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IOWA CITY — The news from the Iowa men’s basketball program Monday didn’t come at its annual Media Day.
But the news is this: Owen Freeman, a 6-foot-10, 220-pound player from Bradley, Ill., gave a verbal commitment to the Hawkeyes Monday to be in their 2024 recruiting class. He made his announcement via Twitter.
Freeman, from Bradley-Bourbonnais High School near Kankakee, had visited Indiana, Michigan State and Wisconsin over the last few months, and was offered a scholarship by Illinois, Northwestern, Ohio State and Purdue. He made a return trip to Michigan State.
Iowa offered Freeman a scholarship on June 1, before most of his other Big Ten offers. Hawkeyes Coach Fran McCaffery made multiple trips to see Freeman play this summer.
As for the current Hawkeyes, a 24-year-old post player may be essential if the Hawkeyes are to surpass the ninth-place expectations a Big Ten media panel put on them last week.
Iowa was third in the Big Ten last year at 14-6, McCaffery’s best record in 11 seasons as head coach. In fact, it was Iowa’s best league mark in 34 years.
Two players from that team, National Player of the Year Luka Garza and second-team all-conference forward Joe Wieskamp, are now in the NBA. A third, starting guard, CJ Fredrick, transferred to Kentucky.
Iowa had a year in the stratosphere, and now it’s back to earth unless its players prove otherwise.
There are Big Ten teams with big-time centers like Kofi Cockburn (Illinois), Hunter Dickinson (Michigan) and the combo of Trevion Williams and Zach Edey (Purdue) who might ask the Hawkeyes what they have that can replace Garza?
You don’t really replace Garza. How many collegians come along who pop in 24.1 points per game and make 44 percent of their 3-pointers?
But there may not be a void in the middle. After the season, Filip Rebraca transferred from North Dakota to Iowa.
Rebraca isn’t Garza. He’s 6-foot-9, not 6-11, and weighs 35 or 40 pounds less than Garza did a year ago. However, he didn’t just fall off a truck of beans from North Dakota.
The guy averaged 16.8 points and 7.6 rebounds last season, and it’s Division I ball. Rebraca, his teammates insist, can play.
“He surprised me when I got here, if I’m being honest,” said Iowa junior guard Joe Toussaint. “His pace, his confidence, and just his feel for the game is just amazing. He’s just so good around the rim, post moves, he’s so good. Jump shots, he’s hitting shots.
“What really stood out to me is his patience. He catches the ball and he’s just never in a rush. He’s always got his own pace. He will back you down.
“I just feel like he’s going to have a big year this year.”
Rebraca is the son of Zeljko Rebraca, a 7-foot Serbian who had a 215-game career in the NBA. Zeljko was a center, no question about it. Filip said “I think I’m a lot better shooter. … I would say I’m a hybrid between him and a guard, I guess.”
Can he defend in the Big Ten? He says yes.
“I feel like I have a high-enough IQ where I can be in the right position, close up to the right guys, and know what their tendencies are,” Rebraca said. “I’ve defended Big Ten opponents before and I’ve defended guys from other Power Five leagues as well.”
Iowa senior guard Connor McCaffery said Rebraca, who will wear uniform No. 0, has been a revelation.
“He’s skilled,” McCaffery said. “He can shoot a face-up jumper. He’s got multiple moves in the block. He’s tough, he’s tough as nails. He runs. He doesn’t get tired.
“I think he could be just more of a consistent force. I feel like he could definitely have really good numbers this year.”
Rebraca now, Freeman later. The prep junior was the Hawkeyes’ guest at Saturday’s Penn State-Iowa football game along with other players who had either committed to Fran McCaffery’s team or are being recruited by him.
“The atmosphere was phenomenal,” the coach said Monday about Saturday at Kinnick Stadium. “(The recruits) all ran on the field with everybody else. They just had a lot of fun. That's what you want.”
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