Sept. 25, 2012
Editor's Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa's Hawk Talk Monthly presented by TransAmerica, the official online magazine of the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each month to the inbox of more than 80,000 friends of the University of Iowa and fans of the Iowa Hawkeyes. To receive Hawk Talk Monthly and Hawk Talk Daily -- the daily e-newsletter of the Iowa Hawkeyes -- send us an email by clicking HERE.
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Adam Woodbury was 6 years old the last time the University of Iowa men's basketball team was in the national recruiting spotlight. Now, 12 years later, the 7-foot-1 center is a focal point of a Hawkeye freshmen class looking to help get the program back to national prominence.
Along with Woodbury (Sioux City, Iowa), UI head coach Fran McCaffery added fellow top-100 recruit Mike Gesell (South Souix City, Neb.) to the roster, along with guards Pat Ingram (Indianapolis), Anthony Clemmons (Lansing, Mich.) and forward Kyle Meyer (Alpharetta, Ga.).
"This is a class that, as it grows and develops together, will be the foundation for Iowa basketball, propelling the Hawkeyes to the next step, which is the upper half of the Big Ten and the NCAA Tournament," said Paul Biancardi, ESPN's director of basketball recruiting. "This is a class to be excited about."
The class finished as the 25th-rated class in ESPN's team basketball recruiting rankings.
"People recognizing our program is a good thing and a blessing," said Clemmons, who was the final piece of the recruiting puzzle. "It is a blessing that we get to try to be a part of changing the culture in this program."
The 2000 Iowa recruiting class was the highest in school history with two top-50 players -- Jared Reiner and Glen Worley -- to go along with Brody Boyd, Courtney Scott, Sean Sonderleiter and junior college transfer Reggie Evans. The class was tabbed as fifth-best nationally.
"People recognizing our program is a good thing and a blessing. It is a blessing that we get to try to be a part of changing the culture in this program."
Freshman guard Anthony Clemmons
"It was an honor to be recognized as a top class," said Woodbury, the 39th ranked player by ESPN.com, No. 50 by Rivals.com and No. 47 by Scout.com. "It is cool to say we're one of the few in recent years, but everything we've done in high school is pushed back now. College is a new level and a different style of play."
Four of the five players (Ingram trained in Indianapolis and played in the Indiana All-Star Game) jumpstarted their Hawkeye careers with summer school classes, while competing in the local Prime Time League.
"I didn't know my game could make such a big jump in one summer," said Gesell, the 2011 and 2012 Nebraska Player of the Year. "The college game is a lot different, more physical and a faster pace, so getting to practice with the guys with that new rule helped me make the jump."
Gesell, the 75th ranked player by ESPN.com, No. 89 by Scout.com and No. 100 by Rivals.com, is looking to build on a prep senior season where he averaged 25.1 points, 7.4 assists, six rebounds and 2.9 steals. The "new rule" has allowed the UI coaching staff to instruct their team for two hours per week during summer school session. Prior to the rule change, coaches weren't allowed any summer team instruction.
The rule change paid dividends for the entire roster, specifically the freshmen.
"Even though it was only two hours, it was huge because I feel like I am that much further ahead for when we start practice," said Gesell. "We already put in some of our offense and defense, so I am familiar with it, and it will make the transition that much easier."
"It was a necessity," said Meyer, a 6-foot-9 forward. "I came in thinking I was going to walk in and do exactly what I did in high school and AAU, but that is not the case.
"Being able to work with the coaches and seeing the little things that can help me improve really helped me. I now knit pick everything I do to be perfect in the way they (the coaches) are trying to shape me."
"We're all looking at it as we have to keep working hard. It's nice that we got a little bit of recognition, but at the end of the day that doesn't mean anything. It only matters what you do in college. We all know we have to stay humble with everything and keep working hard because nothing is guaranteed."
Freshman Mike Gesell
The team workout sessions and PTL competition also gave the incoming freshmen a chance to build relationships on and off the court with the returning players. Strong team chemistry is an all-important factor when going through the grind of a 30-plus game season.
"Those guys (returnees) have been really inviting on and off the court," said Gesell. "Off the court, we're all like best friends, and on the court, we get after and push each other. That's what you need."
"The chemistry is perfect, it's almost like we've been together for a long time," said Clemmons. "The key is going to be how we progress and how quick we're going to be able to play with each other."
With the depth returning on the roster, minutes will be at a premium, but Meyer says that is a good problem to have.
"People will complain outside of the team, but our guys are so unselfish, we want what is best for the team," he said. "There are so many spots, and we are so deep that we can come in and contribute and not have any down time with our play. It's not a core group of guys; it is a one through 12 that we have on our roster."
With the hype accompanying their arrival, the group knows expectations will go hand-in-hand when the season begins in November. Woodbury says there will be pressure to contribute early, but he's focusing on the big picture.
"Regardless of where we were ranked, there is always going to be pressure to come in and perform," said Woodbury. "The guys the last couple of years have made strides in the program, and we're going to step in and fill in where we're needed to help move this program along and create something special.
"If we don't do anything with it, then all the hype and recognition will be pointless."
Ingram doesn't buy into the notion of pressure.
"We know we have to go out there and play, and we're not going to do anything we can't do," he said. "We're not trying to live up to the hype, we're trying to win games and compete in the NCAA tournament."
Gesell is taking the recognition in stride and knows the next four years will be the barometer for rating the class.
"We're all looking at it as we have to keep working hard," said Gesell. "It's nice that we got a little bit of recognition, but at the end of the day that doesn't mean anything. It only matters what you do in college. We all know we have to stay humble with everything and keep working hard because nothing is guaranteed."
The 2012-13 Hawkeyes will make their first public appearance at the Black & Gold Blowout on Friday, Oct. 19, on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.