NORTH LIBERTY, Ia. – Eric May played a vital role on Iowa’s 25-win basketball season in 2012-13.
That value was measured well beyond his averages of 21.8 minutes, 5.2 points and 3.7 rebounds a game. It was measured in intangibles and hustle plays. The spark that started the fire, if you will.
May is gone, and his role must be filled for the Hawkeyes to enjoy sustained success in 2013-14. Who will fill it? How about a guy who had strikingly similar numbers to May last season: 15.6 minutes, 5.7 points and 3.7 rebounds a game. That guy is Zach McCabe.
“I think looking at what Eric did is something I could do also,” said McCabe, a 6-foot-7 senior forward who has never been afraid to mix it up on the court. “Whatever coach needs … play defense, make those tough plays, that’s what Eric did for us down the stretch. He was a great leader for us on the court. That’s what I’m trying to do, too.”
Will McCabe be that guy?
“I hope so,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “He and (Melsahn) Basabe both.”
McCabe, Basabe and leading scorer Devyn Marble will make up Iowa’s senior class this season. May was the lone senior on the 2012-13 team.
These three seniors arrived in the fall of 2010 on the heels of a 10-win season and a coaching change. They could go out on Iowa’s first NCAA Tournament team since 2006.
“That’s what we’re trying to do,” McCabe said. “Just seeing Eric’s reaction in not getting there (last year) really fuels the fire even more. Knowing this is the last year, and how quick it’s gone. Getting back to the NCAAs would be a great success. And not just making it, but winning games.”
Winning games is what Iowa did last season. The 25 wins tied for second on Iowa’s all-time list, joining the 2005-06 team (25-9). That was the school’s last NCAA Tournament team.
In addition to making hustle plays, McCabe will get more time on the floor if he shoots it better from the perimeter and stays out of foul trouble.
“When he stays out of foul trouble he’s usually pretty effective if you look at his numbers,” McCaffery said.
McCabe’s 15.6 minutes a game last season were a career low.
“I went back to my old habits a little bit last year,” McCabe said. “It got a little frustrating.”
McCabe averaged 19.6 minutes as a freshman and 21.5 minutes as a sophomore. Foul trouble and Iowa’s better depth contributed to the drop in floor time.
McCabe shot 32 percent from 3-point range (31-for-97) last season, and McCaffery thinks he could help turn one of Iowa’s biggest weaknesses into a strength.
“He shot well for us down the stretch last year,” McCaffery said. “I think he’s a high 30s (percent), low 40s shooter. I think that’s what he’ll be, because he’s really working at it.”
With May the only player in last season’s rotation not back, and Jarrod Uthoff, Peter Jok and Kyle Meyer added to the mix, playing time will be even more precious this season. So shooting well, staying out of foul trouble and being the next Eric May will be important if McCabe wants to have a great senior year.
“Everyone is in the gym working,” McCabe said. “They want to be a part of this. If you’re not in the gym, you’re not going to play and be a part of what our success is going to be.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball