On the eve of last month’s Big Ten basketball tournament, Archie Miller was discussing Iowa State and coach Fran McCaffery during The Field of 68 show “After Dark.”
“Fran McCaffrey doesn’t get enough recognition for how he evaluates, recruits and develops players, and his style of play,” the former Indiana coach said.
Keegan Murray, a finalist for both the Naismith and Wooden Awards, is the latest A. Luke Garza show, who won both of those awards in 2021, was Exhibit B and it goes deeper than that. The Big Ten first-team players Devin Marple, Aaron White and Peter Jock were not recruited by any of the other Big Ten schools. Another first player, Jarrod Uthoff, moved to Iowa from Wisconsin.
Head guard Jordan Bohannon, who had no significant options in the first division as a Linn-Mar of Marion senior, got his only Big Ten bid from Iowa. He left as the program’s third leading scorer of 2,000 points, the most massive 3-point shooter in the Big Ten and leader of the Hawkeyes ever in assists.
McCaffrey offered Garza a scholarship as a sophomore overweight. Garza left Iowa City as American Player of the Year, and twice National Player of the Year.
Murray, with one division featuring me as a Cedar Rapids Prairie senior, was also the unanimous All-American and unanimous pick of the Big Ten from the first team. He also won the Karl Malone Award for Best Nation Force Forward.
McCaffrey and his coaching staff deserve some credit for helping these light-duty players take their games to the next level.
McCaffrey is looking for players to fit into his tempo, and he doesn’t worry about their rising rankings in the country’s top 100 potential teams. Often times, these guidelines were applied immediately.
And recent fluctuations in the roster give McCaffrey another chance to upgrade his roster in 2022-23.
Murray’s jump to the NBA and the transfer of scholarship players Joe Toussaint, Josh Ogondale and Austin Ashe means there are a few job openings on the roster.
Iowa will definitely try to add a big man through the transfer portal. And while McCaffrey and his crew are still researching their options, there’s a good chance the Hawkeyes will add a second player this spring if the right player is around.
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This will be in addition to point guard Dasonte Bowen and senior goalkeeper/junior striker Josh Dix, who signed letters of intent last November. Bowen McCaffrey mentions Ronald Moore, who played with him at a high level in Siena.
Finding the right pieces, and making sure they fit into the returning players on the roster, is the challenge that McCaffrey and his company face going forward.
“I know how to put a list together,” McCaffrey said. “I know what I’m doing.”
McCaffrey is an old-school coach in the sense that he builds his program with high school students and leads their development throughout their careers. He is not against the transfer gate. In fact, McCaffrey is looking there for a huge guy.
He said, “I’ll take anyone.” “But you can only do it if the men leave. There is a reaction to every action.”
In other words, don’t look for it to try to get someone out of the gate in a center with a lot of returning players.
“If you enter the gate and find a man,” he said, “you may lose three of your comrades.”
At last count, there were 1,255 players in the transfer portal, a number that includes walking games. This is more than three for each of the first division programs.
McCaffrey went to the gate and got North Dakota’s Philip Rebraca last season. Now, Murray’s departure puts Iowa in dire need of a huge man. But remember this. Numbers alone will not determine who is going after the Hawks. The player must fit in well with the returning players, and have the skills to play with a fast paced gameplay.
Iowa has been associated with many centers, most notably the 6-11 Fardaws Aimaq of the Utah Valley. He averaged 18.9 points and 13.6 rebounds in 2021-22. Aymac, who began his career at Mercer, said last week that he is considering Arkansas, Kentucky, Iowa, Texas Tech, Washington, Gonzaga, Texas and Arizona. He made visits to Iowa, Houston, Texas Tech, and Washington.
The competition to find a high-quality big guy is going to be tough, especially with Aimaq, who might also be testing the waters of the NBA’s drag. But Iowa does have a legitimate selling point with the success and national recognition that Garza and Murray have had on the show over the past three seasons.