With only five days left until the start of Iowa basketball season, BHGP’s player previews continue with perhaps Iowa’s biggest “X” factor heading into the 2019-20 season.
6’3”, 195 lbs.
Cincinnati, KY (Covington Catholic)
Redshirt freshman C.J. Fredrick is perhaps the biggest “X” factor for the Hawkeyes heading into 2019-2020. The Cincinnati-native (on the Kentucky side of the border) came to Iowa City a season ago planning to walk on at Iowa.
That was considered a major recruiting coup for Fran McCaffery given Fredrick was the Gatorade player of the year in the state of Kentucky and had offers from other power 5 programs coming out of perennial hoops powerhouse Covington Catholic.
The story has been covered plenty since his commitment and Hawkeye fans will surely get sick of hearing it every game this season, but Fredrick chose to walk on at Iowa because of a desire to play for Fran McCaffery after his uncle played for him (as an assistant) at Notre Dame under Digger Phelps. The family held McCaffery in high regard and was willing to pay for school at Iowa until a scholarship opened up.
Fortunately for Fredrick, one opened nearly immediately and he’ll spend his five years on campus with a scholarship. And he will likely spend five years in Iowa City thanks to a redshirt season a year ago.
That came when the Hawkeyes has Jordan Bohannon Manning the point guard spot and Isaiah Moss at shooting guard. Fast forward to this season and Bohannon’s availability is still up in the air after offseason hip surgery and Isaiah Moss is a Kansas Jayhawk. Iowa has brought in freshman PG Joe Toussaint and graduate transfer guard Bakari Evelyn, but there are minutes for the taking in Iowa’s backcourt.
Fredrick seems poised to take up a good portion of those and may even earn a starting spot. That’s in large part due to his diverse skill set and work ethic.
After being recruited primarily for his shooting skills and being feared to be another Josh Oglesby or Brady Ellingson by Hawkeye fans, Fredrick has shown his value as both a ball handler and a defensive stopper. We started to hear bits and pieces on his defensive efforts a year ago when he came into the season with a couple broken ribs after attempting to take a charge from former Hawkeye Tyler Cook.
Fast forward to this year and Fran is touting CJF as Iowa’s best perimeter defender.
FM: Fredrick has been team's best perimeter defender. He has a great work ethic and intensity level... anticipates well, fights through screens. #Hawkeyes— Iowa Basketball (@IowaHoops) October 30, 2019
It’s always difficult to judge how much of what Fran says is hyperbole, but even if he doesn’t live up to the defensive hype, he’s sure to earn minutes. Once on the floor, Fredrick seems like a good bet to score points.
As a senior at Kentucky’s Covington Catholic High School, Fredrick averaged 23.1 points, 4 assists and 3 rebounds a game. He also set single-season school records for points (900), field goals made in a season (315), and 3-pointers made (107) and averaged nearly 28 points a game during the state tournament. All of which earned him the honor of Gatorade Player of the Year in Kentucky.
While it’s difficult to know just how well that translates to Big Ten play, the Fredrick hype train has been slowly building momentum. On last week’s HawkCentral podcast, the Des Moines Register’s Chad Liestikow went so far as to say Fredrick was often Iowa’s best guard in practice last season.
Those are pretty strong words considering last year’s team had Jordan Bohannon and Isaiah Moss. Now, with Moss gone and Bohannon’s health still uncertain, we should have plenty of opportunities to see just how good C.J. Fredrick can be.
Look for him to be a contributor early and often primarily at the SG spot. At 6’3”, he isn’t quite long enough to slide to the SF spot the way Joe Wieskamp can unless Fran is looking to go small. He does seem to have the ball handling and court smarts to slide to the PG spot if Iowa finds themselves in a bind.
When in the game, it sounds like he’ll likely draw the opponent’s best guard unless we see something more from Toussaint or Evelyn. On the offensive side of the court, he’s a very good shooter from deep and is just quick enough off the bounce to keep his man honest. With Bohannon healthy or Toussaint pulling defenders into the lane on drive and dish action, that should be good enough to be an effective scorer in Fran’s system.
We’ll find out this week.