Iowa Men's Basketball

Iowa Hawkeyes see it: College game is International House of Basketball

Iowa has faced or will face many players from all over the world

Iowa guard Bakari Evelyn (4) and San Diego State forward Nathan Mensah (31) fight for the basketball during the Hawkeyes
Iowa guard Bakari Evelyn (4) and San Diego State forward Nathan Mensah (31) fight for the basketball during the Hawkeyes’ 83-73 loss last Friday in Las Vegas. Mensah is from Ghana. Evelyn is from Detroit. (David Becker/Associated Press)

While watching Tuesday night’s Iowa-Syracuse men’s basketball game on television, it struck me that Hawkeyes guard Joe Toussaint was from New York City, long a fertile recruiting territory for Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim.

Boeheim, as you would expect, has had a lot of NYC players over his 44 seasons as the Orange’s coach. The most-famous of them was Dwayne “Pearl” Washington.

But I checked this season’s Syracuse roster and saw the only New York City player was Jalen Carey of Harlem, who didn’t play Tuesday. What I also noticed is that Boeheim starts players from Slovakia (Marek Dolezaj) and Mali (Bourama Sidibe), and players from Canada and the Netherlands were in the game. A player from South Sudan is redshirting this season.

Is this wildly unusual? Well, five international players on a roster is more than the norm, yes. However, Iowa has seen at least one on all eight of the teams it has faced this season. The breakdown:

Southern Illinois-Edwardsville (1): Nigeria

DePaul (3): Canada, New Zealand, Switzerland

Oral Roberts (3): Canada, Estonia, Latvia

North Florida (1): Nigeria

Cal Poly (2): Finland, Sierra Leone

Texas Tech (5): Cameroon, Congo, France, Italy, Russia

San Diego State (4): Canada, Ghana (2), New Zealand

Syracuse (5): Canada, Mali, Netherlands, Slovakia, South Sudan

The Hawkeyes’ next two opponents are Michigan and Minnesota. Michigan’s Franz Wagner is a freshman from Germany who is averaging 28 minutes. Minnesota has players from Canada, Germany and Turkey. The Canadian, Marcus Carr, had 24 points in the Gophers’ 78-60 win over Clemson Tuesday.

Other Big Ten teams with international players:

Nebraska (5): Canada (2), France, Iceland, Slovenia

Illinois (4): Belgium, Dominican Republic, Georgia, Jamaica

Maryland (2): South Sudan, Spain

Rutgers (2): England, Mali

Ohio State (1): Senegal

Purdue (1): Netherlands

Later this month, the Hawkeyes will play Cincinnati (players from Congo, England, Mali and Spain) and Kennesaw State (Italy).

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Iowa has no international players. The Hawkeyes’ first opponent without an international player is Iowa State on Dec. 12. This is the first season since 2002-03 in which the Cyclones didn’t have an international player, and the first one this decade in which they didn’t have a Canadian. Melvin Ejim, Naz Mitrou-Long and Lindell Wigginton of Canada all were impact players at Iowa State.

Iowa has signed high school recruit Josh Ogundele, an England native for next season. Sudan native Peter Jok played for the Hawkeyes from 2013 to 2017, and England’s Gabe Olaseni was at Iowa from 2011 to 2015.

Sejla Garza, the mother of current Hawkeye Luka Garza, is from Yugoslavia and played professional basketball in Europe. Garza’s uncle, Teoman Alibegovic, played at Oregon State and was the all-time top scorer of Slovenia’s senior national basketball team.

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