The last two years Iowa’s assistant basketball coach Kirk Speraw lived in Iowa City, the Hawkeyes were Big Ten co-champions (1978-79) and went to the Final Four (1979-80).
Kirk was a senior on the Big Ten championship team that went 20-8, 13-5 in the Big Ten. He was voted the most inspirational player on that squad.
Kirk was a graduate assistant on the Final Four team that was led by Ronnie Lester. The Hawks finished 23-8, 10-8 (fourth place) in the Big Ten.
Kirk is back as an assistant coach now after being head coach at Central Florida for the last 17 years.
In 2006-07, Kirk was named the Conference USA Coach of the Year after leading Central Florida to 22 victories and second place in the conference.
Kirk has been back to Iowa City a few times watching games at Carver Hawkeye Arena. His wife Tracy is from Iowa City and daughter Brooke is a student at Iowa.
“We’ve been back a few times over the years, but it’s been super to be back full time and getting reacquainted with the great people of Iowa,” said coach Speraw.
The Hawkeyes opened the season 7-5 with good wins over Alabama, UNI, Drake and Louisiana Tech.
They struggled early in the Big Ten, losing their first six and finishing the season 11-20, 4-14 in the Big Ten
Iowa swept Indiana, beat Michigan State and Purdue at home.
They lost in overtime to Wisconsin and Michigan.
“It’s a credit to our guys that as the season went on they just kept coming to practice each and every day to get better,” said Kirk. “That hard work and the consistency of that work really started to pay off as the season wore on. I think we were playing our best basketball at the end of the year.”
Head coach Fran McCaffery talked about the Hawkeyes playing faster next season. Iowa only loses two players (Jarryd Cole to graduation and Cully Payne who transferred) so the returning players won’t have to start from scratch.
“We will be able to understand the strengths of our players a lot better and from a knowledge and familiarity standpoint we will be quite a bit ahead at the beginning of things,” Kirk said. “You still have to work every day to get better as you go through the whole season. We want to get the new guys up to speed as quickly as we can, but they’ll have other people to look at this year. A year ago, we didn’t have anybody.”
The Hawkeyes return five seniors led by Matt Gatens and Bryce Cartwright.
Matt, a co-captain, led the team in scoring (12.6), steals (1.3) and was second in assists (1.8). He also led the Big Ten in free throw percentage (.874).
Bryce became only the sixth Hawkeye to lead the Big Ten in assists since 1975. Bryce and Andre Woolridge are the only Hawkeyes to average better than 10.5 points and 5.8 assists in a single season… Andre did it three years in a row.
“They provided good leadership along with Jarryd,” said the coach. “This season Bryce saw his leadership increase. Matt really stepped it up and certainly we’ll look toward him, but everybody will have a part of that leadership because they’ve been through it.”
Andrew Brommer and Devon Archie both are 6-9 and need to finish strong in their senior year.
Andrew played in all 31 games and shot 57 percent from the field and had a career-high 12 points against Iowa State and Ohio State.
Devon played in 23 games and shot 50 percent from the field. He had career highs of 10 points and 11 rebounds against Xavier.
“Both Devon and Andrew had moments where they really came in and gave us a spark,” said Kirk. “Both got into foul trouble at different times that limited their minutes. We’ve got to expand on those quality minutes that they get.”
Jordan Stoermer, who walked on last year, will also be a senior. He played in 19 games last year, is a good defender and 3-point shooter.
Eric May and junior college transfer Anthony Hubbard will be juniors next fall.
Head coach Fran McCaffery said Eric has had a great spring workout and will be better next year.
“Eric really has worked hard on his ball skills this spring,” said coach Speraw, “He’s worked hard on his conditioning and he’s gotten healthy again. He’s one guy that benefited from the new system and he’ll be better at that a year from now.”
Anthony is 6-5, 225 which is a solid Big Ten body and he should contribute right away, especially if he can play two or three positions.
“He is a very skilled basketball player,” said Kirk. “He understands how to play. He handles it and passes it very well and those are ingredients that will benefit our basketball team.”
Melsahn Basabe, Devyn Marble and Zach McCabe will all be sophomores after productive freshman years.
Melsahn was named on the All-Big Ten freshman team and his 210 rebounds are the most ever for a Hawkeye freshman.
Devyn played in all 31 games, starting six. He had a career-high 18 points against Indiana.
Zach also played in every game, shot 80 percent from the free throw line (second on the team) and started the first two games.
“Each of them had very good minutes as freshmen,” said Kirk. “They all have bright futures here as Hawkeyes.”
The Hawks bring in four new recruits including Anthony Hubbard.
Josh Oglesby, a 6-5 shooting guard, Aaron White, a 6-8 forward and 6-10 center Gabe Olaseni will be freshmen next fall.
Size and depth, something Iowa didn’t have last year, will improve Iowa’s bench.
“We’re excited about all three of those guys,” Kirk said. “They bring something that we need. Shooting, knowledge and very good instincts. Josh and Aaron are highly skilled basketball players that can really shoot it. Gabe brings the length, the shot0-blocking and the ability to run the floor and rebound. We’re excited to get all those guys on board and get them going.”
Darius Stokes walked on and redshirted last year. At 6-7 he adds size down low. He’s a good shot blocker who needs to get bigger.
“He has a knack of being where the basketball is,” said Kirk. “I think he can be a tremendous defender. He’s quick and he’s long and will get better.”
Once again, Prime Time basketball will be rocking in North Liberty starting Sunday, June 19.
The Hawkeyes showed they can play last season. Next season, they need to show they can win… Kirk Speraw knows how to do that.