Kent McCausland’s fondest basketball memory occurred 16 years ago this month.
The Hawkeye guard from 1996-99, who finished his career as the most accurate 3-point shooter in school history, played a key role on the last Iowa squad to reach the Sweet Sixteen.
A No. 5 seed in the 1999 NCAA tournament, the Hawkeyes defeated 12-seed Alabama-Birmingham in the opening round, upset 4-seed Arkansas in round two, and lost to eventual champion UConn in the round of 16.
McCausland led the team with 39 points in the postseason, knocking down 11 3s during the three-game stretch.
“You get the feeling anything is possible,” he said of the 1999 team’s performance. “Growing up in the state of Iowa and getting to play for the Hawkeyes was a dream come true. It’s surreal. We left everything out on that floor, and did everything we could to make the people of Iowa proud.”
McCausland, 38, now a partner at PDCM Insurance in Waterloo, is still making the people of Iowa proud through his heavy involvement in giving back to the community.
The married father of two serves as board president of the Boys and Girls Club of Cedar Valley, works to bring events to the area as part of the Cedar Valley Sports and Entertainment Commission, and is on the National I-Club board.
In 2013, he was recognized by The Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier as a “20 under 40” award winner, which “honors outstanding young people in the Cedar Valley who are making a difference in their work and personal lives to make the area a better place.”
“Growing up in Waterloo gives me a feeling of pride and toughness,” he said. “Cedar Valley has been good to me. You want to come back and make things better than what you had. The goal is always to try to give your children a better life than what you had, part of that means helping out in the community. Trying to make an impact in any way possible.”
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The former Hawkeye tried to make that same positive impact on the hardwood.
The three-year starter earned Team MVP honors in 1999, and was best known for his perimeter shooting abilities.
He led the nation in 3-point shooting percentage in 1997 (52.2 percent) — still an Iowa single-season record. Only Jeff Horner, Matt Gatens, and Chris Kingsbury made more 3s in their Iowa careers, but none had McCausland’s precision. He finished his collegiate career as the school’s most accurate 3-point shooter (45.3 percent).
The biggest complaint McCausland has heard about his playing career was that he didn’t shoot enough.
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“I always took my shot when it was there. I didn’t force it,” he said. “I felt it was my duty to the team to take my shot when it was there, and when it wasn’t to move the ball and get other guys opportunities. I think that made us a tough team to defend.”
Former teammate J.R. Koch agrees. While McCausland may have passed up some opportunities from beyond the arc, his unselfish playing-style defined Iowa’s team-first identity.
“We weren’t the most athletic team I ever played on at Iowa, but that 1999 team was a very selfless team,” Koch said. “We played for each other. We didn’t care who scored the points as long as we won.”
McCausland still follows the Hawkeye basketball team, and remains close friends with Koch and Ryan Bowen — who were all roommates at Iowa.
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The trio still gets together on an annual basis to compete. Not on the basketball court, but on the golf course. Each year, they tee it up with hopes of winning “The Shady Glen Cup” — named after the street McCausland, Bowen, and Koch lived on in Iowa City.
Although McCausland was described as the best golfer of the group, Koch took home the trophy in their last meeting on the links (pictured).
“Those bonds and friendships you form fighting on the court together will never end,” Koch said. “Kent and Ryan (Bowen) are class guys. I’ll keep in touch with them the rest of my life.”
As Iowa prepares to face Davidson on Friday in the opening round of the 2015 tournament, McCausland hopes this year’s team can create new long-lasting memories for players and fans alike.
The question remains: Will Iowa’s 1999 team still be the last squad to reach the Sweet Sixteen after this week?
“Right now I feel like the team is so confident with Aaron White playing well,” McCausland said. “Others on the team feed off that confidence, and it gives you the feeling you can beat anybody. When you have that confidence that’s when you can make a run. They’ve got it in them. The chemistry looks very good.”