IOWA CITY Melsahn Basabe has a new role with the Iowa men's basketball team, one most veterans would dislike.
Basabe, a 6-foot-7 junior forward, will start the season as the sixth man. It's an unusual role for Basabe, who started the first 52 games of his Iowa career. Basabe will come off the bench to spell starting power forward Zach McCabe or replace center Adam Woodbury.
"I just look at me as being a player and I come in and do what I can do," Basabe said, "and do what coach needs me to do and I don't think about it any other way.
"I've been a starter. I've come off the bench. I just stay positive. I'm coming off the bench. Whatever happens, if I'm playing well enough, I'm sure coach will start me."
Basabe was a member of the Big Ten's all-freshman team two years ago after averaging 11 points and 6.8 rebounds a game. He slumped last year after gaining weight and losing quickness. Basabe averaged 8.2 points and 4.8 rebounds and was benched after 21 games.
But Basabe now is focused on the present and said he's "embracing" his role as the sixth man. He doesn't think his minutes will drop if he's effective.
"If I'm playing well that's the only thing that matters is helping the team so that's what I'm focusing on," Basabe said. "Am I playing well? Am I helping the team? Everything else ... coach is not crazy. He's not going to take someone out if they're doing well, so I'm not worried about it. He's not one of those coaches who limits his bench, and he plays who's doing his job. I know that about him. I don't worry about it. I just play. I'm not the coach. I don't let it discourage me."
Basabe and McCabe each played 15 minutes in Sunday's exhibition. Basabe scored 10 points, sank all six free-throw attempts, grabbed four defensive rebounds and blocked a shot. Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said it was difficult to keep Basabe on the bench and is concerned about keeping Basabe happy, especially after his offseason workouts.
"He's gotten himself in shape," McCaffery said. "It could be more problematic for a guy like him who is right there. I mean, he would be the next guy probably to start, there's no question about that. He would probably be No. 6, and it's hard when you can only start five. But he's been terrific, and he's just been productive when I put him in, and I leave him in, and he's getting it done for us."