IOWA CITY, Ia. — The future sounds bright for Iowa freshmen Brandon Hutton and Isaiah Moss, who are redshirting this basketball season.
Sitting out a year isn’t easy, but their coach and one prominent teammate say the two are soaking up whatever they can while not playing in their first year out of Chicago high schools.
“They’re growing a lot. I think in particular, Brandon is catching onto a lot of things,” senior guard Anthony Clemmons said. “He’s able to sit back and see how tough this league can be and how mentally you have to be to be able to last in this league. I think Moss is going to be special for this team as time moves forward.”
Hutton wants to be the best defensive player in the Big Ten Conference someday. Moss is more of an offensive-minded swingman who needs to bulk up.
Both are listed at 6 feet, 5 inches and are expected to have key roles next season after Iowa loses four senior starters. They’ve actually got key roles now, on the scout team simulating opposing stars.
“You're (Michigan State guard Denzel) Valentine one day; you're (Indiana guard) Yogi (Ferrell) the next day,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “… So you're aggressive; you're of the aggressive mind-set offensively, trying to go get buckets. And then obviously defensively, as well.”
McCaffery said the redshirt year on the scout team, was a huge benefit a year ago to Nicholas Baer. The walk-on from Bettendorf has exploded onto the scene this year as one of the Hawkeyes’ top bench players.
Hutton and Moss are doing all the right things.
“It's not easy when you're not playing, but those two guys are phenomenal people,” McCaffery said. “They want to help us be the best possible team we can be, and that's the only way they can do it now. They are getting in extra work. If you can get here before our games, they are lifting and shooting, two, 2½ hours of work in before we play.”
A long break well-spent
Iowa focused on itself, not its next opponent, while having nine days between games — the program’s longest break in Big Ten Conference play since the 1993 season following the death of Chris Street.
“As players, you don’t really like it,” point guard Mike Gesell said. “You’d rather just get out there and play games. I think we made the most of it.”
The Hawkeyes worked on all aspects of their own game before focusing in on No. 4 Michigan State during Monday’s practice. They’ll fly to East Lansing, Mich., on Wednesday in advance of Thursday’s 6 p.m. game (ESPN).
McCaffery wasn't worked up about the break busting up his team's hot play. Iowa (12-3 overall) is off to a 3-0 Big Ten start for the first time in 13 seasons.
"I don't get concerned either way. If we were playing well; if we were playing poorly, everybody gets a break," he said. "This one seems a little longer than usual."
The senior guard has for Iowa has been playing his best basketball.
A first-time honor
Gesell was named Big Ten player of the week for the first time in his four-year career after his 22-point, 10-assist outing in last week’s 77-66 win over Nebraska.
The point guard has been outstanding during league play, averaging 18.0 points, 6.7 assists and shooting 63.6 percent from the floor.
“It’s a cool honor to win,” said the senior from South Sioux City, Neb. “Some of the best players in the country win that honor.”
Get ‘em while they’re hot. Iowa’s next two home games, both on Sundays — this week against Michigan, next week against Purdue — are nearly sold out. Standing-room-only tickets were all that remained for those contests as of Tuesday afternoon.
And for those wanting to venture to the March 9-13 Big Ten Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, the deadline to order tickets through the University of Iowa is Wednesday. Call 1-800-IA-HAWKS or request tickets through their online account at hawkeyesports.com.