Hawkeye fans, rejoice! Fran McCaffery just may have secured his best recruit yet. Here's what you need to know.
ITS A GREAT DAY TO BE A HAWKEYE‼️‼️ pic.twitter.com/e6tG7vjukz— Tyler Cook (@KingCook_25) September 24, 2015
Who is this guy?
Tyler Cook is a 6'8", 240-pound power forward from Chaminade College Prep in St. Louis, MO (so, not the Chaminade that hosts the Maui Invitational). He's a consensus four-star recruit in the Class of 2016, and 247Sports gives him a composite ranking of the No. 74 overall prospect in the class. ESPN gave him the highest ranking we could find, at No. 51 overall. Cook committed on his 18th birthday Wednesday, a few days after visiting Iowa during the night game at Pittsburgh last weekend.
Why is he a big deal?
Cook is Fran McCaffery's first four-star recruit that didn't come from the Hawkeyes' backyard, and considering how long Fran's been here and how long he's been aiming for prospects of that caliber, finally breaking the door down must be a hell of a relief. Iowa beat out programs like Arkansas, Florida, Missouri and Virginia for Cook, and Iowa State had taken a spot in Cook's Top 6 before Fred Hoiberg tossed himself into the wood-chipper that is the Two-Mediocre-Years-Away-From-Tanking Chicago Bulls job.
What's he best at?
Cook's listed at 240 pounds, and that's size to bang in the interior from Day 1 for the Hawkeyes. Cook didn't get to 240 with "show muscle," either; he's got tree-trunk legs you'd more readily see on a football player, and he puts them to frequent use clearing out space for himself on the interior. That's not to say Cook's a lumberer, either; we see plenty of above-the-rim play in his mix tapes and some open-court moves.
Edit: Also, as intrepid commenter SpanishJohnny points out, Cook flashes some ambidextrousness in this highlight, not only finishing at the rim with either hand and using both sides of the block, but finishing his post moves with either hand from ~5 feet out. Also, there's like 15 more two-handed slams in this reel, which we regret to inform you do not count as "ambidextrous."
Where should he improve?
NBC Sports mentioned Cook shot 46% at the free throw line at the recent Nike EYBL tournament. That's a problem, but he'd hardly be the first big man to learn how to shoot free throws once he gets to college.
If Cook sees himself as a future Georges Niang-type "stretch five" or whatever you want to call a role like that (Cook mentioned Niang as a reason he was considering ISU), he'll need to get some consistency in his outside shot and vision as a passer. His footwork on the interior is still a little messy, which he can get away with against high school competition but less so in the college game where a tenth of a second is the difference between a trailing defender hacking your wrist and blocking your shot. Cook brings the ball low on the way to the hoop often, and while he can cover ground and bang low in the process, that'll lead to turnovers against the quicker hands of the Big Ten. We're talking about polish on alabaster here, though; the raw material is fantastic.
How will Iowa use him?
Early and often. Four-star recruits don't come to school to redshirt, especially when they're not growing into seven-foot bodies or adjusting to a new country's style of ball. The only veteran "big men" on Iowa's depth chart for 2016-17 will be Dale Jones and Dominique Uhl—neither of whom have a skill set like Cook's. Cook and fellow 2016 commit Ryan Kriener are decent candidates to platoon at the 5, especially early on. Cook's ability to physically overwhelm all but the largest defenders will demand opposing centers be placed on him, and McCaffery can use that to move Cook (and his man) around the court and open up lanes for Uhl and the cadre of wing players that will define the Iowa offense over the next couple of seasons.
How high is his ceiling?
Iowa seems to think it's very, very high. Going back to the Top 6 article, Cook drops this quote about Iowa's coaches:
They've really preached about developing me, because I can be developed and try to get as ready as I can and try to make it to the next level whether that is one, two, three or four years.
Now, Cook is probably not a one-and-done—he's not explosive or versatile enough—but a future pro? Hardly out of the question. His size will be a drawback; today's NBA power forwards usually go 6'10" and up, and the list of forwards without complete inside-outside games who were shorter than 6'9" and still starred in the league over the last 15 years goes only a handful deep: Elton Brand, Kenneth Faried, and I guess Jason Maxiell or Udonis Haslem. That all said, Cook's not a whole lot different from those guys. The road to the league is there, if not well-traveled. And with two straight NBA Draft picks and a potential third in Jarrod Uthoff, McCaffery is building a serious track record of development and it's something recruits are now paying attention to.
Do we need to worry about a decommitment before Signing Day?
Doubtful. Cook told Scout.com that he "loves everything about the school" and that he had been recruited by McCaffery and Sherman Dillard for two-and-a-half years before this commitment. That's important; one constant theme through Cook's evaluation of his top six was the quality of his relationships with the head coaches and recruiters, saying of McCaffery and Dillard, "I just feel like they are going to have an athlete's interests in mind and care about them just as much off the court as they do on the court." For crying out loud, the coaches showed up to his birthday on Wednesday, where he had an Iowa cake and Iowa balloons. He's a Hawkeye.
So, we should be happy?
You should be very, very happy.