McCaffery's starting five takes shape; Uhl, Dickerson impress

Chad Leistikow

This is the time of the basketball calendar when a coach has the luxury of tinkering with various lineup combinations.

And for Iowa's Fran McCaffery, the options remain plentiful entering Sunday's 2:07 p.m. exhibition opener against Rollie Massimino-coached Northwood (Fla.) at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

McCaffery acknowledged a few dinged-up players three days after a closed scrimmage against Creighton that the coach couldn't talk about. But if and when healthy, the starting five is basically 80 percent set: Mike Gesell, TBA, Jarrod Uthoff, Aaron White and Adam Woodbury.

Fran McCaffery speaks at Iowa's media day on Oct. 16.

Gesell mans the point, the "1" position. No surprise there, he started all 33 games there as a sophomore.

"Mike has been really good," McCaffery said.

Shooting guards Josh Oglesby (6-foot-5) and Peter Jok (6-6) are the best scoring options for Iowa at the "2". Both need to be willing to rebound, McCaffery said. Jok has impressed his coach in practice but has been slowed by an ankle injury.

At the "3", McCaffery said Uthoff – the Wisconsin transfer entering his third year in the program but second year playing – has earned a starting role by being more aggressive than he was a year ago.

But …

"He's still a little more gun-shy at times than I would like to see him," the coach said of the huge-upside talent from Cedar Rapids Jefferson.

Aaron White is the starting power forward, the "4", of course. When asked about the most pleasant surprises of Iowa's early practices, the senior was high on McCaffery's list.

"He's done everything you would want him to do as a senior captain," he said.

If Adam Woodbury weren't starting at the center, the "5", that'd be news. The 7-foot-1, 245-pounder has started all 71 games in his career – even though he's averaged only 16.7 minutes a game with mixed results.

But even if the starting five is mostly clear-cut, the rotations – as is standard with McCaffery – can be oft-changing.

Woodbury and shot-blocking sensation Gabe Olaseni will time-share in the post, with both being on the court together at times, as they were a year ago.

"Gabe is scoring the ball really well. (Woodbury) is scoring the ball much better," McCaffery said. "Both of them are willing passers. Both of them can guard 4s. Both those guys are good defending ball screens. A lot of 5s aren't."

How McCaffery uses Dom Uhl, a 6-8, 195-pound freshman, will be one of Sunday's most compelling players to watch for fans, who can enter for $5 at the door Sunday (youths and UI students are free).

McCaffery raved about Uhl's early impact Wednesday, comparing him to a "skinny Aaron White when he was a freshman. Just kind of impacted the game with this skill set, his basketball IQ, his savvy."

The biggest rotation questions remain in Iowa's backcourt.

Anthony Clemmons, who suffered a significant sophomore slump a year ago, has been one of the most pleasant surprises this offseason. McCaffery could use Clemmons at the "2" when he goes defensive, or he can take Gesell's place at the point.

Trey Dickerson, a junior-college transfer, remains a viable option at the point, too. He sounds like a speedy, sparkplug option of the bench at this early stage of his Hawkeye career.

"He's going to get a shot," McCaffery said. "He's going to have some mistakes early on. I want him to be that attack-mentality guy.

"The thing I love about him, is he can also score. His speed is obviously at another level."

You won't see Brady Ellingson on Sunday. The freshman sharpshooter from Wisconsin continues to recover from a foot injury and is a redshirt candidate.

There aren't answers yet – and there shouldn't be on Oct. 29 – which makes Sunday's exhibition, even against an NAIA team, important.

With the closed Creighton scrimmage already done, Iowa won't play again until the regular-season opener against Hampton on Nov. 14.

Chemistry was an issue in Iowa's collapse a year ago, from 19-6 to a season-ending 20-13.

Sunday marks the last, best chance for McCaffery to figure out what combinations work best during game situations.

"We want to see how we're coming together," Iowa's fifth-year coach said, "against a team in a game situation, in front of a crowd."



Matchup: Northwood (Fla.) vs. Iowa at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Iowa City

Tipoff, TV: 2:07 p.m. on Mediacom Connections (Channel 22); online stream available at BTN2GO app. Rob Brooks, Mac McCausland and Jess Settles will call the game.

Tickets: $5 for adults. Students and youths are free.

Notable: Northwood coach Rollie Massimino's grandson, Tommy Jr., is an Iowa administrative assistant and assistant video coordinator.