The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

PCP | Who will Iowa men’s basketball’s breakout player be this season?

While sports reporter Brad Schultz argues for Payton Sandfort, fellow sports reporter Chris Meglio believes Tony Perkins is in the position to take over.
Matt Sindt
Iowa guard Tony Perkins jumps to block a shot by Ohio State guard Bruce Thornton during a men’s basketball game between Iowa and Ohio State at United Center in Chicago on Thursday, March 9, 2023. The Buckeyes defeated the Hawkeyes, 73-69. Thornton scored 17 points and 6 assists.

Payton Sandfort

In recent years, the Iowa men’s basketball program has had its fair share of breakout players.

Luka Garza, Keegan Murray, and Kris Murray all had breakout seasons that led to them becoming NBA players.

Little is expected of the Hawkeyes this year after losing Murray and veteran player Connor McCaffery. After all, Iowa was ranked ninth out of 14 teams in the Big Ten preseason poll.

Under head coach Fran McCaffery, the Hawkeyes have been one of the most potent offensive teams in the country, leading the conference in scoring over the last three seasons.

For a roster in desperate need of a breakout star, though, there’s only one player on this team that fits the mold: Payton Sandfort.

Hailing from Waukee, Iowa, the 6-foot-7 forward has been one of the most lethal three-point shooters in the Big Ten with his quick release and long range.

He’s one of the most confident shooters I have ever seen wear a Hawkeye uniform, and his ability to score inside gives him tremendous upside against some of the best shot blockers in the conference.

Sandfort also has a reputation for being a clutch performer, and his game-tying three-pointers against Michigan and Michigan State gained Iowa two critical home wins that kept them in the tournament picture. Without those shots, I don’t think the Hawkeyes would have made the NCAA Tournament.

Though he suffered through a slump to begin last season, the third-year will be one of the key focal points in Iowa’s offense this season, and I expect his number to be called in key situations where the Hawkeyes need him the most.

With a lot of new faces on the roster, Sandfort’s leadership and experience will be a key factor if Iowa wants to make the Big Dance for the fifth consecutive season.

Tony Perkins

Look out for Tony Perkins to take over the workload for the Hawkeye men’s basketball team this season.

Over the 2022-23 season, Perkins averaged 12.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 2.8 assists on .44/.33/.76 shooting splits. He was third on the team in scoring, third in rebounds, and second in assists for the season.

Now without their two leading scorers and rebounders in Kris Murray and Filip Rebrača as well as the team’s leader in assists in Ahron Ulis, Perkins is the ideal guy to take the leftover weight on his shoulders.

Considering the overall balance of the team, Perkins told Hawk Central his biggest challenge he faces this season will be filling in that leadership role rather than the stat sheet.

“Motivation is high because I’ve got the young kids looking at me,” Perkins said. “They want to play as well, so it puts a lot on me. I’ve been here before, and I can lead a team [and] put them in the right direction. I have to lead them the way that [players have led me] the previous years.”

So far this season, the Iowa men’s basketball team has held a two-game slate in Europe against the Barcelona All-Stars and Valencia All-Stars in mid-August as well as an exhibition game against Quincy on Oct. 30.

In those three games, Perkins averaged 13.3 points, three rebounds, and 3.3 assists on .52/.33/.63 shooting splits.

Perkins expects to have a big season for the Hawkeyes, telling Hawk Central he traveled to Vegas to work with his brother who trains professional basketball players.

“[I would train] for, like, four-to-five days straight,” he said. “The other two days, it’s been really important to get my body together. I’m working on improving my shot, my balance, and my ability to run the floor.”

As the season opener comes around and the Hawkeyes progress into mid-season form over the next few months, Hawkeye fans can expect those improvements to show.

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About the Contributors
Chris Meglio, Sports Reporter
Chris Meglio is a first year student at the University of Iowa studying a double major in sport studies and journalism. He will be working as a sports journalist for The Daily Iowan covering women's volleyball for the fall sports season.
Brad Schultz, Sports Reporter