Kriener settles into senior role as season-opener approaches

As a freshman, Iowa’s Ryan Kriener was nervous for his first game. Now, as a senior, his leadership is key heading into the season-opener.

Iowa+forward+Ryan+Kriener+poses+for+a+portrait+during+Basketball+Media+Day+at+Carver-Hawkeye+Arena+on+Wednesday%2C+October+9%2C+2019.+The+Hawkeyes+will+open+their+season+on+November+4%2C+2019+against+Lindsey+Wilson+College+in+their+exhibition+game.+%28Katina+Zentz%2FThe+Daily+Iowan%29
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Kriener settles into senior role as season-opener approaches

Iowa forward Ryan Kriener poses for a portrait during Basketball Media Day at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Wednesday, October 9, 2019. The Hawkeyes will open their season on November 4, 2019 against Lindsey Wilson College in their exhibition game. (Katina Zentz/The Daily Iowan)

Iowa forward Ryan Kriener poses for a portrait during Basketball Media Day at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Wednesday, October 9, 2019. The Hawkeyes will open their season on November 4, 2019 against Lindsey Wilson College in their exhibition game. (Katina Zentz/The Daily Iowan)

Katina Zentz

Iowa forward Ryan Kriener poses for a portrait during Basketball Media Day at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Wednesday, October 9, 2019. The Hawkeyes will open their season on November 4, 2019 against Lindsey Wilson College in their exhibition game. (Katina Zentz/The Daily Iowan)

Katina Zentz

Katina Zentz

Iowa forward Ryan Kriener poses for a portrait during Basketball Media Day at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Wednesday, October 9, 2019. The Hawkeyes will open their season on November 4, 2019 against Lindsey Wilson College in their exhibition game. (Katina Zentz/The Daily Iowan)

Robert Read, Assistant Sports Editor

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The anticipation of a first game can be frightening. It’s even more so when it’s one’s first game playing basketball at a Big Ten school.

Now a senior, Iowa basketball’s Ryan Kriener — a fan favorite on social media for his mean mug during games —  remembers his first game in a Hawkeye uniform. More specifically, he looks back at the nervous wreck he was ahead of taking the court at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in front of a live crowd for the first time.

“Super, super nervous,” Kriener said. “Just super nervous, like disproportionately nervous. I didn’t want to do anything wrong. I didn’t want to mess up.’”

RELATED: McCaffery brothers shine in Iowa’s exhibition victory

Eventually, the nerves subsided, and Kriener settled into his first game.

“It was our first regular-season game, [and] I didn’t play in the exhibition because I rolled my ankle before it,” Kriener said. “I was in some high tops and an ankle cast, because there is no way I’m missing my first collegiate game. I think I might have played like eight minutes and had a wide-open layup.”

The nerves seem to be gone for Kriener now as he enters his final season in Black and Gold. The Spirit Lake, Iowa, native is coming off of his most productive season for Iowa, averaging 5.7 points and three rebounds per game.

That production is expected to increase again this season, as is his leadership role.

RELATED: Fredrick begins redshirt freshman season on high note

“He’s a cerebral guy on the court, which impacts a lot of things — most importantly the defensive end, with his communication,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said. “He’s telling people where to go, what to do. He sees the play develop. That’s where information is really important, when the communication comes at the right time versus a second or two late.”

While Kriener will be taking on a larger leadership role this season, that does not mean he will be yelling and getting on his teammates.

He likes to be the nice guy.

“I don’t want to be the guy that people are like, ‘Oh, God, I got to listen to this again?’” Kriener said. “I try to lead by example and encourage guys.”

As far as the person who will get on guys, Kriener assured the media — who had just met with McCaffery —  that the role is covered.

“I think you guys talked to him earlier,” Kriener said with a grin while looking over his shoulder, making sure his head coach wasn’t in earshot. “Coach gets after us when he needs to, and I think that’s really all we need.”

Against Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, freshman forward Patrick McCaffery and Joe Toussaint are in the position Kriener was four years ago.

They’re preparing for their first real game in an Iowa uniform. Both got their feet wet in Iowa’s exhibition game on Monday and are ready to take the court again as Hawkeyes.

“I’ve obviously watched, like, hundreds of games in this arena, so kind of being out there, being able to play one, that was really cool,” Patrick McCaffery said. “My jumper didn’t feel great — that probably had something to do with adrenaline. Definitely a little nerves. Hopefully next game, I’ll be a little more calm.”

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