Eric May has had an on-and-off career for the Iowa Hawkeyes.
When he is on, he can make a human highlight film of great dunks on breakaway baskets.
When he is off, mostly because of injury, he isn’t playing, or if he is it’s not with the same explosiveness he has shown throughout his career.
Eric is the only senior on this year’s team and will lead by example. He is the only one left from his freshman class when Brendon Cougill and Cully Payne were on board.
“Eric is a great guy and a great teammate,” said Zach McCabe, who has played with him the last two years. “I thought it was a good thing to have coach (McCaffery) put him as our leader because he’s one of our big guys, he’s really important to our team, he gets us all together and we gel well together.”
That’s a lot different from Eric’s freshman year when the team was not very close.
Last season, Eric started in 21 games before a slump and a back injury put him on the bench.
He finished the year averaging 4.3 points and 2.4 rebounds, but the Hawkeyes finally had a winning record, going 18-17 including an NIT victory.
“It was really exciting,” said Eric. “There were some frustrating parts but when you’re winning games that makes up for a lot of things that aren’t going right.”
I was at the NIT game and it was one of the loudest crowds I remember for a long time.
“Unbelievable,” said Eric, who has been on the Academic All-Big Ten team two years in a row. “How quick the fans came to buy tickets in only 24 hours after we were selected.”
As a freshman, Eric played in all 32 games with 23 starts. He made the All-Big Ten freshman team, led the team in blocked shots (26) and steals (34) while averaging nine points and 4.5 rebounds.
The Hawkeyes finished 10-22 and Coach Todd Lickliter was gone.
Eric talked about the team being divided at the end of the season.
“I don’t think we were looking out for each other,” said Eric. “Everything was not very stable. It was just a really different year.”
In Eric’s second year, Fran McCaffery’s first, he played in 30 games with 25 starts. He averaged 7.8 points, 2.9 rebounds, and tied for the team lead in steals with 38.
The Hawks finished 11-20 that year, but Eric was on board with the new coach.
“I was impressed,” said Eric. “He instantly talked about his team, he was a Hawkeye and he was proud to be there.”
Eric lost 10 pounds in his sophomore year and said he felt faster and was in better condition to play the new up-tempo game.
Devyn Marble has been playing with and against Eric for two years.
“He’s one of the toughest people to guard,” said Devyn, who will be a junior. “When I came in, I really enjoyed checking him as a freshman because he brings that physical presence that not too many guards can give you. That was really good for me.”
Eric also was a standout football player in high school, which probably helped him be more physical in basketball. He was starting quarterback for Dubuque Wahlert during his junior and senior year.
In his junior year, Eric passed for 1,659 yards and nine touchdowns.
As a senior, Eric led his 4-5 team to an upset win over 8-1 North Scott and a first round playoff berth. That season Eric threw for 2,125 yards and 13 touchdowns. He also ran for 850 yards and scored eight touchdowns.
“We had a spread offense,” said Eric. “We ran the option a lot.”
Eric was recruited to play football at Iowa by Reece Morgan. The Hawks talked about him playing tight end or linebacker. That’s how Dallas Clark came in as a walk-on.
But basketball was Eric’s first love. He was a three-year starter at Dubuque.
When Eric was a junior in high school, he helped lead Dubuque Wahlert to the state championship, hitting a 35-foot shot at the buzzer for a 70-67 victory.
His last-second shot is one of the top five all-time plays in Iowa state championship history.
“There were two seconds left on the clock,” said Eric. “We were up by eight points with a minute left and they hit a couple of threes, stole an inbound pass and tied it up before I hit the shot. It was awesome.”
Eric averaged 18.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, three assists and 2.5 rebounds as a junior and was named first team all-state.
As a senior, Eric was again named first team all-state and was named Class 3A player of the year. He averaged 24.3 points and 9.1 rebounds.
Eric was recruited by a lot of Missouri Valley schools for basketball. He went on recruiting visits to UNI and Iowa, but the Hawks won out.
Eric will go down with Jarryd Cole and Matt Gatens as players that laid the foundation for the future of Iowa basketball.
“Those guys, what they gave to the university was tremendous,” said Eric. “They stuck around and I hope to do the same thing and leave a winning legacy.”
Eric said he’s healthy going into the season and he’s looking forward to get started.
“Everybody’s hungry,” said the captain. “Everybody’s going to push each other.”
Randy Larson, who coached Eric in Prime Time last summer, is looking for Eric to step up his game.
“I’m really excited about his senior year.” said Randy. “I hope he has one of those break-out senior years that some guys do.”
A young Hawkeye team that’s hungry, has talent and good leadership… I’m excited to see what will happen.