Oct. 21, 2013
Editor's Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa's Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Two years ago, the University of Iowa celebrated the completion of a series of enhancements to Carver-Hawkeye Arena and the addition of the Dale and Marilyn Howard Family Pavilion, providing the UI facilities that rival the finest in the Big Ten and nation.
"It is a 360 from when I first got here," said senior Melsahn Basabe. "This facility is such a benefit, it is unbelievable. When I go away and come back, it is like a resort. It has been a complete transformation."
The renovation included a multi-court practice complex, a state-of-the-art, 12,000-square foot strength and conditioning center, renovation and expansion of the Dan Gable Wrestling Complex, new locker rooms for men's and women's basketball, wrestling and volleyball, and more.
"Everything we use on a day-to-day basis at Carver-Hawkeye Arena is improved," said senior Theairra Taylor. "Our new locker room is top of the line, the weight room is the best I have seen, and the practice gym is awesome."
The new bells and whistles boil down to two vital components: scheduling, and recruiting.
The addition of two full-size practice courts alleviates issues scheduling practices and events, and allows UI student-athletes to maximize their potential.
"If you are recruiting guys with character, they are going to want to get shots in and work on their games on their own time," said men's head coach Fran McCaffery. "That is who they are. To have that available, has had an unbelievable impact. The guy I always point to is Aaron White. He was here 10 days, and had already taken 14,000 shots."
White and his fellow Hawkeyes have access to the facility at all times.
"We can get shots in any time of the day on the practice court, or if another team is in there, in Carver-Hawkeye Arena," said Taylor. "I do not know how we survived without the practice gym now that we have it. Before, it was much tougher to find practice times that worked for everyone's schedule, and for two other teams. It was pretty hectic."
The improvements in scheduling and practice court availability are major components in recruiting.
"Basically, the facilities boiled down to 'do they have everything I need'?" said sophomore Mike Gesell. "Which is a gym with as much access to it as we want. We have that. We have a very nice locker room, and they keep adding to it. This arena is something special, we have awesome fan support, and it is a fun place to play."
Playing games in a great home environment like Carver-Hawkeye Arena is a major selling point. Having an attached practice facility that provides a one-stop-shop for Hawkeyes adds greatly to the student-athlete experience.
"It was a major selling point, especially with the new practice facility," said freshman Alexa Kastanek. "Having access to the practice facility is a huge aspect in recruitment, because you want to know you have the opportunity to work on your game whenever you want. We can study, play video games, watch TV, visit the training room, workout and work on our games, with all of our teammates. It is a common meeting place for all of us."
"Carver-Hawkeye Arena is a beautiful facility," said women's associate head coach Jan Jensen. "Having the practice facility now keeps us in the game. The top programs have practice facilities. To have a facility immediately attached to Carver, that is a great selling point. It makes us more efficient and gives our student-athletes the opportunity, 24-7, to improve their games. It has been a huge factor for us in recruiting."
The renovation is already paying dividends. The women's team won 21 games and made its sixth-straight NCAA Tournament appearance last season (the only Big Ten team to do so), while the men's team won 25 games and advanced to the NIT Championship.
Both squads will make their first public appearance Friday, Oct. 25, in the Black & Gold Blowout (8 p.m.) on Mediacom Court at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Tickets are only $5 for adults and free for UI students and youth.