Iowa Men's Basketball

Fran McCaffery's new challenge: Recruiting preps you don't know quite so well

The good news for Hawkeyes: They only have 2 holes to fill after 2020-21 season

Georgetown basketball coach Patrick Ewing (far right) joins other college coaches as they watch a game at the Nike Peach
Georgetown basketball coach Patrick Ewing (far right) joins other college coaches as they watch a game at the Nike Peach Jam in North Augusta, S.C., on July 12, 2017. (Todd Bennett/Associated Press)

Film on Class of 2021 high school basketball players dried up in mid-March when the high school season ended, with most state tournaments (Iowa’s excluded) canceled.

If you’re a college coach who wants to see how prep juniors are progressing in basketball this spring, you might as well watch a video of porcupines gnawing on plywood. They’ll contain just as much relevant information.

Travel-team tournaments that normally would have been held in April before clusters of college recruiters were canceled. The NCAA prohibited all in-person recruiting through May 31.

Whether the live recruiting periods in June will be held as scheduled is unknown, but would seem unlikely.

“We’re not going to see games in April, we don’t know if we’re going to get to see games in July,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said last week. “I think that’s all up in the air. I think we’re going to assume that’s not going to take place.

“So what we’ve done is stay in direct contact with guys that we had been recruiting in particular and at the same time try to network and get involved with some other guys.

“The hard part there is if you don’t see them in person you don’t have the same feel for what you think their impact could be. You can’t have a similar conversation with regard to what your vision is for that person. So that may just have to wait. But when you’re only really looking to sign two, there’s not as much pressure.”

The only semi-good thing about recruiting for 2021 right now from the Hawkeyes’ perspective is that they don’t need a lot compared to many years. The only scholarship seniors on Iowa’s 2020-21 roster as of now are Jordan Bohannon and Luka Garza. The latter is entered in the 2021 NBA Draft, but would seem to be more likely to return for his senior season rather than stay in the draft, whenever that will be.

“Bringing in a class of five this year certainly takes some of the pressure off,” McCaffery said, “but you lose Garza and you lose Jordan Bohannon, two of the greatest players to wear that jersey. So there’s always going to be pressure to find their replacements and get the same kind of quality that we would have been able to get in a typical year.”

Recruits are taking “virtual tours” of college campuses via the wonders of the World Wide Web. Gabe Wiznitzer, a 6-foot-11 senior-to-be at Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia, is a 4-star prospect who reportedly will take such a tour of Iowa this week. The Hawkeyes are one of many programs that have offered him a scholarship.

“We’re involved with some good players that we think we’ve established pretty good relationships with,” McCaffery said. “Maybe we get one, maybe we get two and it’s over. Maybe we sign one and carry one (scholarship) to the following year and might redshirt a guy in this class. So there’s a lot of ways to look at it.

“We obviously have a full roster right now at 13. So we’re not trying to sign anybody late, we’re not looking at transfer pools, anything like that. We have 13, we’re set at 13.”

Five of those 13 are incoming freshmen, who normally would arrive on campus in June in time for up to eight hours a week of basketball and conditioning work with Iowa’s coaches. That, like almost everything sports-related, is up in the air for now.

“I think the unfortunate thing is not so much for the older guys, because they know our stuff,” McCaffery said. “It’s the incoming freshmen that will not benefit from that experience. However, they won’t be behind any other freshmen, obviously, because they’ll be in the same boat.”

Comments: mike.hlas@thegazette.com

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