NORTH LIBERTY — It’s no secret Iowa will have to adjust some of its late-clock situations now that Devyn Marble can’t bail out the Hawkeyes anymore.
Marble, who graduated in May, often took control in critical moments, and his basketball teammates allowed it to happen last year. It made sense with Marble averaging 18.3 points a game in Big Ten play and earning all-Big Ten honors. But it also means this year’s squad must make strides and gain confidence in those situations.
“It was definitely Dev’s team,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. “When we got late game, we relied on him quite a bit. He was really good for us, not only taking and making shots, but making plays for other people. So somebody else is going to have to fill that role.”
The 6-foot-6 Marble stood out as a versatile, skilled ballhandler who could post up smaller guards and blow past bigger defenders. Iowa’s remaining guards are skilled in different areas but none match Marble’s complete skill set.
McCaffery will look to point guard Mike Gesell to move into Marble’s primary playing-making role. As a sophomore Gesell led the Big Ten in assist-to-turnover ratio, but he often deferred to Marble in the clutch. Gesell said he believes he can handle that role.
“I think so,” Gesell said. “I’ve been working a lot on being able to create my own shot better, being able to create for others, too. A lot of late-clock stuff is not only getting a shot for yourself, it’s getting a shot for a teammate, too. So I’m looking to really improve both of those this off-season.”
Iowa’s players look at Marble’s absence as an opportunity. They all respect his game and consider his pure talent almost irreplaceable. But it also means that the remaining holdovers from Iowa’s 20-13 squad must take initiative and coordinate their offensive attack without deferring the way they did last year.
“I think we’ll be a better team in terms of everybody needs to bring it every night,” Iowa senior center/forward Gabe Olaseni said. “We can’t just rely on Dev at the end of the shot clock to go get a shot. That means we have to swing the ball, we need to try to find the open man as soon as possible, we need to turn good shots into great shots.
“Last year in the back of our minds I feel like a lot of guys were like Dev will get a score at the end of the shot clock. This year we don’t really have a guy like that.”
The challenge for Iowa is to accentuate their positives and build on them during the off-season. Marble himself has helped boost his teammates’ confidence with positive texts and phone calls between NBA workouts.
“He did so much for us,” Olaseni said. “He instilled in us the work ethic and confidence in ourselves that we can continue without him. That’s what he’s been he’s been telling us, going back and forth and texting us that we’re going to have a great team next year. We just have to do it as a team.
“Obviously we have great scorers like Whitey (Aaron White), Jarrod (Uthoff), Josh (Oglesby), in terms of it has to be more of a team. I think we’ll be a better team this year.”
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