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With less than one month left in the season, University of Iowa senior Eric May's men's basketball journey is entering the final act.
"It's starting to sink in," says May, a team co-captain. "At this point in the season, you start counting down the games. You have to take advantage of every moment. I want to make it last as long as I can."
May is Iowa's lone scholarship senior on this year's squad and the 6-foot-5 small forward has seen his role with this year's team change from previous seasons.
"I was more an offensive-minded player my first three years," says May. "I had to be because of the different make-up of those teams. Now, I'm more of a facilitator, making solid plays, and I've accepted that role. I like being that type of guy and feel like I do it well."
With a number of other teammates filling the basket, UI head coach Fran McCaffery believes May is helping the team in other areas and playing the best basketball of his career.
"Eric has just focused on trying to be a really good all-around basketball player this year," says McCaffery. "He's a good driver and has been phenomenal in finding guys that are open. His defense has been stellar. He understands the game plan and how to carry it out. He is in many ways, arguably, our best player right now."
May's scoring average has dipped 4.7 points from his freshman campaign, but he has improved in a number of other key statistical areas. His free throw percentage (73.3 percent), assist (1.7) and turnover rate (0.6), assist-to-turnover ratio (2.7), and offensive rebound average (1.3) are the best it has been during his four-year career.
May, a two-time academic All-Big Ten honoree and accounting major, says that being a senior leader has meant having a louder vocal leadership role with the team.
"I'm pretty lucky to be a part of this team because the guys listen and the new guys take on encouragement," he says. "Any time I correct them, they listen and accept it."
The Hawkeyes suffered some tough defeats in the first-half of the Big Ten season, but May points to how the team finished last season as a good example of what is possible for the young players.
"We're doing some good things right now," he says. "We need to stay positive, stay together and keep working. We have a really good team and when we play together, we're tough."
After playing in his final regular season home game on March 9, he and his teammates will travel to Chicago for the Big Ten Tournament, which is making its return to the United Center for the first time since 2007 when May attended as a fan.
"To be able to go to the United Center now and play in the tournament is exciting," says the Dubuque native.
May believes his favorite moment as a Hawkeye has yet to come, and is proud of being a part of something special.
"Being a part of turning this program around is what I came to Iowa for," he says. "I'm really happy to see the positive direction it's going."