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Gray Team 2.0

Recall our lament from two weeks ago that for his public, downright amorous embrace of the Olson and Davis eras of Iowa baskeball, new coach Fran McCaffery wasn't (as publicly) embracing the Gray Team. Many older fans, especially those living in Iowa, have yet to forgive Steve Alford for disbanding the popular gang of walk-ons that populated the Iowa sideline for so many years.

The walk-on, after all, is an integral part of the history of major collegiate athletics at Iowa. Dallas Clark was one, of course, but he wasn't even the only Iowa walk-on drafted in his class. Iowa's all-time leader in receptions was also a walk-on. And that's just football; while Tom Davis' famed Gray Team rarely (never) achieved such levels of success, that speaks more to the nature of the limits of physical development in basketball against football than Davis' ability to properly utilize his volunteer talent.

Ermey is Davis here, of course, and Private Joker is Darryl Moore being convinced to be a leading rebounder despite being 6'1" or whatever the reverse fish story puts him at these days. By 2017, he'll be 5'8" in heels.

Further, to look at the peaks of accomplishment for walk-ons in each program is to miss the point of their existence in the first place (though a little less so in football, for the reasons stated above); the voluntary athlete must necessarily work his ass off, and 95% of the time does so in purely a practice role--usually in imitation of an opponent the starter will face. Ask any successful coach where he'd be without a committed group of walk-ons in practice every day, and he'd probably be forced to devise a politically pleasant term for "fucked."

Thus, after Alford dismissed the team on the grounds that they were not Luke Recker or however that went down, Iowa fans who were conditioned on well-drilled teams were left to watch teams who had to practice with seven or eight guys on the court for years on end. So Chauncey Billups Leslie had to be surprised every time someone attacked his dribbling hand and Reggie Evans had to not know what to do every time someone swiped at the ball, and that was sure neat.

In fact, by the time the Lickliter ended, the only walk-ons that graced the program were a coach's sona typical Hillcrest resident, and a fictional human being. It was as emblematic of the decline of Hawkeye basketball as, well, everything else about the program. 

But at any rate, it appears that McCaffery is embracing the value of the walk-on, if not to the self-generated fanfare that has marked his other entreaties to Hawkeye history. To that end, Iowa has notched its third new walkon of the season with the addition of Jordan Stoermer. And while we're not about to pretend we were a factor in that decision, McCaffery most certainly did have an exogenous impetus for Stoermer's addition:

Stoermer called Iowa’s coaching staff, but was told the Hawkeyes wouldn’t make decisions on walk-ons until later this summer. But then Iowa State’s staff gave him a call a few days ago, and he relayed that information to Iowa.

"A couple hours later, they called me back and asked if I wanted to walk on," Stoermer said.

"I want to study engineering and I’ve always wanted to be a Hawkeye," he said. "Just going to school there was good enough since they’ve got a pretty good engineering program, but I wanted to at least try to walk on.

Bravo, Frantagonist. If nothing else, this program needs to retain the motto of "motherfuck Iowa State."

We can totally understand McCaffery's reluctance to add a third walk-on; at that rate, there'd be nine in the program by the time the elder statesmen of the scrub team were redshirt sophomores. And while it'd be nice to have 10 guys to run practice with, the last thing this staff needs, it's even one walk-on Bohalling the team after six too many Ices. A healthy walk-on team is something you build up to over a few years.

And yet, the Frantelope doesn't have the luxury of telling his players to wait three or four years for an entire practice squad; this team sucks right now, and for the first time in about thirty years, there is a demonstrably hot seat in Iowa's money sports.

So welcome, Jordan Stoermer  Welcome, Darius Stokes. Welcome, Steven McCarty. For your own sake, we hope to never see you on the court until your junior year, even as we fear otherwise. But mainly, we hope you will grow to be the anchors of a walk-on program befitting a university that embraced it as purely as any other in the Big Ten could hope to match. You'll likely be leaned on more than an underclassman walk-on in the Big Ten ever ought to. Just don't let it fuck you up too bad, okay? The future of practice at Iowa basketball kinda depends on it. No pressure, walk-ons!