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35 Days until Iowa Basketball: Cordell Pemsl

Where does the junior forward fit within the logjam in the post?

NCAA Basketball: Minnesota at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Oh yeah, what a feeling! Football is in the air which means Iowa Hawkeyes basketball is right around the corner. We’ll be counting down the days, here and there, until Iowa’s first game tips off. The countdown continues with… Cordell Pemsl!


55: Luka Garza

51: Nicholas Baer

Cordell Pemsl
Forward, 6’8”, 230 lbs
Junior, Dubuque, IA (Wahlert)

Leading into the 2017-18 season, much was made of Cordell Pemsl’s transformation. After a solid freshman year which saw him rack up 9 points and 5 boards in a little over 19 minutes a game, he required sports hernia surgery for an injury sustained much earlier.

He used the time away from basketball activities to transform his body. Unfortunately, it did not translate to on court production quite as much as Iowa fans would have liked. He saw his minutes decrease to 16 a game, while his scoring went down out of proportion with his minutes to 5.7 points (18.4 points/40 minutes to 13.8 points/40 minutes). If there is one silver lining, his conference field goal percentage bounced up from 55.1% to 59.3%.

The message boards were aflutter with rumors of a transfer. He did not exactly quell them with his comments at Iowa’s postseason banquet. It was completely understandable: with his decrease in minutes, it is unclear where he stands in the Iowa rotation going forward. After 14 starts his freshman year, he tallied zero in 2017-18.

He is back and in even better shape than he was to enter his sophomore year. While his shooting percentage stabilized in the conference season closer to the 60% he had freshman year, he did not have the same girth which allowed him to seal out opponents on post moves. He looked more overmatched than in his freshman year on defense, as well. Part of it is a shift in roster construction: KenPom considered him a C/PF as a freshman while the algorithm spit out PF/SF as a sophomore. If he is playing more 4, he knows he needs to be a better perimeter defender. Per above, “I’m containing a lot better off the dribble. On-ball screens, I’m able to help a lot better. I’m rebounding better. I’m jumping better.”

All good things.

Iowa’s only offseason attrition at the post was Ahmad Wagner’s transfer to Kentucky football. Minutes, it seems, would be hard to come by. However, Luka Garza’s recovery from a cyst-removal surgery provides further opportunity for someone to emerge along the frontline. With a timeline of “sometime this winter,” it could extend into Iowa’s conference season.

Pemsl’s skillset makes him, arguably, the most center-like player on Iowa’s roster. Should he emerge as the best option to replace Garza’s starting slot and minutes, it would make Iowa look like a more old-school team.

He could also be a shot in the arm off the bench and games like the one he had against Michigan State (11 points on 4/4 shooting and 7 boards) will always be welcome. That game capped a stretch of five where he averaged 10 points and 5 boards on 81% shooting.

Whatever role he plays, it’ll be important to the trajectory of Iowa’s season. If the transformation from thicc Pemsl to quick Pemsl comes to fruition, it will provide much needed versatility along the frontline and put pressure on opponent bigs.