Iowa freshman center Adam Woodbury is determined to not let the weight of carrying high expectations bring him down.
Part of it means ignoring the critics who might question why somebody with Woodbury’s size and credentials — he was a consensus top-50 player nationally coming out of high school — would struggle so much on offense this season.
The 7-foot-1 Woodbury has scored two or fewer points in eight of 14 Big Ten games this season. That includes being held scoreless during this past Saturday’s 64-60 loss at Nebraska.
“I couldn’t care less what other people think,” Woodbury said Monday before practice. “My coaching staff has said what they want out of me.
“And, obviously, I have pretty high expectations of myself. I’m just going with that right now and see where it takes me.”
Woodbury is averaging 4.8 points per game heading into Wednesday’s matchup against Purdue at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. And while that’s the lowest average among Iowa’s five starters, it hardly tells the whole story about Woodbury’s freshman season.
Woodbury is Iowa’s second leading rebounder at 5.1 per game despite only being ranked ninth on the team in minutes played at 15.9 per game.
“I actually didn’t know that,” said Woodbury, who grabbed 1,009 rebounds during his career at Sioux City East High School. “I don’t look into stats. But that is something that I can be hanging my hat on a little bit.
“I’m trying to compete every night on the glass and give our team a better chance to win. So if that means rebounding I’d be happy with that.”
Woodbury’s tendency to get into foul trouble has limited his playing time this season. He played only nine minutes against Nebraska, largely because of foul problems.
Woodbury blamed himself for committing what he called “dumb fouls” on too many occasions this season. However, he also thinks he suffers from being a freshman.
“Hopefully, I’ll start getting some more calls as I get older,” Woodbury said. “It seems like these guys have been around for a couple years, so they’re getting a couple more here and there. But that’s only fair.
“I’m going to learn some tricks that they already have and see if I can get better in that sense. Obviously, I’ve had a couple dumb fouls and running over people on the offensive end. But I can watch film and improve on that as well.”
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said Woodbury might have a chance to do something special if he could avoid getting into foul trouble.
“You’ve heard me say many times, if I played him a ton of minutes and he stayed out of foul trouble, he would lead the league in rebounding,” McCaffery said. “I think he’s put a lot of pressure on himself to be a scorer. He’s going to affect his game with his defense, rebounding and running more than anything else.”
Woodbury graduated from Sioux City East as the school’s all-time leading scorer with 1,354 points. His dominance in the paint helped lead East to four consecutive state tournament appearances. It also helped make Woodbury a high school sensation and the focus of an intense recruiting battle in which Iowa prevailed over perennial power North Carolina in the end.
“I think people look at that and immediately figure he’s going to be getting us more baskets,” McCaffery said of Woodbury’s reputation coming out of high school. “But that was never really who he was. He was a guy who could move his feet. He was a guy that was going to be physical and tough. He was going to be able to rebound and outlet the ball, run and play in the transition game, move his feet on ball screens defensively and affect the game that way. He could pass. He could put it on the deck a little bit. He’s got a pretty complete skill set that way.
“I think once he comes to grips with all of that and doesn’t put incredible pressure on himself to be a scorer, then I think what you’re going to see is a guy who’s really effective.”
Woodbury said he’s not putting as much pressure on himself to be a scorer compared to earlier in the season.
“I felt that way at the beginning of the season, but not so much anymore,” Woodbury said. “In the last game I didn’t even take a shot. So I haven’t been pressing on the offensive end at all. I’ve been trying to get other guys open and be a facilitator in that sense. So I think my mindset has changed over the season.”
McCaffery said it was a mistake to assume Woodbury would be a prolific scorer right away in college just because he was in high school. Woodbury’s statistics are similar to what some previous Iowa centers compiled as freshmen. He is averaging just one fewer point than what Greg Stokes averaged as a freshman at Iowa in 1981-82.
“I think if you look at it intelligently, you can never really look at what a guy does offensively in high school,” McCaffery said. “You can to a certain extent. But he’s scoring baskets last year in high school against guys who were 6-1. He was an effective scorer in the AAU circuit against guys 6-7, 6-11.
“But nobody’s scouting you. Now there are better athletes, bigger athletes and the sophistication of the scouting at this level is second only to the NBA.”
Woodbury is one of two freshmen that have started every game for Iowa this season, the other being point guard and Woodbury’s close friend Mike Gesell.
The 6-1 Gesell grew up near Woodbury in South Sioux City, Neb., and they played on the same AAU team throughout high school. Gesell said Woodbury’s transition has been different than his because Woodbury’s opponents in college are nothing like what Woodbury faced in high school.
“It is a lot different,” Gesell said. “He’s been going against guys a lot shorter than him, you know, football players going out for the basketball team just to bang him around and foul him a little bit.”
One thing that hasn’t changed in college is Woodbury’s approach to competition. Woodbury didn’t hesitate when asked Monday if he has ever been intimidated by an opponent during his brief Hawkeye career.
“Never,” Woodbury said. “I think I’ve been pretty well prepared throughout my career.”
Woodbury credited his older brother of 17 months, 6-6 Aaron Woodbury, for teaching him to fear nobody.
“My brother used to kick my (butt) every day,” Woodbury said. “He’d say just to be tough out there. He’s really been a key to my success as well. I try to never be scared out there. If you’re intimidated on the court, you’re in a lot of trouble.”
Iowa’s NCAA tournament hopes are in a lot of trouble coming off the loss to Nebraska, a game in which the Hawkeyes led by 19 points late in the first half. Six of Iowa’s eight Big Ten losses have come by a margin of four points or less, including one in overtime and one in double overtime.
“Obviously, we lost a game that we probably shouldn’t have,” Woodbury said. “But that happens throughout the season. We just need to bounce back from it, compete and be strong.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball