COLUMBUS, Ohio — They used low expectations from outsiders as a motivational tool this season, but Iowa’s men’s basketball players no longer can plant that chip on their shoulders.
The Hawkeyes should have a bus-full of usable players for next season, returning players, players coming off redshirts, and players entering the program.
Let’s get the Tyler Cook situation addressed early. The junior forward was an NBA early-entry candidate last year before withdrawing his name from consideration. He said Sunday he hadn’t thought about what he’ll do next, career-wise.
“I’m a little emotionally overloaded right now,” he said after the draining, 83-77, overtime loss to Tennessee. “I can’t even think straight for now. I’ll start thinking about that stuff later.”
We don’t know if anyone’s heading out the door this spring other than the lone senior, forward Nicholas Baer. We do know the Division I men’s basketball transfer portal is more-populated each year than Coggon, Keystone or Shueyville.
Sixth man-supreme Baer “was the leader of this team,” Hawkeyes Coach Fran McCaffery said after the Hawkeyes’ loss here Sunday in the second-round of the NCAA tournament, which ended his team’s season at 23-12.
“I told him ‘I’ve been doing this over 30 years. I’ve never had anybody like you.’
“He really made an impact on the history of Iowa basketball.”
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As for the coming season, McCaffery said “We can be really good. First, we have pretty much everybody back except Nicholas, who is a big loss.”
There are three redshirts. Forward Cordell Pemsl will be a fourth-year junior. He has career averages of 7.2 points and 4.7 rebounds. Forward Jack Nunge played in all 33 games and started 14 times last season as a freshman, averaging 5.7 points. CJ Fredrick is a freshman guard.
“Jack Nunge is 6-11, 250,” McCaffery said. “CJ Fredrick is terrific, a quick, penetrating scoring guard.”
“I’ve gained 15, 20 pounds,” Nunge said. “I’ll be a lot stronger when I come back next year.”
Fredrick said “I used the past year to get better, to learn about the game. I’m a lot better now at handling the ball.
“I’m a playmaker. I can play both the 1 and 2 (point guard and off guard), try to knock down shots and really get after it at the defensive end.”
Pemsl redshirted because of knee surgery.
“Coach knows whatever he asks me to do, I’ll do it to the best of my ability,” Pemsl said. “I’ll do everything I can to help this team win, offensively or defensively.”
The two incoming freshmen are 6-9 Patrick McCaffery of Iowa City West and 6-foot point guard Joe Toussaint of New York.
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“We have two real good recruits coming in who present different things,” Fran McCaffery said.
Then there are the incumbent starters. There’s Cook. There are senior-to-be guards Jordan Bohannon and Isaiah Moss. There’s battle-tested forward Luka Garza. There’s wing Joe Wieskamp, who averaged 11.1 points and made 42.4 percent of his 3-pointers as a freshman.
There’s a proven post player in Ryan Kriener, and two guards who were in this season’s playing rotation, Connor McCaffery and Maishe Dailey.
“We’ll be difficult to guard,” Fran McCaffery said. “We’ll have size and depth and experience.”
So no, next season’s team can’t use anyone’s “disrespect” to fuel them. Garza said Sunday’s failure to reach the Sweet 16 can be enough of an incentive to improve.
“This is going to sting a while,” Garza said, “but it’s going to serve as a motivation in the future, to see how close we were. ... We’re going to use that motivation all summer.”
“If we work even half as hard as we did last April,” Cook said, “then the sky’s the limit for this group.”
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