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Iowa Basketball Recruiting: Hawkeyes Finalize Class of 2020 Early Signings

The Hawkeyes inked five commits during the NCAA’s early signing period. Fran McCaffery goes in depth on each of them and recruiting in general.

NCAA Basketball: Iowa at Northern Iowa
Coach McCaffery seems quite happy with his 5 commits so far in 2020.
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

College basketball’s early signing day has come and gone and the Iowa Hawkeyes inked all five of their committed prospects in the class of 2020. You might have missed that as the Iowa hoops program slid a bit under the radar on signing day.

The official Twitter account for Iowa basketball announced the signing of Indianapolis SG Tony Perkins, but was silent on all the other commits. They did announce the addition of Chicago PG Ahron Ulis the following day, but never went public with an announcement on big man Josh Ogundele, who committed on signing day, or the Murray twins, who were added just a few weeks prior.

Perhaps the under the radar nature of the announcements is fitting given the under the radar nature of the players. Of the five commits, none had significant offer lists, though Ulis and Ogundele did have some nice offers to go along with Iowa, and Perkins and the Murrays were rumored to be gaining attention from big name staffs prior to their commitments.

In the week since signing day, the program has gotten a bit more vocal about their additions. On Monday, the Hawkeyes put out an official press release detailing the signees. Later in the day, Fran McCaffery spoke at length about each player, providing some helpful color. You can read the full transcript on Hawkeye Report.

Here’s the rundown on each player.


Forward, 6-foot-8, 215 pounds
Cedar Rapids, Iowa (Prairie High School)
BHGP Commitment Post

Player notes from Hawkeye Sports:

  • Graduated from Prairie High School in 2019; currently spending a post-graduate year at DME Sports Academy in Daytona Beach, Florida
  • Averaged 20.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.8 blocks, and 1.3 steals per game as a senior
  • Postseason honors following his senior year at Prairie HS: Metro Player of the Year; first-team all-state by Prep Hoops IA and IBCA; unanimous first-team all-conference and first-team all-metro; Eastern Iowa All-Area Team; All-Sub State District 5
  • Established a new Prairie High School record in career free throw percentage (.876)
  • Two-time team captain (2018, 2019)
  • Son of former Hawkeye Kenyon Murray (1993-96)

Murray on why Iowa via Hawkeye Sports:

“Having the opportunity to play alongside my (twin) brother in front of friends and family is a dream come true. Being able to earn an education from the University of Iowa will be a great experience. I am excited to get on campus next summer.”


Forward, 6-foot-8, 205 pounds
Cedar Rapids, Iowa (Prairie High School/DME Sports Academy)
BHGP Commitment Post

Player notes from Hawkeye Sports:

  • Graduated from Prairie High School in 2019; currently spending a post-graduate year at DME Sports Academy in Daytona Beach, Florida.
  • Averaged 19.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 2.5 blocks, and 1.1 steals per game as a senior
  • Postseason honors following his senior year at Prairie HS: second-team all-state by Prep Hoops IA and IBCA; unanimous first-team all-league; first-team all-metro; Eastern Iowa All-Area Team; All-Sub State District 5
  • Unanimous first-team all-conference and all-metro as a junior
  • Two-time team captain (2018, 2019)
  • Son of former Hawkeye Kenyon Murray (1993-96), who named Kris as a tribute to former teammate Chris Street, who died in an auto accident midway through his junior season in 1993

Murray on why Iowa via Hawkeye Sports:

“I have watched Iowa basketball my entire life and knowing how hard I have worked to get to where I am is still unreal to me. Being able to play with a great group of guys and an excellent coaching staff is something that I cannot wait for. The opportunity to play at the same university with my (twin) brother is something that we are excited for with how we complement each other on the court.”


“I started watching Keegan and Kris at a young age because they were constantly playing against my sons Connor and Patrick at different tournaments and leagues. I watched them continue to work and grow as players, but also grow to be 6-foot-8. They could always shoot and handle the basketball. They always had tremendous basketball IQ.

“They are really good athletes with length and now that they are 6-8, they are spending a year at a high-level prep school, maturing for another season, grinding in the gym, working on fundamentals and getting in the weight room. They are going to come ready. They are both incredibly versatile. They can make 3’s, they can put it on the deck, and play multiple positions. One can play guard, one can play forward, or they can play both forward spots because they crash the boards. They are both capable of multiple double-doubles. It’s going to be good for them to be home and play for the Hawkeyes.”

Additional color on the Murrays from McCaffery’s transcript, via Hawkeye Report:

Q: What was the evaluation process like with Kris and Keegan Murray and what really kind of pushed you to the point of offering them a scholarship?

McCAFFERY: It was pretty easy really. They kept getting better. They kept getting bigger and stronger and working on the game. I think if you saw them play last year it would be pretty easy to come to that conclusion. I thought as soon as they decided to go to prep school that it was pretty much inevitable that they were going to be offered.

They had really good summers and they have a great opportunity at prep school. They are both going to come in ready to play. They will be bigger and stronger and they are complete players. They can pretty much do everything. They have always been great three point shooters, but they have great basketball intellect as well.

Q: Does anything distinguish the Murray twins? How are they different or are they?

McCAFFERY: I don’t think you have to zero in on anything that differentiates them. They just do everything well and I think that’s the beauty of it. They can both can dribble, pass, shoot, rebound, and they both have really good feels for the game. If you are pressing in the backcourt they are going to take it and make a play. If you are running motion or running a set, they can score it. They are both long so they can defend and rebound their position.

One is right handed and one is left handed. Keegan is a little heavier right now, but they are both the kind of players that at the end of the game they are going to have numbers. They are guys that have the kind of character that you want when you are building a program.


Forward, 6-foot-11, 245 pounds
Worcester, Massachusetts (Worcester Academy)
BHGP Commitment Post

Player notes from Hawkeye Sports:

  • England native, moved to America from London when he was 16
  • Played for Boston Amateur Basketball Club (BABC) in Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL) since 2018
  • Two-year starter for Worcester Academy
  • Averaged 7.3 points (59% FG; 70& FT), four rebounds in 26 games played as a junior
  • Has volunteered more than 100 hours of community service at Worcester Academy (St. John’s Soup Kitchen; Union Hill School; Hill-O-Ween; Friendly House; Rainbow Child Development Center)
  • Played for the English National Team in 2015
  • Won a silver medal on the 2016 Great Britain National Team

Ogundele on why Iowa via Hawkeye Sports:

“What attracted me to the University of Iowa was not only the coaches, but the team’s reputation of players, and how well they play and compete in the Big Ten. I also liked how the program has produced players in the NBA.”


“Josh is a powerful athlete, who has bounce and feel for the game. Josh came over from London and challenged himself to play for one of the most competitive AAU programs and one of the best prep schools in the country and coach Jamie Sullivan. Josh is going to have an immediate impact on our program. He is a young man with great character, and we are thrilled he has joined the Hawkeye family.”

Additional color on Ogundele from McCaffery’s transcript, via Hawkeye Report:

Q: You just talked about Ogundele. When did you first see him and when did you decide to go hard after him?

McCAFFERY: We saw him this summer and really liked him. I went out to see him this fall where he is at a really good program. We always make that swing up there in New England where there are a number of really good players at the prep schools are at. Billy Taylor went up there and then I went there and we had him in for a visit. We hooked up a couple of times. I’ve been up there couple of times after that. He just keeps getting better. He has athletic power that you like. He does play below the rim sometimes, but he can go up and dunk it on you and block shots. He runs the floor and can play in transition, which is important for us and he can get rebounds for us. He is being coached at a really high level and will play a bunch of competitive games this year and then we will get our hands on him, which will be great.


Guard, 6-foot-4, 185 pounds
Indianapolis, Indiana (Lawrence North High School)
BHGP Commitment Post

Player notes from Hawkeye Sports:

  • Averaged 15.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, and three assists per game while shooting 38 percent from 3-point range last season
  • Junior All-Star
  • Earned all-state recognition one year and was a two-time honorable mention all-state honoree
  • Two-time all-conference selection
  • Two-time team Most Valuable Player and Defensive Player of the Year
  • Led Lawrence North High School to 18 wins as a sophomore and 17 victories as a junior
  • Two-time team captain
  • Starter on his high school team his first three years

Ogundele on why Iowa via Hawkeye Sports:

“I love the Iowa coaching staff. I love Iowa City and how much Hawkeye fans support every team. I am excited to be an Iowa Hawkeye!”


“Tony is an athletic, attack-minded guard that can play either spot. He has length and can guard anybody from 5-foot-10 to 6-8. He has tremendous athletic power and competitive instincts. He has great feel for how to play. Tony plays for a great high school program and great high school coach in Jack Keefer. We are thrilled that he is a Hawkeye!”

Additional color on Perkins from McCaffery’s transcript, via Hawkeye Report:

Q: What made you pull the trigger on the offer to Tony Perkins? What sold you on him?

McCAFFERY: We were aware of the quality of program that he comes out of at the high school and AAU level. We had watched him and really liked him. I was at one of those NCAA camps and he really excelled and then I went to his high school and really watched him. When you watch a workout there, you know he is well coached by the way he does his drills. You can see his skill and how versatile he is. He is great fit for what we do and how we play. He has athletic power and a really good feel for the game. He’s also a very intense competitor and we are really excited to have him.


Guard, 6-foot-2, 175 pounds
Chicago Heights (Marian Catholic)
BHGP Commitment Post

Player notes from Hawkeye Sports:

  • Averaged 18 points, five assists, and four rebounds as a junior and 13.5 points, five assists, and three rebounds as a sophomore
  • 2019 East Suburban Catholic Conference (ESCC) Player of the Year
  • Second team all-state and Chicago Sun Times All-Area as a junior
  • Two-time ESCC All-Conference and Daily Southtown All-Area honoree
  • As a starter, led Marian Catholic to 27 wins as a junior and 26 victories as a sophomore, third and fourth most in a single season in school history, respectively
  • Led Marian Catholic to its first third place finish at the ISHA 3A state championship; sectional and super-sectional championships in 2019
  • Led team in scoring and assists as a junior
  • Two-time Hinsdale All-Tournament Team (MVP as a junior) and Chicago Heights All-Tournament Team
  • No. 6 ranked 2020 senior in the state of Illinois
  • Helped Marian Catholic secure back-to-back regional titles in 2018 and 2019 and an ESCC title in 2019
  • Two-time team captain
  • Older brother is Tyler Ulis (Kentucky, 2015-16)

Ulis on why Iowa via Hawkeye Sports:

“I have always dreamed about playing college basketball at the highest level and the University of Iowa is the right place and right fit for me. Coach McCaffery knows my family and I like the players and coaching staff. I’ve watched Iowa for a while and believe its style of play suits me extremely well. I’m excited to be a Hawkeye!”


“I watched Ahron grow up, beginning when I was recruiting his older brother (Tyler). I have a great relationship with his family and high school coach, Mike Taylor, who is one of the best in the Chicagoland area. I’ve watched Ahron develop into the player he is now. He is in the gym grinding all the time and surrounds himself with knowledgeable people. I am really excited to have Ahron join our program.”

Additional color on Ulis from McCaffery’s transcript, via Hawkeye Report:

Q: How much did your relationship with the Ulis family help you in the process of recruiting Ahron and how do you see him as a player when he gets to you?

McCAFFERY: I think the relationship was important because we know his mom and dad really well and his high school coach really well. He did this on his own. The fact that we went hard after his older brother, Tyler and we love his game and probably recruited him as hard as anyone since I have been here. Ahron earned it on his own. He came over here as a freshman and played against West High against Connor and Patrick. Then I watched him on the AAU circuit as a younger kid playing at Peach Jam and I just watched him grow.

I stayed in contact with his high school coach in particular, who is a straight shooter. He just said he’s there. He’s really honest and sees him every day. He just said he’s a winner and the type of player that you want. He was familiar with the style of play and his coach thought he would be a perfect fit for us. Ahron is a gamer and plays the game at a whole different level in terms of his mental approach, but he also has the physical skills so we are excited to get him.


Via Hawkeye Report:

Q: You talked about versatility with this class. Can a lot of these guys do different things?

McCAFFERY: Absolutely. You start with the Murray’s as wing players and they are now 6-8. In today’s game they could be a post player or play as wings. The same thing with Ahron. He can guard multiple positions and he could play the point where he is really smart or he can play off the ball and make shots. Same thing with Tony Perkins. He is really a powerful athlete who could play 1, 2, or 3. He comes to us from a terrific high school program. Then with Josh, he is 6-11 and 265 pounds. He has a wide body with athletic ability, toughness, and competitive instincts. I just think he’s going to keep getting better and better. He can rebounds and he can run and that fits with what we are trying to do.

Q: How challenging is it today from an overall program perspective in recruiting when you have to manage a roster and you have guys leaving early, transfers, redshirts, and other things that you are going to have to address?

McCAFFERY: It’s completely different now. You don’t know from year to year if guys are going to go pro or if they are going to put their name in the draft or the transfer portal. It’s becoming easier and easier to transfer and become eligible right away.

What you do is try to get high character guys that love this institution and want to be here. If you treat them the way you are supposed to, then you hope that they will stay. Occasionally we have had guys leave because they want to play more and we help that process along. We don’t want to encourage them to leave, but we respect their decision. Anyone who has left here has done so with our blessing and I will do anything I can to help them.

The other side of the coin is there is this sort of free agent market out there in the spring and a lot of my colleagues don’t even really worry about the early recruiting period anymore. They just wait and see who’s leaving, see who transfers, and see if they can get a transfer eligible. That’s why I said the other night that you see these teams come in here with veteran clubs because everyone is doing the same thing. It’s not like you are going to graduate three seniors and now you are going to have three or four freshmen, you have three graduate transfers or juniors who are eligible. It’s changed everything and we just adapt.

Q: How important was it to land Josh and get a big man in this class?

McCAFFERY: We needed one with Kriener graduating. He is such a key for us last year and this year and really since he has been here. Luka will be a senior and Jack will be a junior, so it was important to bring another guy in that is capable of playing right away. It’s also important that he will go against good players with Cordell being back. There are veteran guys that will help him develop and really take over in a few years, but he will play a lot next year.

Q: You kind of covered just about every position in this class. Was that one of the goals or did it just work out that way?

McCAFFERY: It just kind of worked out that way. It all really kind of starts last spring and you recruit some guys that you end up not being involved with at the end, but are in on early. In the process you are seeing other players and you are evaluating them at other camps, events, and tournaments and sometimes being out on the trail leads to other opportunities. Ultimately you want do a complete evaluation. Anyone can see a guy play one day. You want to see them play enough to see if they are consistent with their effort. He may not always have a great shooting day, but can he consistently defend and compete. I thought we did that type of evaluation on this group and I think that’s important because you can get sold on a guy too quickly. It can also work the other way where you see them play poorly and you could write them off. Then as you continue to watch you find out he’s pretty good, but just had a bad day. We try to see them as often as we can and try to cross reference with our staff and find out what each other is seeing. Then you do the background checks with coaches and people around him to check on the character and ultimately that is every bit as important as what he does on the court.

Q: You talked about the trips to New England to see Josh. You spend a lot of time on the road recruiting. Can you talk about how you maintain a zest for that, how much time you spend on the road, and how you keep that fire burning for it?

McCAFFERY: I think that’s a great question because over the years I still remember recruiting kids and it goes one way or another. It can be frustrating when you work hard on someone and you don’t get them and then it can be rewarding when you work on someone and get them.

I think we all recognize that as much time as we spend working on skill development with our guys or watching film to prepare for games, working hard on recruiting and being focused and communicating with each other and talking to the right people and being visible is as important as anything we do. I think that has to continue to be the focus. It is one of the parts of this job that I enjoy. For example, we played on Friday night and I flew out on Saturday to go watch Josh. That’s what we do. We come back and I was watching film all yesterday getting ready for North Florida. That’s just the job. It’s not something that can be dismissed or turned over to the assistant coaches. I can’t say you guys grind and I will make a few phone calls. I have to be out and I have to be able to go out on my own. Some guys always have to have someone with them. I have done this for a number of years and I can be out and find my way to gyms, communicate with people, and evaluate. That allows us to have another guy out there as well at another place.

It can be frustrating at times, but you have to understand that is part of recruiting. The player is only going through this once. They are going to go through it however they are going to go through it. Every recruiting situation is a snowflake. Some have more people involved. Some have less people involved. Some are quicker with their decisions and others drag them out. Some like the publicity and some don’t. You can’t rush it or force it. You have to just let it happen and communicate and be consistent with our message and make sure they know we want them. Then ultimately you hope you end up with a group here that understands what we are about and what we are trying to do. We are excited about his group and we feel like we filled some needs, especially with who we have graduating.

Q: To follow up, he was already committed to you and signed with you and you went back out there for another visit?

McCAFFERY: It’s one of those things that falls under that’s what you do. That is part of recruiting. This kid went through a lot in the last few months. Recruiting really heated up for him and he took five visits and he was getting pounded every day. His mom was getting pounded very day, along with his high school coach and AAU coach and he said he wanted to come to Iowa to play for the Hawkeyes.

I told him I was coming up on Saturday because I couldn’t get there earlier in the week because we were getting ready to play on Friday night. I needed to be with your team and he understood that. Whether he signed or not, I was going to go up there. I didn’t cancel my trip because he committed and signed. You go up there and you follow up and talk to him. I’m his coach now in many respects, so I broke the game down for him and told him what he needs to continue to work on. It’s all about relationships and that was a relationship decision that I made.

Q: What gave you that perspective on recruiting? Was it just something over time that you learned or did someone mold that perspective into you?

McCAFFERY: I think it comes down to this, I recognize the importance of the decision to that person and his family. It is important that he knows how much we wanted him and what our vision is for him. I think at the end of the day you have to be allowed to go through the process in a way that when he puts his head on the pillow at night he feels really good about his decision. That it didn’t feel rushed or pressured because then he wouldn’t feel good about his decision. Sometimes we feel like we can feel like we are running out of patience because we want to know about it yesterday and some kids struggle to make the decision and others just want it over with and pull the trigger quickly. My experience is when you allow them to go through the process and then they call you and let you know they are coming, they are excited because they did their homework. Then when they get here they are excited to be here and go to work.

Really great stuff from Fran and some interesting insight into the world of recruiting. This staff takes plenty of heat for their misses, but I don’t think you can question their work effort or ability to scout talent.

Welcome aboard to Iowa’s five signees in the class of 2020!