Iowa freshman Adam Woodbury will take on a new role as the other 7-foot center when the Hawkeyes face fifth-ranked Indiana in the Big Ten opener on New Year’s Eve.
Woodbury is one of the most decorated players to sign with Iowa in years, a former four-star recruit from Sioux City who turned down a scholarship offer from North Carolina and from a host of other elite schools in order to be a Hawkeye.
He’s mostly lived up to the hype by starting each of Iowa’s first 13 games this season, 11 of which have been victories. Woodbury is also Iowa’s second leading rebounder with a 5.2 per-game average and second on the team with 11 blocked shots.
But now here comes the rugged Big Ten and the team picked by most to win the conference title, led by 7-foot sophomore center Cody Zeller, who many feel will be the first player taken in the NBA draft this coming June if he comes out early.
“He’s a (heck) of a player, so I need to just keep an open mind and do what the coaches tell me to do and try to out-work him,” Woodbury said after practice Friday. “I know he’s going to be a tough matchup like he is for everybody else. But I’m just going out there to have fun.”
Despite their extensive playing backgrounds and their success in high school on the national level, next Monday afternoon’s game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena will mark the first time that Woodbury has competed against Zeller.
“Hopefully, I can bring a physical presence that maybe he hasn’t seen out of my size and to have him score over the top of me, which makes it a little bit tougher for him to score,” said Woodbury, who’s actually listed as an inch taller than Zeller at 7-1.
Zeller led Indiana in scoring and rebounding as a freshman last season and is doing the same this season, along with leading the 11-1 Hoosiers in blocked shots at 1.25 per game.
Zeller also leads with his constant hustle, which is evident by how well he runs the floor for a big man. Indiana likes to push the pace and is averaging 89 points per game thanks largely to Zeller’s ability to get up and down the court.
“Without a doubt our whole team needs to get back,” Woodbury said. “Zeller isn’t the only one that runs. They’re running everybody. So getting back on defense and getting our transition set up is a big key to the game.”
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery would’ve been pleased to hear his freshman center say that because getting back on defense is being emphasized.
“He’s one of the best running big men that I’ve seen in a long time, tremendous speed,” McCaffery said of Zeller, who is the nephew of former Missouri star and Springville native Al Eberhard. “Their running game is really (clicking) on all cylinders right now, and that’s, obviously, an issue for us on both ends of the floor and we have to have the ability to get back.”
Woodbury will get the start against Zeller, barring any late and unforeseen changes. But Woodbury also will have plenty of help inside with 6-7 junior Melsahn Basabe and 6-10 sophomore Gabe Olaseni also expected to guard Zeller.
“They are all playing well,” McCaffery said of his post players. “I think they all feel good about themselves. They recognize who we are playing and they recognize the challenge before us.”
Reach Pat Harty at 339-7368 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball