IOWA CITY, Iowa - College basketball rosters are changing by the day.
“You put teams together now, you don’t build teams,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said this week. “That’s what they’ve legislated, so that’s what we’ll do.”
And it’s fruitless to try and put a finger on a league’s balance of power in 2021-22, with roster fluidity at an all-time high.
“You don’t worry about anyone else’s roster right now,” McCaffery said. “You just worry about getting your own guys ready. It will solidify once school starts.”
The transfer portal continues to be a revolving door, with transactions made on a daily basis. And it’s been a give-and-take off-season for the Hawkeyes.
Jack Nunge entered the transfer portal and ended up at Xavier. And then CJ Fredrick did likewise and recently selected Kentucky in one of the worst-kept secrets of college basketball’s new-age recruiting season. In Fredrick’s case, McCaffery has taken the high road.
“I’m not going to say anything about it,” he said.
The transfer portal also gave Iowa a much-needed post player in Filip Rebraca, who comes from North Dakota. The Hawkeye staff had planned to mine the portal for a second post player until 6-11 Riley Mulvey decided to reclassify, signed with Iowa and will join the team when workouts begin in June.
Iowa’s 2021-22 team will be younger and more inexperienced than a season ago, especially if Joe Wieskamp keeps his name in the NBA Draft. The shooting guard, who took his game up a notch last season and was a finalist for the Jerry West Award, has until July 7 to take his name out of the draft and return to Iowa for his senior season.
Wieskamp averaged 14.8 points, 6.6 rebounds and shot 46.2 percent from three as a junior. He has scored 1,283 career points and started all 97 games he’s played in at Iowa.
“We will fully support him and his desire to reach his goal,” McCaffery said. “Whatever we need to do to help him, we will. First of all, it’s the right thing to do. The other thing is that anyone who might come along later has to know that you want to support them fully in helping them reach their dream.”
Guard Jordan Bohannon is one of several players to take advantage of an extra year of eligibility offered by the NCAA because of the pandemic. McCaffery sees his return as a win-win.
“This guy has proven it at this level, he gives you versatility, he gives you toughness and he gives you veteran leadership on a team that is going to be younger,” McCaffery said. “That’s exactly what you need.”
Bohannon is already the school’s career leader in games played (143), three-pointers made (364), assists (639) and free-throw percentage (.887). He needs 364 points to join Luka Garza and Roy Marble as the only players in Iowa history to reach the 2,000-point mark.
Guard Connor McCaffery, who was fourth in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio last season (3.73) and led the country as a sophomore (4.60), won’t be able to take part in summer workouts. He had double hip surgery after the season and is expected to be cleared to participate by Sept. 1.
“When you look at our roster the last two years he was surrounded by four scorers and that was his job,” Coach McCaffery said. “He had to play out of position two years ago. Last year he played basically four positions. But he’s so incredibly valuable and understands what it takes to win and puts that over everything else. His role will change a bit this year. He’ll be more aggressive offensively, which he’s capable of doing. We’ll still need his versatility and his leadership.”
The only other returnee with significant experience is junior point guard Joe Toussaint. He has 20 starts in 62 career games, but saw his scoring average dip from 6.5 to 3.7 points a game last season.
“I want to see him continue to grow in his ability to run a team,” McCaffery said. “He’s proven he can be a phenomenally tenacious defender. He can get in the lane any time he wants.”
The coach said that workouts this summer will be designed to get as many reps possible for both the freshmen on last season’s team as well as newcomers Rebraca and incoming freshmen Payton Sandfort, Mulvey and walk-on Luc Laketa.
“You really want to work with your new guys,” McCaffery said. “We’ve got a lot of teaching to do to get those guys up to speed. And we want to get last year’s freshman class a lot of reps in that period of time. We’ll do some skill development but also some team stuff.”
Playing the biggest roles among the newcomers last season were forwards Keegan Murray, a 6-8 freshman, and Patrick McCaffery, a 6-9 redshirt freshman.
Murray made the all-Big Ten freshman team after averaging 7.2 points and 5.1 rebounds. His level of play surprised many, but not his coach.
“If you watched him grow up, he always played that way,” McCaffery said. “He never got rattled. He could make plays, dribble, pass and shoot. As he kept growing, with a complete skill set, you’ve got something really special there. He just continued to believe in himself and continued to work. It’s interesting that he wasn’t recognized by nearly enough people. And he should have been. He did everything he could do.”
McCaffery predicts big things from Keegan’s twin, Kris, this season. Kris, also 6-8, saw limited action in 13 games last season.
“I think Kris is going to be really good,” McCaffery said. “I feel really good about him.” The coach said that Patrick McCaffery “is really working hard. He’s in a very good place. He’s working out two to three times a day, working on his body, working on his game and his shooting. He has such tremendous athleticism. Our goal is to get him over 210 pounds by the time the season starts. If we get him there, he’ll be really special.”
Guards Ahron Ulis and Tony Perkins both stepped up at big moments last season, offering a glimpse of what they can give this team moving forward.
“They’re both really good kids and smart players,” McCaffery said. “Both are very versatile. Tony is a very good rebounder. Ahron can play the one (point guard) or two (shooting guard) for us.”
Center Josh Ogundele, 6-10, wasn’t able to take part in summer workouts last season. He couldn’t leave his home in London, England, because of COVID-19 restrictions. He played just 17 minutes in eight games a season ago while playing catch-up.
“This is a big summer for him,” McCaffery said. “He’s made some strides. He needs to make another step. And I think he will. He’s figuring it out. And I think he’s hungry. That’s what we need from him.”