(Photo courtesy of Iowa Athletics)

To be honest with you, I was decently close to leaving. If I had taken my chances in the NBA Draft, I could have been at peace with whatever would have happened next.

But that's not where God was guiding me. I rely on him with all my thoughts and prayers, and He’s the first one I turn to whenever I’m making a decision – big or small. I pray that God can make the decision obvious for me, and he was directing me to stay put. We have unfinished business here in Iowa City, and I want to help the program turn the corner. I want to be here when we change the way people view Iowa basketball.

In some ways, it reminds me of the story of Noah. When God told Noah to build his ark, it seemed like a monumental task, but he felt compelled to follow God's instructions. I don't think we're preparing for a flood this time around, but God is telling me to follow His path, regardless of where it leads.

One of those people I learned my work ethic from was LeBron James. He's been my favorite player since I was a kid, but watching what he did this postseason was incredible. He carried the team on his back. He didn't complain about all the minutes he played. He just shouldered the burden and did what it took for his team to win.

That's how I am trying to approach this season. Whatever my teammates need out of me, that's what I'm willing to do. During my freshman year, Peter Jok was the leader of our team. Last year was the first time in my life that I've been the guy. And now that I'm back, there's no question who is getting the ball when it's the final seconds and our team needs a basket.

That's what I've wanted since I was a kid. When I was in elementary school, I wasn't pretending to be anybody, even LeBron, as the seconds were counting down on the shot clock. I was always pretending to be future Tyler Cook. Well now that time has arrived and everybody is excited to see how I respond to the pressure.

God is also waiting to see how I respond to the ups and downs that this season will bring.

 
 

(Photo courtesy of Iowa Athletics)

Even if this season brings us a spot in the Big Dance, and we go to the NCAA Tournament, some people still might be asking the question - was it worth it? Was it worth giving up on all the money of the NBA to stay in Iowa for another year?

And the other big question that people don't like to address....what if I get hurt? I know that I am one serious injury from my NBA Draft stock becoming irrelevant.

Here's the way I look at it - I'm not afraid of what the future holds, because fear is an insult to God. It's not for me to determine if I stay healthy this year, or if teams want to draft me next summer. It's for me to accept those circumstances, regardless if I enjoy them.

I got to learn from some of my heroes firsthand this summer, as I spent time at the Nike Elite Camp in Los Angeles, where LeBron, Kevin Durant, Bradley Beal, and Devin Booker were hanging out. It's an amazing honor to be invited by Nike to spend time with them, but it also helps you transition to becoming a pro.

When I met Tristan Thompson it wasn't like "Oh wow, you're Tristan Thompson." It was more like I'm supposed to be playing against you a year from now, so I'm going to show you what I've got.

In the meantime, I'm hoping to put those skills on display right here at UI. Iowa fans, get ready, because we are hungry to win this season. And we want you to be there when we do.

We'll see you in November.

Thomas Hager3 Comments