Prime Time’s most dangerous

BY CHARLIE GREEN | JULY 21, 2015 5:00 AM

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Coach Jess Settles of the Marion Iron squad put together an unconventional roster at the start of the Prime Time League, selecting no one who played for the Hawkeyes in the 2014-15 season — one of only two coaches to do so.

Instead, he picked Northern Iowa veterans, a former Hawk playing in Europe, a Hawk who didn’t play his freshman season because of an injury, and an incoming Iowa freshman.

And the strategy is paying off.

Settles’ team finished the regular season at 5-1, earning the second seed entering the first round of the playoffs. The team’s only loss came on July 2, when it fell to Dan Ahrens’ first-place Jill Armstrong Team, led by Adam Woodbury and Dondre Alexander, 105-102.

Four of Settles’ first five picks were guards, including Northern Iowa’s Wes Washpun, Turkish-pro and ex-Hawk star Matt Gatens, and incoming freshman Andrew Fleming.

Fleming, who played at Oak Hill Academy, has been one of the gems of the summer league, averaging 27.7 points per game.

The 6-4 future Hawkeye has displayed a shooting touch and relentless effort thus far, but there’s one area that has coaches excited about what the future may hold.

“Fleming plays with so much confidence,” Pelling/Comfort Care coach Brendan Unkrich said. “And I really think Oak Hill gave him that confidence to play at that high level.

“He doesn’t find a shot he doesn’t like, which is not a negative thing necessarily, because his shots are still the ones his team needs him to take.”

With Settles in Nashville on July 16, Unkrich had the opportunity to substitute-coach the team, leading the group to a 97-94 comeback, overtime victory over Ray Swetalla’s Linn County Anesthesiologists.

Fleming grabbed 11 rebounds and scored 42 points in the game, shooting 7-of-13 from behind the arc. At point guard, Washpun added 34 points, 9 boards, and 7 assists.

“Fleming and Wes just took over,” Unkirch said. “It was great, I really enjoyed coaching them.”

The win set the stage for a first-round matchup with Kevin Sanders’ BlendCard/McCurry’s, which comes in at 0-6.

Fleming and the explosive Washpun account for just half of the guards who have carried their team to where it stands now.

After playing four years at Iowa and now as a professional in Turkey, Gatens is perhaps the most experienced player in Prime Time and, Unkrich said, easily one of the sharpest — averaging 16.5 points in four contests.

Ellingson looks like one of the elite spot-up shooters in the league, and he has shown a polished all-around offensive game. He has averaged 18.0 points in five games.

The quartet of guards opens the post up for Northern Iowa incoming forward Justin Dahl, who at 6-10 is not a guy defenses can sleep on.

With the dynamic set of options, Settles’ team brings at guard, it’s been difficult for teams to keep up, because all of them have the ability to shoot and beat overly aggressive defenders on the dribble.

And when Waspun and Fleming get hot, teams might have little choice but to double-team — meaning that somebody will have an open look.

For opponents, this creates a problem — one that has yet to be solved as the playoffs kick off on Thursday.

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