DAVENPORT, Iowa — Fran McCaffery admits he has an idea what the Iowa basketball team’s starting five may look like this season.
Then, the third-year Hawkeye coach finds himself entertaining another idea or two.
“It depends on the day, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing,” McCaffery said Monday after speaking at the weekly Davenport Grid Club luncheon.
McCaffery has waited three years to have the depth he will welcome to the court late next week when Iowa begins practices for the 2012-13 season.
There are days when McCaffery envisions 7-foot-1 Adam Woodbury lining up beside 6-8 Aaron White and 6-7 Melsahn Basabe on the front line.
There are times when he is thinking smaller, building around the skills of freshmen guards Anthony Clemmons and Mike Gesell as a complement to returning junior Roy Devyn Marble.
McCaffery flirts with the notion of starting fives that include the team’s lone senior, Eric May, or Josh Oglesby in the backcourt, or a frontcourt that includes Zach McCabe or rapidly-improving Gabe Olaseni.
“We could go a number of different ways. This is depth that we have not had before and one of the good things about it is that since the start of summer, we’ve had a lot of guys pushing each other to get better on a daily basis,” McCaffery said.
“If a guy knows he has a job all locked up, there sometimes can be a tendency to not work as hard. Nobody on this team has anything locked up.”
McCaffery expects that to test his own time management skills as the season progresses.
“We really have 11 guys who have put in the work during the offseason and who I can see contributing on a regular basis,” McCaffery said. “Coaches have this tendency to settle into rotations of seven or eight. I’ve done that myself, but I don’t think I can do that this season.
“I’ll have to work to get guys the minutes they deserve.”
Part of the challenge McCaffery welcomes is getting his players to understand that substitutions won’t necessarily be made because something has gone wrong on the court.
Instead, he may simply be making moves to keep fresh legs and fresh bodies on the court.
“The more pressing a team does, the easier it is to do that and the easier it is to get guys to buy into that way of playing,” McCaffery said.
McCaffery prefaced his remarks to the crowd Monday by talking about the need for the Hawkeyes to become a better defensive team.
Iowa will continue to push tempo, but when breaking down the setbacks from last year’s 18-17 season, a lack of consistency on the defensive end proved to be a common thread.
“Opponents shot 52 percent from 3-point range against us in those games. We got broken down off the dribble and that started at the point of pressure,” McCaffery said.
McCaffery believes Gesell and Clemmons and their skills can be part of that solution.
He also knows the commitment must extend beyond whoever is at the point of the Hawkeyes’ defensive attack.
“We’ve made great strides the past two seasons, but to accomplish the challenge of getting to the NCAA tourney, the next logical step for us is that we have to improve defensively,” McCaffery said.
That is something the Hawkeyes can expect to hear a lot about as they work toward their Nov. 9 season-opener against Texas-Pan American.
“We want to play fast and score in the 90s, even though that is not easy to do in the Big Ten, but we’ve got to be more consistent and hold opponents’ shooting percentage to the low 40s,” McCaffery said. “I feel like that is something we can do and it starts with containing penetration at the point. It starts with wanting to defend.”
Freshman Pat Ingram is currently dealing with plantar fasciitis, but McCaffery expects the 6-2 guard to be ready for the start of practices on Oct. 12.
Based on his interactions over the past six weeks, McCaffery has been impressed with what Wisconsin transfer Jarrod Uthoff brings the program.
“We’re thrilled we’ve got him. We tried to recruit him after we arrived during his junior year (at Cedar Rapids Jefferson), but we were playing from behind then,” McCaffery said. “He’s a 6-9 guy who fits our style. He can run, dunk. There’s a lot to like.”
Iowa will follow this season’s appearance in the Cancun Challenge by playing in the Great Alaska Shootout in the 2013-14 season and in a tournament at Madison Square Garden the following year where the field will also include California, Syracuse and Texas.
“We feel like going to Madison Square Garden and facing that type of a challenge will be something which reflects the type of growth we expect for our program,” McCaffery said.
The Hawkeyes will make their first public appearance on Oct. 19 when Iowa reintroduces the Black and Gold Blowout intra-squad game.