By Jeff Goodman
Johnny Moran is the lone starter remaining from the Northern Iowa team that shocked the world and knocked off Kansas two years ago in the NCAA tournament.
And he didn’t even play in Brazil.
Moran, according to Panthers coach Ben Jacobson, is still recovering from shoulder surgery and is a couple weeks away from being ready to return to the court.
So Jacobson headed to Brazil with five true freshmen, two redshirt frosh and three sophomores. Moran is the lone senior on the team.
``It may have worked out better for some of the young guys that Johnny didn’t play,” Jacobson said.
What Jacobson learned: ``From a basketball standpoint, we’ve got a little more size and length, and maybe a little more speed and athleticism than we had a year ago. You can see it in practice and in games when we’re able to get to places – whether it’s defensively or rebounding (on both ends) – because of our length.”
What or who impressed him: ``A couple of the freshmen played really well. Redshirt freshman Nate Buss rebounded the ball well, especially on the offensive end. He’s 6-9 and long and I was impressed with how hard he went. Freshman Deon Mitchell played extremely well against one of the pro teams – guys that were much older then him. He was really good in the open floor and does a good job of finding guys and making it easier for them. Deon’s going to be really important for us this year.”
What concerned him: ``We didn’t put in a lot of offensive stuff. Most of what we did was transition. It’s not like we executed a lot of sets. We spent most of the time in practice on the defensive end of the floor. The challenge for us is going to be in September, October and November – because we’ll be relying on a couple of freshmen to make an impact for us.
- Junior big man Jake Koch is coming off ankle surgery in the spring. Koch averaged 9.8 points and 5.0 rebounds last season – second on the team in both categories.
- Jacobson lost Jordan Egleseder, Adam Koch and Ali Farokmanesh after the Sweet 16 run two years ago – and lost point guard and last year’s leading scorer, Kwadzo Ahelegbe, and Lucas O’Rear after this past season. However, Jacobson feels as though the gradual losses have allowed the program to remain competitive towards the top of the Missouri Valley. ``We certainly feel that way – and I know our guys feel that way.”
- Jacobson spoke highly of his quality depth coming off the trip and also was blown away by how hard his kids played. ``We had guys diving for loose balls when we were up big.” Tyler Lange, who played a total of 46 minutes a year ago, was one of those guys – as he dove for a ball up 40 points with less than two minutes remaining.
- Freshman guard Jevon Lyle was the lone player who didn’t make the trip due to a violation of team rules.
- Jacobson, when asked how often he thinks about the fact that he should have Doug McDermott on his team, jokingly blamed Dana Altman. Remember, when Altman left Creighton for Oregon it meant that Greg McDermott went from Iowa State to Creighton and brought his son, Doug, with him. Doug, arguably the top player in the league, was slated to play at Northern Iowa. ``I don’t want to bring Dana into this,” Jacobson joked. ``But why did he have to go take Oregon?”
- Jacobson is unable to talk about it due to NCAA rules, but Northern Iowa has a verbal commitment from the youngest of the three Koch brothers: Bennett. The word on the street is that Bennett Koch is a cross between his two older brothers, Adam, and Jake. He’s got some of Adam’s athleticism and also possesses Jake’s feel for the game.
CBSSports.com's list of teams taking preseason trips
Photo: US Presswire
Trippin': Young Northern Iowa team post-Brazil
By Jeff Goodman