116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Home / Sports / UNI Panthers
UNI is rare men’s basketball program with no transfer portal departures in 2023
‘That just speaks to what Coach Jacobson and many others have been able to do in building this program’
CEDAR FALLS — While the majority of college basketball programs have been fretting over their roster’s instability the past couple months, the Northern Iowa men’s basketball team has been one of only six Division I teams to not have a student-athlete enter the transfer portal.
In the new world of amateur athletics rife with NIL money to lure recruits, Coach Ben Jacobson’s Panthers are making up for their lack of dollars with uncommon culture and continuity.
“That just speaks to what Coach Jacobson and many others have been able to do in building this program,” UNI assistant coach Seth Tuttle told The Gazette. “The kids that are here, the kids that have been here — myself included — there’s a ton of pride that comes with being able to wear that Northern Iowa jersey on your chest.”
Tuttle said creating a culture capable of providing the program with roster continuity starts with recruiting.
“When kids, when families commit to the Panthers it’s something that we know they feel really strongly about, and we know that they know that this is a commitment from us and Coach Jacobson that we’re not just going to go and try to get the next best player,” Tuttle said. “We’re also committed to you and giving you everything that we’ve got to make you the best player.”
UNI adds newcomers
The only turnover on UNI’s roster this offseason has been the graduations of forward James Betz and walk-on forward Derek Krogmann.
As a scholarship player, Betz’s departure opened the door for the Panthers to add to their frontcourt and Tuttle and the rest of UNI’s staff worked quickly to land 6-foot-10 Jacob Hutson, a junior from Loyola-Chicago they originally recruited out of high school.
“We’re so excited to add him,” Tuttle said. “He fits what we’re trying to do and he’s a great kid.”
Along with Hutson, UNI will welcome its three 2023 recruits to campus next month, a trio Tuttle said can factor into the team’s success right away.
Kyle Pock is a three-star 6-5 forward from Bolivar, Mo., who scored more than 2,000 career points and helped Mokan AAU win the highly-regarded EYBL championship. Wesley Rubin is a 6-8 forward from Chicago who starred at legendary Simeon High School and RJ Taylor is a three-time all-state honoree from Grand Blanc High School in Michigan.
“We’re so excited for these three,” Tuttle said. “They each bring something a little different, something a little unique, in terms of what they bring to the floor. What I will say is they add to our culture. Three guys that have won at everything that they’ve done.
“We want kids who win.”
Will Austin Phyfe be back on the court?
So, as Tuttle pointed out, the Panthers roster is set. However, one factor continues to linger, and that’s whether or not former all-MVC forward Austin Phyfe will be cleared to return to full contact after missing all of last season while treating blood clots in his body with blood thinners.
“He’s doing everything he can to be ready. He’s working his body back into shape and I can tell you it hasn’t taken long,” Tuttle said. “Basically right now we’re hoping he gets cleared for everything. He’s doing workouts. He’s doing (weight) lifting. He’s getting his cardio back up. We’re really praying for him, because he’s as good of a kid as you can get.”
Whether or not Phyfe returns, the Panthers are poised to have a full roster, something that cannot go overlooked.
Whether it was the 2014-15 team Tuttle starred on that made the second round of the NCAA tournament, or the famed 2009-10 team that made the Sweet 16, the common denominator with those teams was a full and healthy roster that created ultra-competitive practices.
“It makes an enormous difference,” Tuttle said. “My senior year our second five could’ve been the starting five for almost every team in the (Missouri) Valley (Conference). That level that practice gets elevated to — having more guys, having a deep team — is important. That’s a big reason why we’re excited for this year and this summer.”