COLUMBUS, Ohio — Nationwide Arena sits roughly halfway between the hometowns of Iowa guards Maishe Dailey and CJ Fredrick.
So, yeah, they’ve been scrounging for extra tickets for Friday’s 11:15 a.m. NCAA Tournament game vs. Cincinnati. Even though Fredrick is redshirting.
Hey, how often is your team going to play in the Big Dance in your home state?
“I think it’s pretty big more so for my family because they don’t get to see me play as much,” said Dailey, a junior from Beachwood, Ohio, about 130 miles north of Columbus. “Wherever we were seeded — I saw San Jose, California, was a possibility — they would have flown if need be.”
The Daileys could drive. Maishe made sure they’ll have a seat in the arena. Players get six tickets; he coaxed an unidentified teammate into providing two more. There may even be two more beyond that. Dailey wasn’t sure Thursday.
“It’s about time. I think it’s long overdue,” Dailey said of the Hawkeyes’ first NCAA berth in three years. “I think it has a lot to do with the growing process. Because our freshman year, sophomore year, we weren’t ready to be here at the top of the 68 teams in the country. I think we’ve just got to build off this. It’s a sigh of relief. But we’re not satisfied just being here.”
Fredrick also secured eight tickets for his family. There was demand for more.
“I couldn’t get enough,” he said with a smile.
Other relatives have paid for their own tickets, Fredrick heard.
Fredrick grew up in Cincinnati, some 107 miles south of Columbus. He was a fan of the city’s two Division I basketball teams — Cincinnati and Xavier. He’s even played in pickup games against some of the current Bearcats.
But Cincinnati showed only minimal recruiting interest in Fredrick, before his junior season at Covington Catholic in northern Kentucky.
“They just kind of faded off,” Fredrick said.
Instead, he grew to admire the Iowa program under coach Fran McCaffery, a family friend. Fredrick was originally going to come to Iowa City without a scholarship for his first year. But he got one when it opened up.
He earned it, and the admiration of his teammates, when he stepped in front of junior power forward Tyler Cook and took a charge early in the fall practice sessions. Fredrick got a severely bruised rib for his trouble.
It’s healed now. He’s back in the swing of things and helping his team prepare for Friday’s big game.
Fredrick learned his lesson. There will be no more getting in Cook’s way.
“Not in practice again,” he said with a laugh.