Europe good for Hawk hoopsters


The Iowa men’s basketball team went on its European tour looking to become better on the hardwood as well as a more closely knit group off it.

Reuniting a week after arriving back to the United States for a team workout on Monday, players are still talking about the experiences they had overseas.

On the court, the Hawkeyes won two of their three exhibition contests against professional teams from Italy and Greece, with the lone defeat coming by a mere point. Away from basketball, team chemistry would improve greatly.

“First and foremost, it was a good opportunity to get a lot of quality time with each other,” said junior-to-be Jarryd Cole, who is a cocaptain. “It was real good to be with the guys for 10 days, just away from American customs and just the fast life with just going away and just being all to ourselves, getting to know each other a lot better.”

Seven players went with head coach Todd Lickliter and his coaching staff to both Italy and Greece knowing they’d each get significant playing time.

In addition to stellar play from Cole and sophomore-to-be Matt Gatens, perhaps no Hawkeye made more strides from a basketball standpoint than sophomore-to-be Aaron Fuller. The Mesa, Ariz., native was one rebound short of posting double-doubles for Iowa in all three of its contests, posting a combined total of 44 points and 38 rebounds on the trip.

He attributed the improvements he has made since the Hawkeyes’ 2008-09 campaign ended to working with Rusty Burney, Iowa’s strength and conditioning coach, and has placed an emphasis on becoming a better rebounder at both ends of the floor.

“I can really improve a lot of things, but rebounding was something I was always good at in high school,” Fuller said. “I felt like I could really be effective doing that, and all the weight-lifting we’ve been doing and stuff has really helped me elevate that.”

His teammates noticed his consistency in Europe.

“He did a great job of hitting the offensive glass and getting us extra opportunities and also scoring the ball. He did a great job of getting in there and finishing his moves,” Gatens said. “We’re going to need the help down there, and he’s going to provide a big boost for us.”

As the Hawkeyes look ahead to participating in this summer’s Prime Time League, the players who went to Europe all know the importance of continuing the positive trends each of them developed on this trip and being able to carry them over into the future.

“We got to get the new guys coming in to get onto the level that we are and just accept them and stay open to where they are,” Cole said. “Everybody on the team has to be a leader in order to be successful right now, and that’s important to us to just keep the team mentality and stay hungry for basketball and learning more.”

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