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BasketballHGPreview: The Bigs

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We know: You're downtrodden.  You're beaten to a pulp.  You're feigning interest.  The Lickliter Years destroyed the Iowa basketball fanbase, and it could take years to bring it back.  But we can rebuild it.  We can make the fanbase stronger.  We can make the style of play faster.  We will make you care, or we will die trying.

Today: The Bigs

The Old Guard

Jarryd Cole (Center, #50, Senior, 6'7", 250, Winnetonka HS (Kansas City, MO))

And so, this is the beginning of the end.  Jarryd Cole enters the final season of his odd career at Iowa as the sole remaining member of Lickliter's first team.  Of the nine non-seniors on that 2007-08 team, only three -- Cyrus Tate, J.R. Angle, and Cole -- will graduate as members of the Iowa basketball squad.  The other members of his class -- Jeff Peterson and Jake Kelly -- have each been gone for two seasons.  Jarryd Cole has been the elder statesman of the Iowa basketball program for two seasons now, and is probably a little worse for the wear.

To say he's the last remaining member of Lickliter's first team is not to say he was a Lickliter recruit.  Cole signed for Steve Alford in the fall of 2006, as one of the biggest recruits in the direct wake of Alford's finest season.  Cole held offers from pretty much the entire Big XII North (minus KU), Minnesota and Virginia, and received three stars from the services, mostly for that 6'7", 230 lb. frame.

This isn't to say that Cole lived up to those expectations; he didn't.  He has started 47 games in 3 seasons, and has only averaged 6 points and 4 rebounds per game over that time.  His defensive skills have never risen above mediocre.  He's not a turnover machine, per se, but his hands are cinder blocks, and his offensive movement is robotic.  He's not a good basketball player.  But he's a good guy.  He stayed with Iowa after Alford and Neal fled for the Great American Southwest.  He suffered a torn ACL midway through his freshman season and spent nine months in intensive rehab to make the start of the 2007-08 campaign.  Now he enters his fourth year, having survived the worst three-year period in program history, playing for his third head coach, the only player to do so since Lute Olson's last class in 1983.  And he's done it with dignity and class, nary a negative word about a coach nobody else seemed to like, a coach he didn't sign on to play for.  He likely will never see the postseason, and on performance, it's not surprising.  But let's hope otherwise; it couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

The New Guard

Melsahn Basabe (Power Forward, #1, Freshman, 6'7", 225, St. Mark's HS (Glen Cove, NY))
Zach McCabe (Small/Power Forward, #15, Freshman, 6'7", 215, Bishop Heelan HS (Sioux City, IA)

And in this corner, the future.  Melsahn Basabe's rout to Iowa could not be more dissimilar than Cole's: He received modest recruiting interest (mid-major interest, with St. John's and Seton Hall jumping in this spring) and chose to play for Fran McCaffery at Siena.  When McCaffery left, he offered Basabe a life raft to Iowa City.  Basabe took it, coming to Iowa virtually sight unseen.  And despite this complete lack of interest from the big programs, Basabe became a revelation almost immediately upon arrival.  He tore up the PTL, widely considered as one of the best three players in the league.  As McCaffery said after Basabe tore up Illinois-Springfield in the preseason, the man knows his limitations.  He has an upperclassman's bank of moves around the post and enough athleticism to fall back on when they don't work.  And, as we saw against South Dakota State, even when his offensive moves aren't working, he's still contributing on the glass and at the defensive end.

Zach McCabe, on the other hand, is one of two Lickliter legacy signees who decided to stay with the program after Todd took the slow train back to Indiana.  A graduate of Sioux City Bishop Heelan, Rivals three-star prospect, and former teammate of Brennan Cougill, McCabe has the frame to become a post player, the ball skills to play the three, and enough of an outside shot to make him dangerous from anywhere.  He's not there yet; while program insiders have praised his basketball IQ, he's still a little light to hang inside in the Big Ten, and he's been a little schizophrenic from the perimeter.  With that said, he's far more ready for the college than his now-exiled schoolmate.  Let's hope he's far more ready for college itself; he could be a good one.

While You Wait for the Others

Andrew Brommer (Center, #20, Junior, 6'9", 235, Rosemount (MN) HS)

The living embodiment of the one-and-one has a chance at being this season's greatest turnaround story, due to both the change in style and his own gross incompetence in the Lickliter system.  In retrospect, Brommer was precisely the kind of player Lickliter couldn't use.  He has limited skills from the outside -- really, limited offensive skills in general -- and to say he played out of control on defense would unnecessarily slander things that are out of control.  As a freshman, he had 5 more personal fouls than he had points.  As a sophomore, his point and foul totals were equal.  His steadfast refusal to play without attempting to tomahawk chop his opponent in the skull made it virtually impossible for Lickliter to use him in anything more than spot duty.  The 2009-10 iteration of Andrew Brommer was a disaster, and in that an embodiment of the entire season.  Brommer now looks slimmer, and his play greatly improved.  He's quickly adapted to the role as vulture in the fast break and rebounder/shot blocker on the defensive end.  He is, by all accounts, a smart kid; if he can improve his play around the basket and find enough control on the defensive end to keep him out of foul trouble, the opportunity to get into the mix is there if he can take it.

Devon Archie (Forward, #35, Junior, 6'9", 225, Vincennes CC/Ben Davis HS (Indianapolis))

We come next to Lickliter's ultimate garage sale find, Devon Archie, who received a late scholarship offer from Captain Curmudgeon during the spring of 2009 as a completely unheralded JUCO center, signed immediately, and then spent his first season on the bench after being injured.  It's not certain he'd have played if he had been healthy, despite the fact that Iowa was relying heavily on Cougill and Brommer off the bench in the post.  Archie has height and, by virtually all accounts, little else.  He's been repeatedly passed up by younger players, and now sits while McCabe and Basabe swallow up playing time.  As a tall guy with a pulse, he's got enough to stay on this team for 2010-11; should McCaffery identify someone who could use a scholarship, Archie might well not have enough to stay for 2011-12.

Darius Stokes (Forward, #34, Freshman, 6'7", 190, Linn-Mar HS (Cedar Rapids, IA))

Stokes is possibly the most intriguing of the walk-ons this year: The son of former Iowa great Greg Stokes, Darius was largely unproductive as a senior at Linn-Mar, averaging just 5.7 points and 3 boards.  We don't know if it was the pedigree or the height or something else they saw in the video, but McCaffery found reason to offer Stokes a preferred walk-on spot.  After a month of practice, McCaffery stunned us all by admitting that Stokes had been so good that he might redshirt and earn a scholarship spot for next season.  If he contributes in any way, it's a miracle, but the signs are starting to point to just such a miracle occurring.


T.J Sayre (Forward, #13, Senior, 6'6", 220, Xavier HS (Cedar Rapids, IA))

What a long, strange trip it's been for T.J. Sayre, who didn't even start his college career in organized basketball.  Upon graduation from Cedar Rapids Xavier, Sayre enrolled at Creighton.  After a year and a half in Omaha, he came back home, transferring to Iowa and playing intramurals.  And now, with three years of college under his belt, Sayre walks onto the Iowa basketball team and becomes another body to throw into the fray when necessary.  McCaffery has praised his size, and rightfully so; at 6'6" and 220 pounds, he's big enough.  But this ain't intramurals, and Sayre doesn't have a long way to go to get to the finish line.

Cody Cox (Forward, #11, Freshman, 6'4", 190, West HS (Waterloo, IA))

The parade of walk-ons continues, but if Cody Cox sees any significant action, he quite likely surpasses John Lickliter as the player least prepared for Division I basketball to play meaningful minutes at Iowa.  No offense to the kid, but let's really hope that doesn't happen.