Much of the talk surrounding the Iowa basketball team a year ago had to do with the tremendous depth at coach Fran McCaffery’s disposal. With so many capable players on the roster one has the luxury of substituting religiously in order to keep their team fresh while progressively wearing down the opposition, right?
For a portion of 2013-14 that was indeed the case for the Hawkeyes. However, things became increasingly complicated for the coaching staff and players to navigate as the mid-season addition of injured Josh Oglesby turned a tidy ten man rotation into an awkward eleven.
Unfortunately, one of the players who suffered from the situation was sophomore guard Anthony Clemmons.
As a freshman Clemmons was a regular starter for a significant portion of the season, giving the Hawkeyes a two point guard look next to Mike Gesell. In fact, although Gesell was slightly better statistically a valid argument could be made that Clemmons had the better all-around year. The Lansing, Michigan native was a pesky on-ball defender and solid distributor on offense, but like the majority of young point guards he could be turnover prone.
With the infusion of talent and depth that the Hawkeye roster underwent prior to this past season, as well as the shift to a predominantly bigger lineup, minutes were more difficult to find.
For most of the non-conference portion of Iowa’s schedule Clemmons was undeterred by these changes. The sophomore saw significant time as the primary backcourt reserve, and due to a slow start by Gesell, actually found himself on the floor late in a number of close games. In just under 20 minutes a game, Clemmons averaged over 3 assists and shot nearly 50% from the three point line.
It was at this point just prior to Big Ten play that Oglesby returned and Clemmons’ season took a turn for the worse. For this and whatever other reasons, the rest of 2013-14 was mostly nightmarish for the sophomore, as he would play double digit minutes just four times, and never score more than two points in a game.
Despite the overall disappointing season, if you look closely enough you’ll see that Clemmons did improve his game in various areas. The statistical totals are far from staggering, but increases in his assist to turnover ratio as well as a 14% jump in field goal percentage to over 51% give some hope for the future.
Heading into next season it’s difficult to forecast what role will be in store for Clemmons. Star Devyn Marble is gone, but the addition of junior college guard Trey Dickerson as well as the other returning guards makes a prediction of the 2014-15 backcourt cloudy at best. I will say however, that the mere return of Clemmons next season is a positive sign, especially with the current state of college hoops in which countless players choose to transfer at seemingly the first potential sign of adversity. It would have been very easy for Clemmons to take such a path, but he seems to be the type of player willing to take on a challenge rather than run from it.
It’s because of this type of attitude that I still believe he has something to offer the Hawkeyes this upcoming season no matter how crowded the backcourt may seem at the moment.
I see the best case scenario being that Clemmons develops into Iowa’s lock down perimeter defender. A guy that can come off the bench and provide a similar type of instant energy and production that Gabe Olaseni did a year ago from his frontcourt position.
Not only that, but Clemmons’ career shooting and assists numbers show that he is capable of both setting up his teammates and knocking down open looks from the perimeter. If he can reassert his position in the regular rotation there’s no reason that he can’t contribute value in the the multiple previously mentioned aspects of the game for 15-20 minutes a night.
Much like Mike Gesell in the previous installment of this series, it would be unwise for fans to write off Anthony Clemmons before they have the chance to see what elements and improvements he has made to his game, as well as the role Fran McCaffery intends to utilize him in next season.