With only one month remaining in the season, University of Iowa senior Eric May's men's basketball collegiate journey is entering the final act.
"It's starting to sink in," said 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. 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," said 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," said 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 said. "Any time I correct them, they listen and accept it."
The Hawkeyes have suffered some difficult defeats in the first-half of its Big Ten schedule, but May points to how the team finished last season as a good example of what is possible for this young team.
"We're doing some good things right now," said May. "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 to compete in the Big Ten Tournament, which is making its return to the United Center for the first time since 2007. Coincidentally, that was the first Big Ten Tournament the Dubuque, Iowa, native ever attended, as he went as a fan in 2007.
"To be able to go to the United Center now and play in the tournament is exciting," he said.
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," said May. "I'm really happy to see the positive direction it's going."
May and the Hawkeyes return to action on Valentine's Day night when they travel to Penn State. Tip-off is set for 8:05 p.m. (CT), and the game will be televised on ESPNU.