A little over a week after hosting their own media day, Fran McCaffery and the Hawkeyes took part in the Big Ten media day in Washington, D.C. yesterday. Joining Fran were senior Peter Jok and redshirt senior/5th year junior Dale Jones. As you might expect when the team is losing 4 of 5 starters and working with 10 underclassmen, the focus was on the youth movement.
A week ago, we heard everyone and their dog talk about how this was Jok’s team. That’s right where the questions started yesterday. Fran brought it up both in the introduction to his question and answer session and in his interview with the BTN.
Fran McCaffery 2016 Basketball Media Day Press Conference https://t.co/LgUph2UvcS— JP in IC (@JPinIC_BHGP) October 14, 2016
Jok was named a preseason All-Big Ten selection and Iowa is going to really lean on him for scoring. Clearly, opposing defenses will also focus on Peter, so who else should we expect to see filling up the stat sheet? Fran says Dale Jones is a guy who can go out and get 25 in a game if the Hawkeyes need it. He also mentions a few young guys. There are a lot of unknowns with 10 scholarship freshmen and sophomores, but I think we can all agree that Tyler Cook is a physical freak. His was the first name out of McCaffery’s mouth in terms of a young guy Iowa will count on for some production.
I’m not going to lie, my expectations continue to rise for the 6’9”, 253-lb freshman from St. Louis. Fran was a bit more tempered today, but last week he had the following to say about Cook:
Fran when comparing Tyler Cook to previous UI freshmen: "He probably has the highest ceiling." And, "I think he's capable of being a star."— Scott Dochterman (@ScottDochterman) October 5, 2016
Wow. High praise. For his part, Cook seems as cool as a cucumber in his new digs at Iowa. He is one of 5 incoming freshman, all of which seem to be very laid back. They’ve joked about building chemistry off the court by goofing off and how that might translate to chemistry on the court.
The Iowa freshman class is looking PHENOMENAL. pic.twitter.com/3d5pNAuYrK— David Scrivner (@davidscrivner) October 5, 2016
Aside from Cook, Fran mentioned expecting contributions from guys like Isaiah Moss, a redshirt freshman who has the tools to develop into a really nice offensive weapon, Cordell Pemsl and Maishe Dailey, who some had already written off as a redshirt candidate.
One of the things Fran hit on both last week and yesterday, was the apparent new size this team brings. That seems a bit strange considering Iowa lost their starting C and PF in 7’1” Adam Woodbury and 6’8” Jarrod Uthoff, but replacing a pair of 6’ guards with a 6’6” PG in Christian Williams and a trio of guys in the post, all of whom will be 6’8”+ and you get a lineup that is longer overall. As we’ve seen from Fran since he got here, length and athleticism is something he values. This year more than any other, we are approaching what I think is Fran’s ultimate goal of building a team of guys who are all basically 2-3 different interchangeable parts.
One of the key question marks facing this year’s squad is how they replace not only 4 starters and 50+ percent of the scoring and minutes, but how they replace essentially ALL of the PG minutes from a year ago. Fran mentioned in his comments yesterday that Christian Williams and Jordan Bohannon are expected to contribute. If I were a betting man, my money would be on those PG minutes to be almost exclusively eaten up by Williams with any time where Bohannon is manning point leading to more of an uptempo style where non-traditional PGs are bringing the ball up the floor.
Fran noted yet again that one of the strengths of this squad should be the ability of a number of guys to grab a rebound and lead the break. Guys such as Jok are perfectly capable of bringing the ball up and spacing the floor with an additional shooter such as Bohannon would surely open things up for slashers like Moss or talented post players like Pemsl and Cook. The vast majority of Iowa’s bigs are also capable of grabbing a board and getting the break started. Without a true PG on the court, nobody is looking for someone floating around the FT to make an outlet pass. Everyone gets moving down court and better spacing creates better shots.
There will no doubt be question marks as we enter the season. Many of the guys the Hawkeyes will rely on are newcomers with much to prove, and while Fran has never been one to shy away from praising his guys, I think I am buying into the hype just a bit. This team certainly looks the part, if still a year or two away from fully developing.
Things came full circle for Peter Jok. He knows this team is his now, and his preparation must be different seeing as how he’s the lead man. But Dale Jones seems poised to contribute a bit more than perhaps the casual Hawkeye fan might expect. He seems to fit the role of the veteran who is ready to lead by example and do whatever it takes to get a W.
The simple fact that Jones was sent to media days as opposed to a guy like Dom Uhl should speak volumes to where he will fit in on this year’s squad. It raises a separate set of questions around what Dom Uhl will mean to the team, but I feel cautiously optimistic this year’s team will surprise some people around the conference and perhaps the country.
They are young. But they are long, athletic and confident. Look for a 2016-2017 version of the Hawkeyes that will run, press and beat you with versatility. The youngsters will have to grow up over a brutal non-conference slate that features Seton Hall, Virginia, Notre Dame and Iowa State among others. But those early tests could pay dividends in the Big Ten schedule as Iowa looks to make it back to the NCAA tournament for the 4th consecutive season under Fran McCaffery.
Things get started in just under a month as the Hawkeyes kick off their season hosting Kennesaw State on November 11th at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.