To many Iowa basketball fans, Nicholas Baer is their favorite Hawkeye.
It's because he hustles every second he's on the floor for coach Fran McCaffery.; because he produces as one of the team's most reliable scorers, rebounders and defenders; because he's a former walk-on who has earned everything he's ever gotten.
And now, after being named the Big Ten Conference's sixth Man of the Year on Monday by the league's coaches, Baer has gone and done yet another thing to endear himself further to Hawkeye nation:
Baer took to his Instagram account after winning his award to send a message to motivate young basketball players.
"To all aspiring basketball players: You do not have to start to make an impact on the game!! Find your role and be a star in your role. Thank you to the coaches who voted for me, and my teammates past and present who have pushed me along the way. B1G week ahead. #GoHawks"
Be a star in your role.
Baer has done just that. After Sunday's 90-79 win against Penn State, in which Baer scored a career-high 20 points to go with 10 rebounds, McCaffery called him "one of the best players in the league, without question."
Star guard Peter Jok would say, "Baer is the heart of our team."
Baer came off the bench in 21 of Iowa's 31 games. The 6-foot-7 native of Bettendorf has averaged 7.6 points and is the team leader in rebounds (6.0 per game), blocked shots (39) and steals (45). He's also canning 38.7 percent of his 3-point shots (41 of 106), including 68.4 percent (13 of 19) during his team's current four-game win streak.
"I try to influence guys on this team with my hard work and playing hard," Baer said Sunday. "I think that rubs off on a lot of people."
No doubt, he's succeeded.
The Iowa sophomore has been terrific of late, and the Hawkeyes enter the postseason at 18-13 overall.