and White because of the way [Aaron] shoots the 3-ball.”

The thrid-year leader was quick to point out, however, that Basabe would be the next man to start, “no question” about it, because he had such a successful freshman campaign.

Basabe will make his bench première when the Broncs invade Carver-Hawkeye Arena looking to rebound off a 11-21 record and fourth-place finish in the six-team Great West Conference last season. Texas-Pan American returns five players from 2011, including leading scorer redshirt-senior guard Brandon Provost.

Freshman guard Mike Gesell described how crazy the Iowa City community has become over the past week leading up to the much-anticipated season-opener.

“I’ve run into some people who’ve said they can’t wait to come to the games, and it’s starting to get tough [for me to] concentrate in class,” Gesell said. “But all of our goals come in our team, and we don’t look at outside pressures.”

Pressures are traditionally the downfalls of freshman phenoms in their sophomore campaigns, and Basabe proved to be no different. But the junior didn’t care about his past breakout or breakdown.

He was simply set on thriving throughout the rest of his career, which officially begin tonight.

“I don’t really focus on last year — it’s over now,” Basabe said. “I got two more years here, and I don’t really think about anything else but what’s ahead of me.”

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