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Hoops Crootin’ Boogie: Iowa Basketball Commits Garza, Wieskamp Earn Gatorade Player of the Year Honors

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Fran McCaffery’s class of 2017 recruits wrapped up their high school careers. We check in on how they fared and update you on a pair of commits who were named Gatorade Player of the Year for their respective states.

Luka Garza took home MVP honors at the Crab Ball Classic to go with his recent Gatorade Player of the Year award for Washington, DC.
Image via @410D_ on Twitter dot com

I’ve been fairly outspoken of late in terms of my love for the incoming recruits Fran and Co. have in the fold. I think it’s a really good group. It’s a bit interesting that two of the three guys in the 2017 class are big men while there appears to be a minutes logjam down low for next year and the lone guard slated to enter the fold this fall is potentially contemplating a career in baseball and doesn’t has a scholarship as of now.

But when you can find incredibly talented players who want to come play for you, you take them and make the offense work. I would take that philosophy (which is what I gather is Fran’s MO, maybe I’m nuts) over the philosophy of “we have a system and a culture and we will take lesser players who fit that over more talented players who don’t” that seems to permeate the football facility. Now, don’t get me wrong, the folks running the football program are really great at what they do and I’ve been about as far in the KF corner as you can get without being in there blindly. But the one knock will seemingly always be that they just don’t reel in top tier talent. And that’s where Fran seems to be getting things really ramped up.

We’ve been over it a number of times, but ICYMI, here’s the quick breakdown of who Iowa has committed in the class of 2017:

Luka Garza - C

Garza is the true big man in the class, coming in at just under 7’ tall. He has solid footwork down low and can play with his back to the basket. He also possesses a jumper and is capable of knocking it down from beyond the arc. His athleticism has been compared to Adam Woodbury, but their games aren’t exactly similar. Garza has the ability to block some shots and can get above the rim with more regularity than Woody.

Last week, Garza was named the Gatorade Player of the Year for Washington, DC. This comes on the heels of being named the MVP of the Crab Ball Classic in Baltimore. On the season, Luka averaged 24.5 points and 13.0 rebounds per game for his Maret team that finished 26-5. The Gatorade announcement includes a quick highlight reel from the season.

That was enough to get me excited, but not enough to really tell a whole lot. Luckily, Courtside Films also dropped a new mixtape of Garza last week. It’s nearly 4 minutes long with a lot more to digest. Take a look.

Couple things of note. First, as I mentioned above, his ability to knock it down from outside is on full display. It’s not a just an occasional thing, he’s perfectly capable of taking his man out of the lane and drilling it if left open. Just as important, he shows the ability to handle the ball enough to get into the lane if his man starts to follow him outside the arc. That has the potential to be incredibly dangerous if he continues to develop. Second, there’s a lot more footage of him throwing it down in this vid. Given all the comparisons to Woody and the concerns over his athleticism, I think this should get Hawkeye fans excited.

I don’t think he’s going to be posterizing Big Ten big men, but he has more spring than Woodbury had and that may be most helpful in terms of post defense. He clearly has the frame to man the middle of the zone (allowing guys like Cook to go to the outside and erase shots). And finally, what I refer to as his old man (or Pemsl) game still appears intact. He is crafty around the basket, showing an ability to create some space and finish. All told, even though it’s just a highlight video, I’m really excited to see Garza take the floor in 2017.

In the most recent edition of BoilerHawk’s lineup analysis, he took a look at how minutes might shake out next year. Given where things stand with the current roster and what we had seen to that point on tape, he slotted Garza in at roughly 6 minutes per game on the season with the caveat that it’s probably closer to 0 to start and closer to 12 to end. Averages, man, I tell ya.

Jack Nunge - F

Nunge is a guy BoilerHawk was high on in his analysis, slotting him in as a potential Uhl replacement by year’s end and ramping up to 16 minutes per game. If you’ve read any of these previous updates, you know I’m firmly in that camp. Nothing against Uhl, I’m sure he’s a nice enough kid, but everything he brings to the table Nunge can do. And better. I’m going to continue to cram the Jarrod Uthoff comparison down your throats. He can stroke it. He can take his man off the dribble. He can finish at the rim. He can block shots. And he’s 6’10”. Yep, he’s basically Uthoff as maybe a sophomore? And given how things are going for Mr. Uthoff these days, I’d say that’s a damn fine place to be before he even steps foot on campus.

Nunge’s season ended last week as his Castle team lost in the state semi-finals. They finished the year at 24-4, led by Nunge averaging 22.8 points, 11.6 rebounds and 3.6 blocks per game. Those numbers were good enough to get him a first team All-Conference selection, as well as a a spot on the Supreme 15 All-State team. Nunge ended his high school career with 1,376 points, good enough for third all time at Castle High School.

Connor McCaffery - G

McCaffery is the third and final member of the class of 2017. He’s the lone guard, the highest rated recruit, and in a true display of irony, is the one commit who may not have a scholarship this year. We’ve discussed it a number of times, but if you’re late to the party, Connor is the son of Fran McCaffery, who makes a few dollars in his day job.

With relatively recent rule changes within the NCAA, walk-on athletes are essentially the same as scholarship athletes in terms of perks/benefits with the obvious exception of cost of attendance. Additionally, the eldest McCaffery boy is a hell of a baseball player with an opportunity to play for the Hawkeyes and perhaps be selected in this year’s MLB Draft. With the current scholarship situation dictating that someone is going to be left without a spot (barring a transfer, which is all but a statistical certainty), Connor is the obvious choice as that recruit.

McCaffery the elder ended his high school career with yet another state championship in Iowa’s class 4A. The Trojans went 23-3 on the season and Connor averaged 19.6 points per game. That was good enough to land him in the Eastern Iowa All-Star game with fellow future Hawkeye Austin Ash (who’s a walk-on). Here’s a quick look at some highlights.

As with Garza, we are fortunate enough to also have a new senior season highlight tape to look at.

How Connor exactly fits in to next year’s roster is a question for another day, but he’s an interesting prospect for me. He’s long for a PG at 6’6”, but he’s not especially quick. He’s a capable ball handler and a pretty good passer. He can’t shoot as well as Jordan Bohannon, but he’s a better shooter than Christian Williams or Isaiah Moss at this point in my opinion. I think he can carve out a role similar to Williams in that his length will be a problem at the point. He likely won’t be breaking people down off the dribble, but he’s capable of handling the ball up the court and knocking down a triple if somebody is laying off him. He can back down and shoot over smaller guards, but may struggle defensively with quicker guards. Time will tell how Fran uses him (should he indeed pursue hoops - and I hope he does), but I think in his freshman year Hawk fans should expect limited minutes with anything additional being a nice surprise.

Joe Wieskamp - G

Joe Wieskamp is the lone recruit in 2018. And a hell of a recruit is he. His junior season at Muscatine was ended early with a playoff in the state tournament at the hands of the McCaffery boys and Iowa City West. The Muskies finished at 15-7. Wieskamp was the clear leader of the team, absolutely filling up the stat sheet with 30.4 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. Those numbers were good enough to get Joe named Gatorade Player of the Year for Iowa.

I know I’m pretty hard on the hype train for just about everyone one of these recruits, but it’s tough not to be excited about Wieskamp. I know I’m going to get called out for it, but I think the kid looks like Peter Jok before he blew out his knees. I mean, his stroke is a thing of beauty. He’s long (6’6”), can handle it, and he is springy. He’s blocking shots left and right and throwing it down with more ease than half the guys on Iowa’s roster right now (I’m doing the math on my fingers now.... yeah probably not half but he still gets up). Clearly, it’s still early. Joe is going into his senior season and a lot can happen, but he looks to be one of the best recruits Fran has gotten in his tenure.

Patrick McCaffery - F

Last but not least, we come to the middle McCaffery boy. Patrick wrapped up his sophomore season at Iowa City West along side his brother with a state championship. On the season, Pat averaged 13.8 points per game. That number will undoubtedly go up as he continues his high school career.

At 6’7”, Pat is just growing into his body. He may still add an inch or two, but he will certainly add some bulk between now and 2019. Despite the expected growing pains, McCaffery the younger is still one of the top prospects in his class. He moves really well for a young kid his size. He has a solid stroke, even better for a guy who will end up as either a small forward or power forward in college. He’s bouncy with an ability to play above the rim and block shots. And perhaps most surprisingly, he can handle the rock pretty well.

As I said, it’s still really early and a lot will change, but given the rare combination of size, shooting ability and ball handling, McCaffery looks to be a hell of a player.

At the end of the day, Fran is doing some work on the recruiting trail. He’s benefiting from some of his offspring turning into really solid high school players and the state of Iowa producing some damn fine talent as a whole. But he’s also getting out on the trail and identifying talent, building relationships, and closing with highly rated recruits. With the young foundation already on campus, this group of 2017 recruits won’t be asked to carry the load for some time, but has great potential and brings a lot to the table for the 2017-2018 season if they can adjust to the college game quickly and carve out roles.

Beyond 2017, there’s limited room in 2018, but Fran seems to have hit the jackpot with Joe Wieskamp. The class of 2019 should have more openings. Fran is off to a great start with Pat and has been hitting the trail hard already looking to add a guard and perhaps a slasher. As the AAU season gets underway this summer, we’ll check in with how things stand and get you an update on some names to watch.

Until then, the future is bright. Trust in Fran. He is the man. Go Hawks.