Prime Time is back in North Liberty for its 27th year. It is the longest running summer league in the U.S. and the main reason is Randy Larson, who not only runs the league, but coaches as well.
I remember watching him as a player-coach when the league started.
Randy and I are the same age, so I’ve always been impressed with his energy and passion for Hawkeye basketball.
I went to some of those games at City High when the league first started. There were two gyms and they both were hot.
I saw Chris Street, Jess Settles and even former Hawkeye football player Willie Guy play.
When they moved to West High it was still hot and I saw the first Prime Time game Dean Oliver played in.
It is no comparison to the air conditioned gyms in North Liberty and the Hawk fans are turning out as the excitement builds after a 25-win season.
This year there is only one new recruit, Peter Jok, but two redshirts could make some noise.
Peter scored 35 points in his Prime Time debut on Thursday, June 19, hitting his first three 3-pointers and looking smooth on the offensive end.
“It was fun to play in front of the Hawkeye fans,” said Peter, who averaged 23.6 points as a senior. “I felt good and the ball was going in so I just kept shooting.”
Peter followed that up by scoring 23 points on Sunday, June 23.
Once again, he hit his first two 3-pointers and looks so comfortable on the offensive side.
“Peter is good and he’s going to be a good asset to the team,” said starting center Adam Woodbury, who is teammates with Peter in Prime Time. “He’s got some shooting that we really need to spread the floor. Anyone who can shoot threes and spread the floor makes my job easier.”
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said Peter will play this season.
“I think he’s ready to play in the Big Ten offensively,” said Randy. “Whether he can get the defensive concepts and that intensity, that’s always the tradeoff. If you can’t play defense you won’t play as much under coach McCaffery.”
Jarrod Uthoff and Kyle Meyers sat out last year. Kyle took a regular redshirt while Jarrod had to sit out because he transferred from Wisconsin.
Both are about 6-foot-9, both can run the floor and shoot from the outside.
Kyle and Jarrod played on the scout team last year and made the starters work hard.
“We definitely made it tough on the first string,” said Kyle, who is teammates with Adam and Peter in Prime Time. “It was better for us and actually showed up in the long run.”
Kyle likes the talent and depth on this team.
“We go 10 to 12 deep and you don’t miss a step on the floor when subs come in,” said Kyle. “It’s pretty impressive.”
Kyle goes up against Adam and Gabe in practice.
“They are both completely different players,” said Kyle. “They both bring unique skill sets to the game. Gabe can go in and jump with any guys in the country and Woody can compete with the power players.”
Kyle said, “Jarrod is the outside version of me and I’m the inside version of him.”
They both can shoot outside and can drive to the basket.
“I’ve got the power,” said Kyle. “He’s got the skills.”
They both will add size inside.
Hawkeye fans are excited about how good Adam Woodbury can become.
Last year, as a freshman, Adam and Aaron White started a school record 38 times. Adam was third on the team in rebounding, averaged 4.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and blocked 29 shots.
I thought he did a good job against Cody Zeller, who was drafted in the NBA, until he got into foul trouble.
“That was a good test for me,” said Adam. “I felt as the year progressed I continued to grow as a player.”
Adam wants to get bigger and stronger this summer but never backed down from anyone, even the 340-pound center from Nebraska.
“The stronger you can be,” said Adam. “The tougher you can be down low.”
Adam and Mike Gesell were teammates on the AAU circuit in high school, played against each other when Adam was at East High in Sioux City and Mike was at South Sioux City in Nebraska.
“Playing AAU together was a blast,” said Adam, who scored 32 in his first Prime Time game. “It wasn’t at the level that we were playing at last year. In high school he always killed my team so I’m glad that I could finally play with him and he’s a great person to play with.”
One of the advantages Adam has is that he gets to go up against 6-foot -10 Gabe Olaseni every day in practice.
“He’s one of the most athletic guys I’ve played against,” said the former Sioux City East player. “Going against him every day I’m trying to make him better and he’s making me a lot better. We have good battles but we also enjoy each other off the court.”
Adam plays alongside former Sioux City Heelan prep Zach McCabe and enjoys having Zach on his side.
“He’s one of my favorite guys,” said Adam. “We were on the same Prime Time team last year and I wish we would have been this year. He plays tough and he doesn’t back down from anybody.”
Adam thinks that Iowa’s depth and talent are going to make the Hawkeyes better.
“In practice we are always going to have guys to push us,” Adam said. “Playing time is not guaranteed and you can’t take any days off.”
Iowa will go into next season with a lot of talent and depth.
I asked Randy Larson, who has followed the Hawkeyes almost as much as I have, if this Iowa team can be compared with the Tom Davis’s first team in 1986-1987 which included NBA players Brad Lohaus. B.J. Armstrong and Roy Marble. His answer surprised me a little.
“I would say that Iowa has never had this kind of quality depth,” said Randy. “Iowa has 11 players that could start. I would say that this is the best depth that I’ve seen in my 32 years of watching the Hawks.” Time will tell, but Hawkeye fans should be excited.