Adam Woodbury: 'My jumper's the best it's ever been'
NORTH LIBERTY, Ia. – Mike Gesell has averaged 8.0 points per game during his Iowa basketball career. Last week, he scored 52 in a Prime Time League game — one example of how the free-wheeling summer program doesn't translate to Division I reality.
But look closer, and the PTL — featuring more than two dozen players from Iowa and Northern Iowa — is providing early clues about the Hawkeyes' upcoming season.
Adam Woodbury is the main case in point. The 7-foot-1 senior-to-be's role is evolving on the hardwood of the North Liberty Community Center. He is using these fast-paced games to work on his conditioning (he played all 45 minutes of last week's overtime game, and he wasn't dogging it) and, more importantly, his outside shot.
"My jumper's the best it's ever been. That's what I'm really using this league to work on," said Woodbury, who (for what it's worth) is averaging 20.7 points and 19 rebounds in three PTL games. "Playing down low, I don't get much out of this league."
Woodbury has maybe the biggest transition ahead of any Hawkeye, with his primary center backup — Big Ten Conference Sixth Man of the Year Gabe Olaseni — about to start NBA Summer League ball with the Miami Heat.
Without any back-to-the-basket replacement for Woodbury at the No. 5 spot, Iowa coach Fran McCaffery figures to go with a smaller, more athletic lineup with his sixth Hawkeye team — one that resembles his days at Siena, where his teams made three consecutive NCAA Tournaments from 2008-10 without a regular over 6-9.
"My role has gone up a little bit each year, and I think this will be the biggest jump that it's ever gone up," Woodbury said. "So I'm looking to expand my game and do more."
Woodbury is preparing to play 25-to-30 minutes per game (he averaged a career-high 20.5 last season), while doing so at McCaffery's up-tempo brand. Anthony Clemmons, Gesell and Jarrod Uthoff are fast-paced senior returnees, and junior-to-be Peter Jok has the potential to spread the floor with his smooth outside shot. That puts Woodbury operating in more open space.
For the plan to come together, it'll take acclimation between veterans and, essentially, eight newcomers — true freshmen Andrew Fleming, Brandon Hutton, Isaiah Moss, Ahmad Wagner and Christian Williams; along with second-year returnees Brady Ellinsgon and walk-on Nicholas Baer; and junior college transfer Dale Jones.
"They're good guys. They pick up on stuff pretty quickly, and nobody really has an attitude," Woodbury said. "When you come into the summer without attitudes, it's easy to learn and a lot of fun."
The incoming group is seen as athletic yet selfless. Hutton has epitomized the team-first mentality with eye-opening interviews at the PTL. The freshman from Chicago boldly wants to (someday) be the best defender in the Big Ten, and his bulky 6-6 frame matches his mental readiness.
"Right now, if my role is to come in and shut the best scorer down on the opposite team, I will do so," said Hutton, who is averaging 18 points per PTL game. "As I get older and as I grow and as I develop, my role will change. But right now, (it's) just being the best defensive player that I can be for Iowa."
Gesell, a fourth-year starting point guard, is ready to bring the rookies along.
"That's the type of guys this coaching staff recruits — unselfish guys that fit well as a group," Gesell said.
Guards Ellingson and Fleming bring 3-point shooting threats that the 22-12 Hawkeyes needed more of last season. Wagner (6-7) and Jones (6-8) join Baer (6-7) and sophomore Dom Uhl (6-8 and bulked-up from last season) to offer McCaffery several frontcourt options to replace second-round NBA Draft pick Aaron White.
More than anyone, Woodbury is adapting to the new-look Hawkeyes.
"We've got a lot of different pieces," he said. "If we can mesh them together, we can be pretty good."