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Iowa Hawkeyes Player Previews: Adam Woodbury

What can we expect from Iowa's starting center in his second season?

Gregory Shamus

Adam Woodbury

Bio: Sophomore, 7'1, 245 (Sioux City, IA)
2012-13 stats: 16.5 minutes per game, 4.9 points per game, 4.8 rebounds per game, 29 blocked shots in 38 games.

What we saw last season

In the case of Adam Woodbury, two numbers loom large: 39 and 7'1". The first is Woodbury's ESPN recruiting rank coming out of high school, and the second is his officially listed height. These two numbers have set certain expectations of the second-year center, expectations that Woodbury met only fitfully in his freshman year. As his second year begins, fans will be well advised to forget about both of these numbers, because neither means all that much.

The first number has disposed fans to think of Woodbury as a blue-chip asset, potentially one of the 40 best players of his class. The fact that Iowa "stole" him away from hated Iowa-poacher Roy Williams makes fans all the more eager to view him as the Raef LeFrentz or Nick Collison that finally stayed. But those numbers were just predictions, and the fact that North Carolina wanted Woodbury does nothing to make him any better or worse now that he's at Iowa.

The second number is, at the very least, misleading. Not because Woodbury may actually be just 6'11" or 7'0" rather than 7'1", but because that raw height number tells you very little about Woodbury's effective playing height. With a wingspan of just 6'9" and a vertical leap of maybe two phone books, Woodbury is a seven-footer only in the most technical sense.

I bring all this up not to (wood)bury Adam, but to encourage fans to see the Iowa big man with fresh eyes. He brings certain things to the table for Iowa, but takes others away. The end result is a player whose impact is frustratingly uncertain.

The positives start with his defense. He is a strong post defender, probably Iowa's best defensive rebounder, and generally an immovable wall on the low block. For a big human being, he moves well while defending the pick and roll, a skill that allowed Iowa to blitz opposing teams at the three-point line and not suffer too badly for it at the rim.

But his defensive plays is not without flaws, the biggest being his propensity to foul. He ranked second on the team in fouls called per 40 minutes at 6.1 (Zach McCabe was first at 6.8). With the new NCAA rules in place regarding hand checking, Woodbury's fouling tendencies could become even more of a problem. Woodbury also blocks fewer shots than one might expect from a player of his stature, a result, again, of his limited wingspan and vertical leap.

As a whole, though, Woodbury is a force for the good on defense. The real concern comes on offense. He has yet to develop many reliable post moves beyond a decent half-hook from six feet out, and his jump shot is not yet reliable. He frequently draws double-teams when he gets the ball in the block, which should be a boon to Iowa's congested offense, but has yet to master the art of knowing where to go with the ball before it reaches his hands. The result is a lot of turnovers: he ranked second in turnover percentage at 23.6% (Anthony Clemmons was first at 29.8%). And his lack of foot speed and vertical leap means that he is less of a threat in the pick and roll game than other frontcourt alternatives like Melsahn Basabe or Gabe Olaseni. In the context of a starting lineup featuring two other mediocre outside-shooting big men in Basabe and Aaron White, Woodbury's mediocre offense often translates into particularly dire first five minutes of games. Iowa doesn't give up many points while he's in, but they don't score many either. Here's a breakdown of Iowa's average points scored and given up by quarter of the game for 2012-13:















This is a crude measurement, but you can see that the quarter where Woodbury got his most reliable minutes - the first - was when Iowa had its best defense and (tied for) worst offense. This fits with what I saw from last year: Woodbury bolstered Iowa's defense, but added little offensive punch.

What we need to see this season

So will this mean a dynamic change for the big man in year two? The early indications are that Woodbury's offense has not taken a dramatic step forward. That could change, but if not, he will need to make his living as he did last year: on defense. If he can avoid foul trouble, he could play a role not unlike that of Kendrick Perkins on the Celtics circa 2009: a good defender and screen setter that offers limited offense but is a crucial opposing big man stopper. If not, he could wind up like Kendrick Perkins on the Thunder circa now: a player who starts because the organization has committed to his starting, despite the presence of more effective players behind him.