Iowa offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs made his mark on Mount Vernon. Many in town made their mark on him, too. Wirfs and his mother, Sarah, took The Gazette on a tour of his hometown, revisiting scenes around what essentially is the one square mile where he grew up. This story is a little about what can hold you back. This is mostly about what moves you forward.

Iowa Men's Basketball

Iowa men's basketball newcomers (young and old) expect to contribute immediately

They include grad transfer Bakari Evelyn and true freshmen Patrick McCaffery and Joe Toussaint

Bakari Evelyn
Bakari Evelyn

IOWA CITY — The Iowa Hawkeyes lost a key guard in college basketball’s offseason “free agency” period, though they were able to sign one to help offset that.

We’ll see how it all works out.

The addition, of course, is Bakari Evelyn, and he met with local media for the first time Wednesday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. So did incoming freshman guard Joe Toussaint, incoming freshman wing Patrick McCaffery and redshirt sophomore forward Jack Nunge.

“It has been great being here,” Evelyn said. “I’m enjoying Iowa City, so the experience has been a blast.”

Evelyn is a 6-foot-2 graduate transfer from Valparaiso. He’s a Detroit native who grew up playing football with Iowa offensive lineman Alaric Jackson and defensive lineman Cedrick Lattimore before gravitating to the court full-time.

To say he is a well-traveled guy is an understatement. He played three years of high school ball at Southfield Christian in Detroit, then his senior year at Hillcrest Academy in Mesa, Ariz.

Evelyn played a year at Nebraska, then transferred to Valparaiso. He went from averaging 12.6 points per game as a redshirt sophomore for the Crusaders to 8.4 this past season, though ankle problems had something to do with that decreased productivity.

He said Wednesday he feels as healthy as he ever has in his college career, which is a positive thing. A combo guard, he’ll certainly be called upon at both the 1 and 2, with Jordan Bohannon possibly missing all of the 2019-20 season after recently undergoing hip surgery and fellow starter Isaiah Moss grad transferring to Kansas.

“Bakari doesn’t miss much. He’s got a great shot,” Nunge said, when asked what he’s seen from Evelyn in offseason workouts.

Iowa recruited Evelyn in high school, so it was that prior relationship, along with another chance to play in the Big Ten Conference that helped sway him to Iowa City. He said he had multiple schools reach out to him, including Wisconsin, but his only other official visit was to New Mexico State.

“I’ve definitely been on the move a little bit, but it’s definitely been a fun career,” he said. “I have learned through all of my experiences, and I think that is what has helped me be here. I’ve been through the ringer, and I’ve been around a little bit. Kind of been seasoned in a way. That has kind of prepared me for this.”

Toussaint is a 6-foot point guard from the Bronx who said he’ll bring quickness and that stereotypical New York toughness to the court. You don’t play on the legendary Rucker Park playground in Harlem, as he has, without having plenty of that latter.

“In New York, everybody is just tough, gritty,” said Toussaint, who averaged 22.5 points and 5.3 assists per game this past season for Cardinal Hayes High School. “Yes, I’m expecting to play this year. But depending on my performance in practice and off the court, that will determine how much I will play. I just need to show the coaches I’m a tough guard, and that I’ll do anything I need to do to be on the court.”

McCaffery has consistently said a decision to redshirt or not this coming season wouldn’t be made until after official practices began but said Wednesday his plans have changed to the for-sure playing category. The 6-foot-9 son of head coach Fran McCaffery is listed at 190 pounds, and he definitely needs to continue to add weight and strength.

But he feels he can contribute immediately.

“You know, it’s a dream come true,” he said. “Something I’ve been looking forward to my whole life. I always wanted to be a Hawkeye, always knew what I wanted to do.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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