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Hoops Crootin’ Boogie: A Look at the Iowa Basketball Recruiting Situation

Fran McCaffery and the Hawkeyes added a commitment in the class of 2018 from CJ Frederick over the weekend. Where does that leave things on the recruiting trail going forward?

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Iowa
Fran McCaffery and the Iowa Hawkeyes have a lot to smile about on the recruiting trail.
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

With all the buzz surrounding the Iowa Football program this time of year, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s going on in the basketball world. While Kirk Ferentz and staff kicked off fall camp last week in their march toward the start of the season on September 2nd, Fran McCaffery and the Iowa Basketball team went wheels up to Europe. This week they kicked off their week-long trek across Germany, Switzerland and Italy.

But before they touched down in Dom Uhl’s home country, they got a new commitment in the class of 2018 over the weekend. Kentucky shooting guard CJ Frederick committed to Fran and staff on Saturday. As we told you then, Frederick is a good sized guard at 6’4” and he can stroke it from deep. He looks like a solid addition to a team that can always use more shooters and if it has a hole it’s in the ball-handler department.

Iowa Basketball Scholarship Distribution Chart

Total 1 3 6 2 12

The real question here is where the scholarship comes from. As you’ll recall, the Hawkeyes are already sitting at 13 scholarship players for the 2018 season as they replace the graduating Dom Uhl with All-World SG Joe Wieskamp from Muscatine. Add to that they were over the limit in the class of 2017, prompting Fran’s oldest son and borderline top-100 PG prospect Connor McCaffery to walk on to the basketball team and take a redshirt year while he plays baseball for Rick Heller.

Given that situation, the conventional wisdom was the Hawkeyes were completely full for 2018 and not actively recruiting anyone given they could always hand a scholarship to Connor if someone decided to transfer or depart early for the NBA. The addition of Frederick has blown that line of thinking out of the water.

Apparently, Fran isn’t terribly concerned with the scholarship situation in 2018. Frederick had this to say to HawkeyeReport on Saturday:

“I talked to Coach McCaffery the other night and he said I could commit whenever I wanted and we would figure out the scholarship situation later. He gave me a few scenarios that I have to think about, but I am just happy to say that I am committed to Iowa.”

Frederick and his family have a unique relationship with McCaffery, as his uncle actually played for Fran when he was an assistant at Notre Dame. Iowa offered him a scholarship over a year ago and while most of us dropped him off our radar with no open spots, he apparently kept in contact with McCaffery every few weeks.

Now that he’s on board, it’s rumored he is open to paying his own way for a season if things don’t sort themselves out via transfer or early entry in the NBA Draft. If that’s the case, it’s pretty remarkable to think Fran could have both Frederick and Connor on the roster without scholarships, in addition to the other 13 guys still in the mix.

Regardless of how CJ Frederick and Connor McCaffery fit into the scholarship mix in for next year, I think it’s safe to say the Hawkeyes are officially done for the class of 2018. But following the 2018 season, Iowa will lose Nicholas Baer, Christian Williams, Brady Ellingson and Ahmad Wagner. Assuming at least one of McCaffery and Frederick take a scholarship in that 2019 cycle, that leaves 3 more spots available.

One of those spots is already all but locked up with potential McDonald’s All-American Patrick McCaffery, Fran’s second son (there’s a third named Jack who is in 5th grade - we’ll get to the scholarship situation for that class in a few years). Pat is a 6’8”, 170 lb SF heading into his junior season at Iowa City West. He’s still thin and filling out, but he is silky smooth and moves incredibly well for his size. He can play inside and out and for a guy 6’8” and only heading into that junior year, he can really shoot from outside.

2019 Basketball Offers

Name Pos Ht Wt Hometown
Name Pos Ht Wt Hometown
Armando Bacot PF 6'10" 235 Richmond, VA
Matthew Hurt PF 6'9" 200 Rochester, MN
Trayce Jackson-Davis PF 6'9" 210 Greenwood, IN
E.J. Liddell PF 6'7" 220 Belleville, IL
J. Robinson-Earl PF 6'8" 220 Roeland Park, KS
Trendon Watford PF 6'7" 180 Birmingham, AL
James Wiseman PF 6'10" 210 Nashville, TN
Chol Marial C 7'2" 220 Cheshire, CT
D.J. Carton PG 6'1" 175 Bettendorf, IA
Jeremiah Francis PG 6'2" 196 Pickerington, OH
Tyrell Terry PG 5'11" 160 Minneapolis, MN
Rocket Watts PG 6'2" 160 Detroit, MI
Alonzo Gaffney SF 6'7" 175 Cleveland, OH
Malik Hall SF 6'5" 186 Wichita, KS
Patrick McCaffery SF 6'8" 180 Iowa City, IA
Jordan Mitchell SF 6'6" 185 Montverde, FL
Michael Moreno SF 6'6" 180 Georgetown, KY
Marcus Watson SF 6'6" 195 Buford, GA
Romeo Weems SF 6'5" 180 New Haven, MI

Outside of Pat, McCaffery has handed out a slew of offers to high end 2019 prospects. The list is long, but a cursory glance should give you an indication of a couple things. First, Fran is targeting a PG and another post player to pair with Patrick. He also seems interested in another wing/SF. And second (though much less obvious unless you follow recruiting), almost everyone on that list has a ton of stars after their name. With the scholarship situation what it is and the allure of playing with a top-end talent like Pat, Fran is shooting for the stars in this class.

There are too many to really dive in, but I’d highlight DJ Carton of Bettendorf as a name to watch. His recruiting has really picked up this summer as he’s added offers from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Nebraksa and a slew of others. A look at his video tells you why. He’s got enough size at 6’1” and can really do it all. He’s a lefty who can get into the lane and finish through contact or dish to a teammate. He’s got a nice pull-up game and can step beyond the arc and knock it down as well. He isn’t the water-bug type that a lot of us, myself included, have been craving, but he’s a damn good PG prospect from within the state’s borders.

Fran was also pretty early on PGs Tyrell Terry of Minnesota and Jeremiah Francis of Ohio. Both look really good. I like Francis perhaps the most of all the PGs Iowa is in on. He recently cut his list to 10, including the Hawkeyes, but his dad is an OSU alum and the Buckeyes will be tough to beat in my opinion. If not the Buckeyes, North Carolina is never a good matchup for Iowa.

Of the big guys with an offer, it sounds like Fran might be pursuing Indiana PF Trayce Jackson-Davis the most. If you look at that list above, there are some really big names and even as a 4-star, Jackson-Davis is on the lower end just outside the top-100 for most sites. Add to that the fact he’s from the Midwest and I think you see why he may be at the top of the priority list for big men in 2019.

If you take a look at his video, you see some traits Iowa fans should be getting used to. He looks an awful lot like current Hawkeye Tyler Cook to me. I don’t think he is quite the athlete Cook is, but their games look similar. Most of his highlights are around the basket, and he is quite the finisher.

He doesn’t have the same outside game of either Jack Nunge or Luka Garza and his footwork around the hoop isn’t at the level of either Cordell Pemsl or Garza. But he reminds me of some hybrid of all those guys. He gets up similar to Cook, but also shows a good feel for positioning down on the block. The highlights don’t show much in the way of a jumper or ball-handling, but he’ll only be a junior this coming season with plenty of time left to develop those aspects.

Jackson-Davis is already Big Ten ready from a size standpoint at 6’9” and 210 lbs. He’s from Greenwood, Indiana, which is just south of Indianapolis and preps at Center Grove High School. As he progresses through the rest of his high school career look for him to develop his footwork around the hoop and potentially add some more face-up game.

Of the small forward/wing players not named Pat McCaffery (who is a top 30 player by all accounts and may well be the highest rated recruit Fran ever pulls in), the name to follow in my mind is Michael Moreno. He’s the only guy on the list not rated yet by Rivals and he’s only a 3-star by 247, but if we’ve learned nothing else by now in the Fran McCaffery era, we should’ve learned he has an eye for talent. When he makes an offer way before everyone else, that should get your alarm bells going off.

That’s what happened here. Iowa is Moreno’s only high-major offer (he also has offers from Bradley and Eastern Kentucky) and he’s come across Pat on the AAU circuit. At 6’6” and 180 lbs, Moreno shows a really nice skillset. He can attack the basket off the dribble and finish around the rim, but he also has a really nice pull-up jumper and a little floater. On his high school team in Georgetown, KY, he’s big enough to post up his defender and shows a nice back-to-the-basket game there. He can pass out of the post or face up and shoot over shorter defenders.

It’s worth pointing out that the younger McCaffery has yet to verbally commit to Dad, but the Hawkeyes are currently his only high major offer (like Moreno). While I think Fran probably was able to identify this talent early as well, the reason here is pretty clear: nobody outside of the Iowa fanbase believes there is any real chance he considers any option other than Iowa.

Pat has been actively recruiting other athletes as his Iowa Barnstormers team has been on the AAU circuit winning a ton. He’s also been getting some quality time with some really high level prospects at events such as the NBA Top-100 camp. Having a player like McCaffery in the fold and out recruiting for the staff is an invaluable asset and just another reason so many of the offers above have gone to such big names. The real question will be where the minutes come from with all the talent Fran and company have amassed already. These are the types of problems Iowa fans have been dreaming about.