Nicholas Baer wasn't the biggest, strongest, or even most talented member of the Iowa men's basketball team the last five years, but he was easily my favorite during his Hawkeye career.

I loved Nicholas' fire and he ALWAYS brought a spark, usually off the bench. I believe that was a product of his hustle. When you were on the court with him, I expect you couldn't help but work harder.

It's easily forgotten that Baer wasn't on scholarship his first couple years at Iowa. After his redshirt freshman season, Fran McCaffery had to find him one. Though he played an average of only 14.5 minutes that season, his impact was obvious and fans, like me, were already in love with the Bettendorf product.

He played in 34 games his sophomore season and averaged 7.5 points and 5.8 rebounds... his highest per game average in either category during his career. He was named the Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year and this was his message on Instagram:

To all aspiring basketball players: You do not have to start to make an impact on the game!! Find your role and be a star in your role.
Thank you to the coaches who voted for me, and my teammates past and present who have pushed me along the way. B1G week ahead 👆

It was truly an incredible season for the former walk-on who was the only Division One player in America who scored more than 225 points, blocked over 35 shots, had more than 45 steals and made over 40 3-pointers during that season.

Baer's final two seasons were both solid but the adulation waned. Did we appreciate him less? Perhaps so, and that's a shame. His importance to the team has always been clear, and not just on the floor. Following Iowa's loss to Tennessee last weekend in the NCAA Tournament it was the senior Baer, having played his final game, that was comforting teammates Ryan Kriener and Luka Garza:

Nicholas Baer, thanks for your passion and incessant hustle on the court. We'll miss you.

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