Point/Counterpoint: Who is Iowa basketball's impact bench player?

BY DI STAFF | NOVEMBER 13, 2012 6:30 AM

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Melsahn Basabe, forward

Look for a big helping of “slime time” this coming season for the Hawkeyes.

Head coach Fran McCaffery finally has the personnel to play the 10-man rotation he’s wanted to implement since he arrived in Iowa City. But of all the players that will see action for the Hawkeyes off the bench, Melsahn Basabe will have the most impact.

Last season, Basabe took on a smaller role on the team after a slow start and some motivational issues. He averaged 8.2 points and 4.8 rebounds per game last year, compared with 11 points and nearly 7 rebounds per game in his stellar freshman season.

But Basabe provided a great spark coming off the bench in his new role during his sophomore year. Expect him to do the same in the 2012-13 season.

In the second half of 2011-12, Basabe showed flashes of the player who earned a spot on the 2011 Big Ten All-Freshman Team. He led the team in field-goal percentage at 52.4 percent last season. Iowa was 7-3 when Basabe scored 14 points or more. With a few more attempted shots, Basabe will score more points and help to rack up more wins for the Black and Gold.

Basabe will also have the most impact on defense of any bench player. He has averaged at least 1 block per game since he has played for Iowa. Even if he’s not actually blocking shots, Basabe’s seven-foot wingspan alters opponent’s looks.

It’s going to be an exciting season this year for McCaffery and his Hawkeyes with the prospect of an NCAA Tournament berth. If Iowa makes it to the dance, “slime time” off the bench will be a big reason.

— by Kevin Glueck

Eric May, guard

Dubuque native Eric May is ready for a big year off the bench after two seasons battling injuries and inconsistency. A Big Ten All-Freshman Team selection in 2010, the senior will fit in to a deep and athletic Hawkeye team with ease.

The only current Iowa player to have played under Todd Lickliter, May’s athleticism in a fast-break offense is invaluable. He’s had a number of highlight reel dunks and alley-oop finishes in his career, and even if he’s not the man scoring, he attracts the defense’s attention.

May’s had a variety of injuries to overcome in his college career, from groin to back issues, but he has still recorded impressive statistics. In his first two seasons especially, May displayed versatility: As a freshman in the Big Ten, he led the 2009-10 Iowa squad in both steals (34) and blocks (26). The 6-5 guard has also been able to make shots from behind the 3-point line, leading the 2010-11 team in 3-point accuracy. May’s percentage (.394) that season even bested that of sharpshooter Matt Gatens (.331).

It’s not just what May can do on offense, though. In addition to his strong defensive showing during his freshman season, May has also averaged just under a steal per game in his career with 94 career swipes in 96 career games.

Last season, May struggled as a sometime-starter and sometime-bench player. This year, with a clearer role and more talent surrounding him, Iowa’s only significant senior — apologies to walk-on Christopher Rickert — will be more open more often and be able to make a huge impact.

— by Ian Martin

Josh Oglesby, guard

He’s a 6-5, 200-pound guard who has a silky smooth jumper. No, I’m not referring to former Hawkeye Matt Gatens. The player I’m picking to have the biggest impact off the bench this year is sophomore guard Josh Oglesby.

Every basketball team needs a shooter. The Hawkeyes had one last year in Gatens. The problem, however, is that Gatens suffered from playing on a team that was still transitioning out of the Lickliter era. Iowa is no longer a work in progress, and Oglesby is no longer a freshman fighting for playing time.

Other than Oglesby, Iowa doesn’t have anyone who can consistently shoot the 3-ball. Forward Zach McCabe impressed fans by going 4-4 from 3-point range in Iowa’s season-opener, but that was against a very weak Division-I team. McCabe will also play power forward this season. So until the junior can prove he can spread the floor against an actual D-I squad, Oglesby will be looked upon to hit the shots from downtown.

Oglesby hit 45 3-pointers last season, which ranks fourth in Iowa history for a freshman. He only converted 37 percent of his 3s, but this year, given his maturation, expect that average to hover closer to 45 percent.

The Cedar Rapids native wasn’t expected to be a game changer as a freshman, but that will change this season. If the Hawkeyes continue their growth under Fran McCaffery, Oglesby will need to come off the bench and hit the shots that are drawn up for him.

— by Carlos Sosa

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