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What Eric May really meant to the Iowa men's basketball program

[ 0 ] April 5, 2013 |

NEW YORK, N.Y. – Eric May’s Iowa basketball career ended when he fouled out with 2 minutes 41 seconds to play in Thursday’s 74-54 loss to Baylor in the championship game of the NIT.

The hundreds of Hawkeye fans in attendance at Madison Square Garden came to their feet and applauded May as he walked to the bench, shook hands with his coach, Fran McCaffery, and had a seat.

“This is one of the most special years I’ve had in my life,” May, eyes bloodshot with postgame emotion, said in Iowa’s locker room. “To be a part of this is unbelieveable.”

Iowa finished the season 25-13, and May was the glue that kept the team together. His defense was relentless. His unselfishness, passing, momentum-changing dunks and clutch jumpers were a constant theme all year.

Iowa senior Eric May waves to fans during the senior day ceremony prior to the Hawkeyes' game against Nebraska at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Saturday, March 9, 2013. (David Scrivner / Iowa City Press-Citizen)

Iowa senior Eric May waves to fans during the senior day ceremony prior to the Hawkeyes' game against Nebraska at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Saturday, March 9, 2013. (David Scrivner / Iowa City Press-Citizen)

After the game, McCaffery called May one of the greatest senior leaders he’d ever been around.

“I’ve got so much respect for Coach McCaffery, and how he helped me grow in the offseason and this past year to affect this team and have a key role,” May said.

May was all too familiar with Thursday’s one-sided loss. He saw plenty of them during his first two seasons, when his team won a total of 21 games and had a coaching change. Forty-three wins over his last two seasons sent May out on a positive note.

May is the third straight four-year senior to leave the program in better hands than when he arrived. Jarryd Cole filled that role in 2010-11, McCaffery’s first season. Last year, it was Matt Gatens. Now, Eric May.

Iowa will head into the 2012-13 season with expectations. Anything less than the school’s first NCAA bid since 2006 will be perceived as underachieving. May is the only scholarship senior on the roster, and McCaffery adds transfer Jarrod Uthoff, redshirt forward Kyle Meyer and incoming freshman guard Peter Jok to his rotation.

But the improvement of the returning players in the offseason will ultimately determine the path this team takes next season. An August tour of Europe, and the 10 practices that will precede it, as well as NCAA-approved summer skill development sessions with the coaches, will all be important.

“I think what we’ll do is enter the season next year with a tremendous focus and concentration knowing what we’re capable of but also knowing some of the things that we didn’t do that we now have to go out and do,” McCaffery said.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball

About Rick Brown: Rick Brown covers men's basketball for The Des Moines Register and Hawk Central. He's married and the father of two. He also covers golf for the Register. View author profile.

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