Like it or not, the moment Adam Woodbury signed with the University of Iowa, the expectations game began.
The 7 footer from Sioux City was ranked by Rivals.com as a Top 50 prospect in the Class of 2012 and along the way earned MVP honors at the prestigious NBA Players Camp during the summer before his senior year.
Realistic or not, Iowa fans had high expectations when Woodbury arrived on campus. That comes with being a highly rated recruit, especially one that stands seven feet tall. The bigger you are, the bigger the expectations.
Ask fellow freshman Mike Gesell, who was a Top 100 recruit in 2012 and he will just smile and tell you with size comes expectations. While there were expectations for Gesell, he knows on the outside, fans are going to have them. He also knows it's a very different game for a guard versus a center.
"It is a different game. In high school he was going up against football players who were smaller and just brought into bang on him. That's what we did when we played him," Gesell said with a laugh. "The Big Ten is a physical league and when you are down in the post banging and it's going to be tough. I think Adam has shown he is more than capable."
Thru 27 games in his first collegiate season, Woodbury is averaging 4.8 points, 5.1, rebounds, and nearly one block shot per game while playing 16 minutes per contest. Head Coach Fran McCaffery says he's been pleased with nearly every aspect of his freshman center's game this season.
"You've heard me say many times, if I played him a ton of minutes and he stayed out of foul trouble, he would lead the league in rebounding. I think he's put a lot of pressure on himself to be a scorer. He's going to affect his game with his defense, rebound and running more than anything else," McCaffery said Monday.
McCaffery says that while most aspects of his game have translated very well to the college level, his offense will come with time and experience.
"I think people look at that and immediately figure that he's going to be getting us more baskets. But that was never really who he was. He was a guy that could move his feet. He was a guy that was going to be physical and tough. He was going to be able to rebound and outlet the ball, run and play in the transition game, move his feet on ball screens defensively and affect the game that way," McCaffery said. "I think once he comes to grips with all of that and doesn't put incredible pressure on himself to have to be a scorer, then I think what you're going to see is a guy that really is effective."
Perhaps a better measure to see where Woodbury stands as a freshman center at the highest level of college basketball is to compare him to his peers. Looking at other freshmen players classified as centers in the Class of 2012, Woodbury stacks up right there with nearly every other highly rated center.
There are a few outliers on the list of 2012 centers and how they have performed in their freshman year. For example, before seeing his season end early due to a knee injury, the #2 ranked player in the class, Nerlens Noel was averaging 10.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 4.4 blocks per game while playing 32 minutes. While it is probably not fair to go this route, it is interesting that Woodbury is averaging half the amount of minutes as Noel was and if you doubled up his stats, the Hawkeye freshman center would be right there in terms of points and rebounds.
The #4 ranked recruit in the 2012 class, Isaiah Austin is averaging 13.4 points per game and 9 rebounds at Baylor. Austin and Noel appear to be the outliers, but that could be because they are the only highly rated freshmen averaging over 30 minutes per game.
The rest of the highly rated centers in the Class of 2012 are actually very comparable to Woodbury's freshman production for the Hawkeyes.
Steven Adams, the #5 recruit in the class, is averaging 7.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game for Pittsburgh. Adams is averaging 23 minutes per contest.
The #9 ranked recruit, Kaleb Tarczewski, is averaging 6.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, and just under one block per game for the Arizona Wildcats while playing 21 minutes per game.
Cameron Ridley, the #29 recruit in the class is averaging 4.3 points and 4.5 rebounds per game while playing 17 minutes per game for Texas.
One player that Iowa fans have pointed to for comparisons sake within the Big Ten is Michigan's Mitch McGary. It should be noted that McCary went to prep school for a year, so he is actually one year older than Woodbury. This season, McGary is averaging 6 points, 5.7 rebounds, and less than one block per game for the Wolverines while playing 18 minutes per game.
Beyond the Noel and Austin's of the world, really only one highly ranked center is putting up fairly significant numbers as a freshman and that's Josh Scott at Colorado. He is averaging 11.4 points and 5 rebounds per game and is playing 29 minutes per game. Scott was ranked by Rivals as the #61 player in the Class of 2012.
Based on the numbers, of the centers listed by Rivals who were among the Top 65 players, which included 16 prospects, only three are reaching double figures in points. Woodbury's 4.8 points per game is in the middle of the pack of that group of freshmen centers. Only two freshmen centers are averaging more than five rebounds per game thus far this year (Noel and Austin) and once again, Woodbury is right in the middle of the pack.
I wrote many times before the start of the season that if Woodbury could average five points and five rebounds per game, then based on past results from freshmen centers around college basketball, that should be considered a successful season. He's on pace to do just that.
Woodbury wasn't going to come in and light up the scoreboard. That's not how he is built and the growth in that area will come in future seasons. What he has done is given the Hawkeyes another strong rebounder, a physical presence in the middle, and a guy who just plays hardnosed basketball when he is on the floor. The offense will come and the rest of his game will continue to grow and that's a good thing for Iowa Basketball.
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