IOWA CITY, Iowa – The last time Iowa basketball practiced five-on-five, it was at Butler University in Indianapolis on March 11, a day before competing in the Big Ten Tournament. That event and the NCAA Tournament were canceled the next day because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Season over.
The Hawkeye reconvened for the first time Monday with voluntary strength and conditioning workouts, and open gym. The coaching staff has limited contact until July 20, the date the NCAA set for the return of summer activities for men’s college basketball.
For Iowa players, limited workouts are welcome after a three-month quarantine. Zoom calls were nice, but there’s nothing like running up and down the court with your teammates or pushing each other in the weight room.
“I think it’s been great for them,” coach Fran McCaffery told HN Thursday. “We’re not involved. We’re not demanding that they be here. We have set times where they have the ability to come on their own, and the guys are coming in pretty regularly.
“Seeing them be together is probably the best feeling.”
The Hawkeyes return all of their starters from a team that finished 20-11 overall, 11-9 in the Big Ten and would have been an NCAA Tournament team. They add back in three-year Jordan Bohannon, who missed most of last season after a second hip surgery, Jack Nunge, who tore his ACL early in the 2019-20 campaign, and Patrick McCaffery, son of the head coach, who played in only two games after suffering from residual effects of thyroid cancer. They also welcome in five freshmen.
Most early pre-season predictions tab Iowa as a Top 10 team nationally and a conference favorite. That hinges on the return of Big Ten player of the year, Luka Garza, who is going through the NBA Draft process and has until Aug. 17 to decide whether he will leave or come back for his senior season.
One of the new Hawkeyes hasn’t made it to campus. Freshman big man Josh Ogundele remained home in London due to travel restrictions brought on by the pandemic.
“It’s just complicated. We’ve got a lot of people working on it. We’re hopeful. He’s chomping at the bit to get over here. With everything that’s going on, there’s a travel ban in certain places. So we’re trying to get everything in place and hopefully he can get tested and get over here,” Fran McCaffery said.
Iowa is keeping Ogundele involved virtually, trying its best to make him feel a part of the team without being with it.
“We’re continuing to have him speak with the coaching staff and nutritionists and so forth so he’s staying in shape. We’re just encouraging him to stay positive because he’s getting frustrated, I think, as I think a lot of foreign players are, not only in college, but also in the NBA that are trying to get back over,” McCaffery said.