After a little delay, it’s almost time for the 30th season of the Prime Time League — a summer menu of fast-paced basketball starring most of the upcoming men's rosters at Iowa and Northern Iowa.
To get you prepped, here are five topics to know and observe as you either read our coverage or decide to settle into a chair or bleacher seat at either the North Liberty Community Center or the Cedar Valley SportsPlex (Thursday’s openers are in North Liberty):
A fast season, absences
The league is starting two weeks later than usual, after the NCAA requested additional paperwork from longtime commissioner Randy Larson, and so the 29-day schedule is compressed: Five regular-season games, plus three dates set aside for a mini-playoff.
There are only six teams (down from seven a year ago), in part because two of the Hawkeyes’ 13 scholarship players won’t be participating.
Incoming freshman Ryan Kriener, a 6-foot-9, 240-pound product of Spirit Lake, will miss the PTL because of an illness. Health-privacy laws don't allow the university to say more at this point, but all indications are that this is nothing serious and Kriener will be fine.
Senior forward Dale Jones (6-7, 220) isn’t playing either, and that’s not a surprise, considering he had a second knee surgery in December. No sense tumbling over a fan in a folding lawn chair and putting his fifth season (he’s applied for a sixth) in jeopardy.
Incoming UNI freshman Tanner Lohaus isn't in the league, either. He plays baseball at Iowa City West, along with Class of 2017 Hawkeye guard Connor McCaffery, and that season is ongoing.
Introducing Tyler Cook
Among Iowa’s five incoming freshmen, power forward Tyler Cook brings the most intrigue.
Cook (6-8, 240) is one of Fran McCaffery’s most decorated recruits in seven classes at Iowa, with a No. 74 national ranking from Rivals.com (trailing only four-year starter Adam Woodbury’s No. 50 in 2012).
This marks Iowans’ first up-close glimpse of Cook and PTL teammate Maishe Dailey of Ohio. Although Dailey is likely to use this first year as a Hawkeye to build strength, Cook is seen as a big part of the 2016-17 plans. A lot of eyes will be on him.
Adding to the opening-night fun, Cook will be going against returning Hawkeye post Ahmad Wagner, who, at 6-foot-7, 225 pounds can match Cook's physicality. Get your popcorn ready.
Guards ready to shine
The PTL is one of the least important things during a college basketball player's four-year career, but for three young Iowa guards, this is a chance to showcase what is possible in the real-life wide-open season ahead.
Iowa’s biggest 2016-17 question mark is at point guard, where there are only two primary candidates: sophomore Christian Williams and incoming freshman Jordan Bohannon.
Williams was timid early in the PTL a year ago, partly because he didn't handle the ball too much with fourth-year starting point guard Mike Gesell as his teammate. It'll be different this summer. Williams enters the PTL with loads of confidence after surging into a spark-plug rotation spot late last season for McCaffery.
Bohannon is Iowa’s reigning Mr. Basketball and can fill up the nets. There aren’t proven scoring threats on his PTL team, so expect the former Linn-Mar star to rack up some video-game numbers.
And then there’s Isaiah Moss, who didn’t participate in the PTL a year ago while clearing academic hurdles back in Chicago. Then he redshirted. You can bet the 6-foot-5, 200-pound guard is antsy to get his college playing career underway and show why many thought he was the top prospect in McCaffery’s five-freshman Class of 2015.
Some new Panthers
UNI coach Ben Jacobson’s guys are dependable, hard-working staples in the PTL. For that reason alone, it’s good that three of the PTL's eight game nights are staged in Waterloo.
Beyond seeing returning top star Jeremy Morgan up close for the final time (who could forget Morgan’s herculean NCAA Tournament efforts against Texas A&M?), there is a lot of interest in how this year’s Panther squad will look after Matt Bohannon, Paul Jesperson and Wes Washpun used the last of their eligibility.
Perhaps the most notable names to monitor are in the backcourt, with Iowa State grad-transfer Jordan Ashton and point-guard prospect Juwan McCloud out of Wisconsin. Jacobson said of McCloud upon his November signing: "He’s a true point guard in every sense of the word. ... And we think we’ve got a great one.”
Don’t forget the veterans
Iowa fans are thrilled that Peter Jok was this year’s No. 1 overall PTL pick. That means he didn’t go early to the NBA. McCaffery said Jok has been the hardest-working Hawkeye this offseason, so it’ll be fun to see how he's improved and whether he can go for 50 points some night.
But as far as veterans go, keep an eye on the team coached by former Hawkeye star Matt Gatens. The European pro will play, too, but he’ll be deferential to returning Iowa players Brady Ellingson and Dom Uhl — who each are looking ahead at their best shots at a breakthrough winter.
Uhl (6-9, 215) is part of a crowded frontcourt mix and is looking to find his role. He could end up as Iowa’s starter at the "3."
Meanwhile, Ellingson (6-4, 190) should get some more opportunities to demonstrate his 3-point range in his third season. A year ago, Ellingson shared a PTL roster with fellow 2-guard Andrew Fleming, who rarely met a shot he didn’t like and has since transferred.
PRIME TIME LEAGUE ROSTERS
Team 1: LL Pelling/Comfort Care Medicare
Players: Peter Jok (Iowa), Klint Carlson (UNI), Wyatt Lohaus (UNI), Cordell Pemsl (Iowa), Will Carius (Northern Michigan), Miles Wentzien (ex-Kirkwood), James Dockery (Iowa), Jacee Crawford (ex-Sam Adams State), Marshall Shedeck (Coe College), Ross Cooper (Dordt College)
Coach: Ray Swetalla
Team 2: Westport Touchless Autowash/Linn County Anesthesiologists
Players: Nicholas Baer (Iowa), Jordan Bohannon (Iowa), Bennett Koch (UNI), Spencer Haldeman (UNI), Darius Stokes (ex-Iowa, European pro), Devin Green (University of Sioux Falls), Jake Timm (ex-Coe College), Jordan O'Neil (Johnson and Wales Univ.), Ross Westemeyer (ex-Iowa City Regina), Austin Ash (Mount Vernon H.S.)
Coach: Randy Larson
Team 3: The Jill Armstrong Team at Skogman Realty
Players: Dondre Alexander (William Penn), Ahmad Wagner (Iowa), Jordan Ashton (UNI), Kendall Jacks (Wayne State), Justin Dahl (UNI), Riley Till (Iowa), Adam McDermott (UNI), Malik Williams (Anoka Ramsey CC), Errion Moore (Wabash Valley CC), Carson Parker (Upper Iowa)
Coach: Dan Ahrens
Team 4: Marion Iron Company
Players: Matt Gatens (European pro), Dom Uhl (Iowa), Brady Ellingson (Iowa), Clayton Vette (ex-Winona State), Juwan McCloud (UNI), Tay Parker (ex-Iowa Lakes CC), Matt Lassen (William Jewell), Lincoln Conrey (UNI), Bryan Forbes (Briar Cliff), Mitch Eighme (Upper Iowa)
Player-coach: Matt Gatens
Team 5: Vinton Merchants/McCurry's
Players: Isaiah Moss (Iowa), Christian Williams (Iowa), Ted Friedman (UNI), Brady Burford (William Penn), Jason Price (ex-Iowa), Isaiah Brown (UNI), Nick Lyon (ex-Grandview), Keegan Moore (Southeastern CC), Charles Carter (ex-Sam Adams State), Harley Shear (Anoka Ramsey CC), David McJolly Jr. (Eagle Academy, N.Y.)
Coach: Kevin Sanders
Team 6: Beat the Bookstore/Culver's
Players: Tyler Cook (Iowa), Jeremy Morgan (UNI), Hunter Rhodes (UNI), Maishe Dailey (Iowa), Brady Ernst (Indian Hills CC), Wali Parker (DMACC), Kyle Haber (Brown), Jimmy Roth (Upper Iowa), Nathan Woeste (Wartburg College), Tim Loan (ex-Briar Cliff)
Coach: Ron Nove
PRIME TIME LEAGUE SCHEDULE
Thursday (North Liberty Community Center)
6 p.m.: Team 1 vs. Team 2 (Jones gym)
6 p.m.: Team 3 vs. Team 6 (Roberts gym)
7:30 p.m.: Team 4 vs. Team 5 (Roberts gym)
July 7 (North Liberty Community Center)
6 p.m.: 3 vs. 4 (Jones gym)
6 p.m.: 1 vs. 6 (Roberts gym)
7:30 p.m.: 2 vs. 5 (Roberts gym)
July 10 (Cedar Valley SportsPlex, Waterloo)
3 p.m.: 4 vs. 6
3 p.m.: 2 vs. 3
4:30 p.m.: 1 vs. 5
July 14 (North Liberty Community Center)
6 p.m.: 1 vs. 4 (Jones gym)
6 p.m.: 3 vs. 5 (Roberts gym)
7:30 p.m.: 2 vs. 6 (Roberts gym)
July 17 (Cedar Valley SportsPlex, Waterloo)
3 p.m.: 5 vs. 6
3 p.m.: 1 vs. 3
4:30 p.m.: 2 vs. 4
July 21 (Playoffs; North Liberty Community Center)
First- and second-place teams have byes
6 p.m.: Fourth place vs. fifth place (Roberts gym)
7:30 p.m.: Third place vs. sixth place (Roberts gym)
July 24 (Playoffs; Cedar Valley SportsPlex, Waterloo)
3 p.m.: First semifinal
4:30 p.m.: Second semifinal
July 28 (Championship; North Liberty Community Center)
7 p.m.: Semifinal winners (Recognition ceremony at halftime)