The story coming out of Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Saturday evening had nothing to do with the basketball game being played on the floor and everything to do with honoring No. 40.
Twenty years ago Saturday, Chris Street was killed when a snow-plow struck the car that he was driving. If you don’t know the story, watch this. In short, Street was a typical Midwestern sports star: humble, hard-working and a fan favorite. He was averaging 14.5 points and 9.5 boards as a junior when he died.
Iowa honored and celebrated Street’s life at halftime, as the 20 players that have won the Chris Street Award since his passing and more than 50 members of Street’s family were in attendance. They all wore matching t-shirts that the team had on during warm-ups. A video tribute was played in the arena as well.
And you can’t help but think that the added energy and spirit in the building had something to do with what happened on the court, as the Hawkeyes jumped out to a 30-10 lead on the Badgers on Saturday night. Wisconsin hit just three of their first 19 shots from the field, digging themselves a hole that was simply too big to climb out of.
This was an enormous win for an Iowa team looking to change the direction of their program. Fran McCaffery has as much talent on the roster as the Hawkeyes have seen in a decade, and after a couple of close calls, they finally notched a win over one of the Big Ten’s elite. Aaron White led the way with 17 points and seven boards, hitting the final two free throws to seal a 70-66 win.
The outcome throws a wrench into an already-complicated Big Ten race. Wisconsin entered as the league’s last undefeated team, having knocked off Indiana in Assembly Hall on Tuesday and whooped up on Illinois in the Kohl Center last Saturday. They were playing their best basketball of the season and looked like a serious contender for the Big Ten title.
Until they rolled in Carver-Hawkeye Arena as Iowa honored a fallen member of their program.
You don’t have to be one of our more spiritual readers to see how much Saturday night’s performance resembled the move “The 6th Man”. The only difference? Chris Street was probably a better player than Kadeem Hardison.
With practices beginning this weekend, not only are players looking to avoid the injury bug but their coaches are as well. And in the case of Memphis, the Tigers won’t have one of their assistants on the court for a little while due to a knee injury.
Assistant coach Damon Stoudamire, who returned to Josh Pastner’s staff this summer after a two-year stint at Arizona, suffered the injury during a recent workout according to L. Jason Smith of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. And Stoudamire will require surgery, which will put him on the shelf for a little bit.
“He was working out himself and I think he thought he was in his rookie year,” Pastner said. “We think he’s got a torn meniscus, which will require surgery and put him out for a couple of days.”
Stoudamire isn’t the only assistant coach working through pain either. Syracuse’s Mike Hopkins, who is also Jim Boeheim’s heir apparent as head coach, suffered a neck injury body surfing during a family vacation last month. Hopkins spent some time in a neck brace while putting players through workouts as a result of the injury.
As for the Tigers, they’ll have a mixture of experience on the perimeter and youth in the front court as they look to get back to the NCAA tournament after missing out last season. Among the newcomers are talented forwards Dedric and K.J. Lawson, with experienced guards such as Kedren Johnson, Trahson Burrell and Ricky Tarrant (grad transfer from Alabama) expected to be key contributors on the perimeter.
Duke is coming off of a national championship but the roster will look almost completely different for the 2015-16 season. That means last season’s approach to things on the offensive and defensive end will have to change and head coach Mike Krzyzewski mentioned to reporters on Friday how the Blue Devils are still figuring some things out.
“We’re putting in a different offensive system, to personalize it for these guys,” Krzyzewski said to reporters. “And a different defensive system so that we can max out on the talents that they have.
“We’re really proud of our team. I think we’re going to be a really good team.”
Without Jahlil Okafor in the middle, Duke’s offense could shift to a mostly perimeter-oriented team, as the wing and guard depth is superior for this year’s group. Coach K and his staff making adjustments to schemes to fit personnel is a nice move from the Hall of Famer, as he’s done a better job in recent years of making adjustments like this after his stint with USA Basketball.
As the program moves on from Okafor, Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow and Quinn Cook, it’ll be intriguing to see who emerges as a potential go-to offensive player early in the season and how Duke’s offense potentially evolves as the season wears on.