Iowa Men's Basketball

Iowa men's basketball freshmen won't be anchored to bench this winter

Hawkeyes are a veteran team, but there's room for rookies to contribute

Iowa freshman guard Tony Perkins drives with the ball against Jack Nunge (right) and other veteran teammates during a re
Iowa freshman guard Tony Perkins drives with the ball against Jack Nunge (right) and other veteran teammates during a recent Hawkeyes men’s basketball practice. (Hawkeyesports.com)

The Iowa men’s basketball recruiting Class of 2020 was large enough to field its own team, and that’s just what it was told to do in a recent Hawkeyes scrimmage.

“The day before,” 6-foot-3 freshman point guard Ahron Ulis of Chicago said in a Wednesday Zoom with the media, “me and all the freshmen were like ‘Tomorrow we know they’re going to bring it all, so we’ve just got to show them that we’re ready and not going to back down.’ ”

The five first-year frosh will supplement seven established veterans and redshirt freshman Patrick McCaffery. But it isn’t as if they’ll be perched at the end of the bench all winter just watching. More than eight Hawkeyes will play this season, and probably from the get-go.

“During practice we do a lot of us five freshmen against the starters or other veterans that have been here,” said 6-4 guard Tony Perkins of Indianapolis. “We really play like 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, and come together.”

Meaning, the five rookies have defined positions. Perkins is the 2, or the shooting guard. Keegan Murray of Cedar Rapids is the 3, the small forward. His twin brother, Kris Murray, is the 4, the power forward. Josh Ogundele of London is the 5, the center.

Labeling some of them with numbers or positions may be a mistake, however.

Perkins “is very athletic,” said Ulis. “On the offensive as well as defensive end, he’s always on the glass.”

Perkins said he the last time it was measured in high school, his vertical leap was 38 inches. That’s NBA Combine-type good.

The 6-8 Murrays are different kinds of players. Or they’re similar. It depends which you ask, or when you ask.

“We’re two different players, we play two different positions,” Kris Murray said.

“Keegan’s more of a shooter and I’d rather get to the basket than spot for 3. We complement our games really well. We’re twins, but you’ll see on the court we have a lot of differences, but also similarities that work well together.”

“(Kris) is a more of a driver, I’d say,” Keegan said. “And he’d usually kick it out for 3. But we’ve both developed our game so that we’re multidimensional. I think now we both are very versatile on the court and very much alike.”

Then there’s the 6-10, 285-pound Ogundele, who played the past two years at Worcester (Mass.) Academy. His position is established, but is his skill set?

“I believe I’m not a traditional post player,” he said. “I can drive, I can shoot. I believe I’m a very good player. I have very good footwork, I believe. My main focus is becoming more athletic.”

None of the five say they are going to bust through the lineup and set the world on fire this season. More than one said his primary role is to be ready.

Ulis rooms with Perkins. The Murrays room together.

“We’ve actually been bonding pretty well even before we came down here,” Ulis said. “I spoke out to Tony, I reached out to the twins and Josh as well. We’ve been family ever since we’ve been down here. It’s like we known each other even longer and are trying to create the best bond we can in the time we’re here.”

Comments: (319) 368-8840; mike.hlas@thegazette.com

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