The Iowa Hawkeyes are under two weeks away from the start of their season and they have one goal in mind: winning.
Coming into the season ranked 5th in the AP Poll, this is the most anticipated season for the Black and Gold under head coach Fran McCaffery. During Monday’s media day, many returning players shared the idea that with all the talent suiting up this year, several different student-athletes could step up and contribute on any given night. Luckily, this group is being self-described as unselfish as a team can come, which is something that will set up the Hawkeyes for success this season.
With their starters returning, injured players returning fully healthy, and motivation to finish what this group started last season, this team is ready to block out the noise and take care of business.
“We’re just excited to play basketball again,” said sophomore guard CJ Fredrick. “It’s been a long time off and just to be out there again with our brothers, with our teammates playing the game we love, we’re extremely excited.”
Iowa basketball is set to start its season in just nine days. But after the strangest off-season these players have ever had, a lot of work went in to making tip-off a reality.
“It’s been kinda weird for everybody,” said Fredrick. “We wake up everyday and test. Not going anywhere we’re not supposed to be. It’s just come to practice everyday and get better and be smart. It’s a really weird year but you have to make the best of it.”
And that’s exactly what they plan to do. After a season with Big Ten title aspirations was cut short, the Hawkeyes are ready to run it back.
“I think we have a lot of unfinished business that we wanted to come back for,” said junior guard Joe Wieskamp. “We have a lot of talented guys in this group. We’re just looking forward to the opportunity and to do something special for this Iowa team.”
But what opportunities exactly present themselves to this year’s group? Just nine days away from the Hawkeyes’ first game, there are still a lot of questions surrounding the plan for college basketball. Right now, Iowa doesn’t even know who they’ll be playing.
“It’s kinda frustrating individually and team wise because of how good we are,” said senior guard Jordan Bohannon. “We just want to know what the plan is for this year. There’s been no plan that’s been implemented by the (Big Ten) Conference or the NCAA. Right now we’re making the most of what we have right now and not taking anything for granted.”
Just two games sit on Iowa’s schedule so far: #16 North Carolina and #1 Gonzaga.
“Those games are going to be really big for us to put us on a national spotlight,” said sophomore forward Jack Nunge. “I think that will be really good for us, especially you know, preparing for the tournament and playing against those blue bloods. That’s a great opportunity to show what we’re about.”
Whenever they do make their way onto the court, the Hawkeyes believed they’re poised for greatness. Why? In part because each individual’s focus is on the name on the front of the jersey, as opposed to the one on the back.
“It means the whole world,” said Bohannon. “I grew up in Iowa City. My dad played at Iowa. This is where I dreamed of playing ever since I was a little kid. You see a lot of guys on this team. Lot of home grown kids from Iowa or wanted to come to Iowa regardless of where they had offers from. Not a lot of teams have that. That’s going to help as we move forward as a team and make a national title run like I know we’ll be able to.”
And that mindset is seen from the end of the bench all the way to the preseason favorite to be the National Player of the Year.
“You know my main focus going into this season is winning,” said senior center Luka Garza. “I want to win a lot and as much as I can. That’s the main focus for me. As an individual player I’ve done a lot so it doesn’t matter what I do individually this year as long as this team succeeds. That’s why I came back. It’s about our wins and loss and I think everyone shares that mindset. For me it’s just trying to win and lead this team to what its potential is.”