One of the more urgent questions after Iowa's wing-heavy 2015 recruiting class was how Fran McCaffery's teams would be able to compete in the post, especially with Adam Woodbury approaching his senior season. Dale Jones looks like a serviceable big body and Dom Uhl is bulking up, but they're still going to need some help, and Iowa just took one big step toward a full complement of post men with the verbal commitment of Spirit Lake PF Ryan Kriener.
I am extremely blessed to say, I committed to be an Iowa Hawkeye today! #HawkeyeNation— Ryan Kriener (@4theTRIBE) July 30, 2015
It's okay if Kriener hadn't been on your radar, since he doesn't even have a Rivals star ranking yet. But what we do see on his Rivals profile is a fairly decent offer list, and though it's heavy on mid-majors, there's also the likes of Minnesota, UNI, Wichita State and an offer from Missouri earlier in the week. So this isn't McCaffery settling for a no-name project; he's picking up a prospect on the cusp of blowing up.
Here's the key passage from Kriener's interview with Rivals on his commitment:
Q: When did the offer come?
KRIENER: They offered me tonight. Fran called me.
Q: What were your first thoughts on the offer?
KRIENER: The first thoughts were that my hard work and everything has really paid off now. I have always wanted to go to Iowa and have always been a Hawkeye fan. That is where I wanted to go and I've been busting my tail to get there. Now that I have the offer it was a big thing for me.
Q: Did they say what prompted the offer?
KRIENER: It was from me playing well in July.
Kriener had visited Iowa in February ($$), so it's not as if that call was the first time the two had spoken. But still, it's awfully nice when the conversation goes "Here is your offer," then "Okay I accept."
Kriener is listed at 6'9" and 240 pounds, and he certainly plays like he's that size.
Kriener isn't a terribly explosive athlete, though dunking is clearly not a problem. Iowa's S&C coaches will probably try to work on his speeding his game up, both vertically and laterally, but that's an integral part of basically any big man's progression at the next level. He doesn't appear to have a consistent jumper, but again: that's a development thing.
There's also a lot to like about the passing and decision-making on display in his high school tape. Spirit Lake is a 2-A program [EDIT: 3-A in basketball, apparently] so his competition was, uh, not good. And it's not like any bad decisions are going to show up in his Hudl highlight reel. But what's there is a generally good sense of what his options are and how to execute them.
One can't help but see some parallels between Kriener and Aaron White in terms of his areas and focuses of offensive effectiveness; Kriener's at home cleaning up the glass and scoring inside five feet. But one of White's most under-appreciated attributes was his speed and agility, and Kriener's just not there yet. It's one thing to lead a fast break and defend the point in transition at 2-A; it's another to do it at the Big Ten level.
What impresses the most, though, is his footwork and positioning. There aren't a whole lot of 6'9" guys who come into college basketball with a set of polished post moves (and even fewer who are available to a second-tier high-major like Iowa). With Minnesota and UNI on his offer sheet and some apparent interest from Iowa State and Nebraska, there was a decent chance Kriener was going to drive Iowa crazy at some point in his career, and it's best not to let someone who grew up a fan of your program do that to you.
Moreover, it's a different college basketball environment these days. You can plug a 6'9" player at center and be just fine; Virginia had one player (a backup getting 17 minutes a game) over 6'8" in its entire rotation and the Cavs went 30-4 as a 2-seed. Same with 1-seed Villanova, though its backup seven-footer was at least getting 24 minutes per. MSU topped out in the middle with a couple of 6'9" guys with limited usage rates and still went deep into March. If you've got the size, it's obviously worth using, but it's hardly a prerequisite.
What matters more is the skill level, and it certainly looks like McCaffery and his coaches will have a lot to work with on this front. Iowa might have gotten a hell of a steal here.