Eric May was one of the last members of the Iowa basketball team to take the court for practice on Thursday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
That’s not unusual with the 6-foot-5 May dealing with nagging back pain.
He’s also dealing with mixed emotions as Iowa prepares to face Oregon in the second round of the National Invitation Tournament on Sunday in Eugene, Ore.
May is thrilled for his teammates and coaches and for the fans, he just wishes he could enjoy Iowa’s first postseason experience since 2006 to the fullest.
He only played three minutes in Tuesday’s 84-75 victory over Dayton in the first round of the NIT at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“I’m excited for everything that’s going on; it’s great,” May said. “I just wish I could do more, but that’s just the way it is.”
When healthy, May is one of the most explosive players on the team and one of its best dunkers. He missed his only field-goal attempt against Dayton, which came after May caught an ally-oop pass on the baseline and then tried to dunk it.
He has made that dunk numerous times as a Hawkeye.
“It was hard just because I had been sitting for a while,” May said. “I wasn’t really that loose.
“But it felt better. It’s been feeling better than it has in the past month.”
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery praised May for how he’s dealt with the situation, which besides being in pain has cost May playing time. May didn’t dress for the Minnesota game Feb. 1 or for the Indiana game Feb. 19 because of back pain.
May started the first 21 games and played at least 18 minutes in all but five of those games. However, in the last 11 games May has only played more than eight minutes one time. He also has been held scoreless in eight of the last nine games and hasn’t scored in double since finishing with 10 points in a victory over Central Arkansas on Dec. 19.
“I’m sure it’s been tough on him, but he handles it incredibly well,” McCaffery said. “His attitude never wavers. He’s just a great teammate and a great leader, a great worker.
“And if we need him, he’ll be there.”
McCaffery said he thought May looked close to being himself on the baseline dunk attempt against Dayton, even though May missed the attempt.
“We ran that play for him,” McCaffery said. “It got there a little quicker than he thought. And he couldn’t just quite get it in. But he was up there.”
May used the word nagging over and over to describe the pain in his back. He has dealt with back pain since high school where he also was a standout quarterback at Dubuque Wahlert.
May often is one of the last players to take the court for practice because he has to make sure his back muscles are loose before exerting himself.
“They heat it, loosen it up and stretch it,” May said.
May said he will be ready if McCaffery needs him against Oregon on Sunday.
Iowa will bring an 18-16 record into Sunday’s game and has clinched its first winning season since the 2006-07 Hawkeye squad finished 17-14 under former coach Steve Alford.
“It’s something we play for to play in the postseason, and we’re finally doing it,” May said. “And I think we’ve got a chance to make something happen.”
“I think I can contribute. And if I get the opportunity, I’m going to do everything I can.”
May is focused on living in the moment, but he likes what he sees for his senior season.
He’ll work on getting his back healthy this summer and on expanding his game with hopes of having a strong senior season.
Iowa will return six of its top eight scorers from the current team, including May.
“I’m really glad that we got a taste of the postseason this year because every year we’re setting our standards higher,” May said. “And that’s what I’m going to do in the summer and in the offseason.
“I think we’ll be a very tough team next year, and it’s exciting thinking about it. But I’m really focused on this year.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball