By Patrick Vint on April 8, 2020 at 12:00 pm
Nunge: Not a point guard
© Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Day 7 of the Extravaganza brings a POINT GUARD BATTLE ROYAL.  Here are the one-on-one rules:

  • shoot for first possession
  • alternating possessions
  • play to 15, must win by 2
  • 3s are worth 3 points

Jeff Horner defeats Kurt Looby 15-0 (98-2)
Aaron Fuller defeats Ryan Hogan 15-7 (77-23)
Doug Thomas defeats Jared Reiner 15-13 (56-44)

GAME ONE: No. 7 Chauncey Leslie vs. No. 10 Gabe Olaseni

The 2001-02 Hawkeyes, featuring Luke Recker, Reggie Evans, He Who Shall Not Be Named, and Glen Worley, only needed Leslie -- a 6'0" point guard transfer from Indian Hills C.C. -- as a facilitator off the bench.  Leslie responded by dropping a 6/2/2 line, mostly off the bench.  But in 2002-03, with everyone but Worley gone, it became Leslie's squad.  He started every game, led the team in scoring (15.8 ppg) and was second in assists (2.9 apg, behind only Horner's absurd 4.5), led the team in steals (1.5 spg), and even grabbed 4.5 rebounds per contest.  Neither of those teams was great -- one grossly underachieved; the other shuffled in new recruits -- but Leslie served as the link between the Recker-era Hawkeyes and the Brunner/Horner group, and did so with style.

Olaseni started exactly one game in four seasons, stuck as a 6'10" center behind Adam Woodbury.  But in limited minutes, he made his presence known: He was the 2014-15 Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year, finished in the top 12 in the conference in blocked shots three times, and is in the Big Ten top 8 all-time in both offensive rebound percentage and block percentage.  The numbers were never that high, but only because of limited minutes: Olaseni averaged nearly 18 points and 10 boards per 40 minutes as a senior, even though he was averaging only 8 points and 4.5 rebounds per game.  On most teams -- hell, on most Iowa teams -- he would have been a starter.  Instead, he embraced the role given him and found other ways to shine.

GAME TWO: No. 5 Mike Gesell vs. No. 12 Jeff Peterson 

Gesell started 130 games over four seasons in Iowa City, with remarkably consistent results.  He scored 8.0 points per game for his career, never less than 7.4 or more than 8.7 for a particular season.  He shot 31 percent from three, never less than 27 percent or more than 34 percent for a year.  His assist numbers increased over time, peaking with 6.2 per game as a senior, but his assist/turnover ratio hovered near 2.5 all the way through his career.  It never felt like Gesell was the transcendent figure that some expected him to be, but he was a consistent point guard for Iowa teams that had scoring elsewhere and needed a steady hand at the helm.

Jeff Peterson was another of those figures who came into the program under Alford, played primarily for Lickliter, and left before his time.  His freshman season, the last coached by Alford, gave Peterson 11 starts and a 5/2/3 line but horrendous 1.0 assist/turnover.  All of that improved under Lickliter: Peterson shot 40 percent from three, scored 10.4 points per game, improved his assist numbers without a corresponding spike in turnovers, and became a crucial part of Iowa's rotation.  And then he left, spending his final two years of eligibility at Arkansas, and then Florida State as a graduate transfer, never finding the playing time or production that Iowa offered.

GAME THREE:  No. 6 Tony Freeman vs. No. 11 Jack Nunge

It's a day full of point guards!  Next up: Tony Freeman, another Alford-Lick transitional figure.  Freeman, a 6'1" guard, played primarily as a bench player for the last two years of the Alford era, averaging 3 points per game as a freshman, and a respectable 7.5 points and 3.5 assists in 22 minutes per game as a sophomore.  He missed the first ten games of Lickliter's first season, but returned with a vengeance: Freeman scored a team-high 13.8 points per game, shooting 39% from three, and led the team with 3.2 assists per contest on top of it all.  It was an all-time lost season, with Freeman running roughshod over everything while Iowa limped to a 13-19 finish.  And then, like everyone in that time, he was gone, finishing his career with one season at Southern Illinois.

Nunge's struggled with roster depth and injuries since coming to Iowa as the reigning Indiana Mr. Basketball.  He started 14 games as a freshman, scoring 5.7 points per game and adding 2.3 boards.  Nunge then redshirted his sophomore year, returned as a starter in his third season, and promptly suffered a torn ACL that cost him the rest of the campaign after just five games.  The talent is certainly there, but the stretch four skills that were touted when he entered the program haven't been as evident: He's just 31 percent from three so far, and 43 percent from the field.

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