The Iowa men’s basketball team returns to the court this Friday after a long absence, but it’s been a particularly long time since Hawkeye fans have seen any real game action from the next player to be featured on BHGP’s countdown to the start of the 2019-20 season.
Jack Nunge (Soph)
6’11”, 245 lbs.
Newburgh, IN (Castle HS)
A dynamic scorer in high school, Nunge was one of the top basketball players from the state of Indiana when he arrived on campus in 2017. Nunge played quite a bit during his first season in the black and gold and actually managed to start 14 games but suffered from the type of inconsistency one would expect from a freshman.
Nunge’s performances varied wildly from game to game. He looked like the best player on the roster after a cleanly played 18-point, five rebound performance on the road against Ohio State, only to follow that up with a goose egg against Michigan. Nunge recorded seven steals during his first two games at Iowa, but then netted only three steals during the entire month of December. He looked aggressive attacking the basket during the non-conference season, only to become extremely passive once conference play began, attempting only two free throws throughout January of 2018.
Nunge’s biggest weakness during his freshman season was his lack of a natural position; he was too skinny to defend Big Ten post players for any considerable length of time, but not quick enough to cover most wing players with a good first step. However, Nunge took this matter into his own hands by opting to redshirt last season so he could tack on additional mass and prepare himself for the rigors of conference play. Early returns indicate that these efforts were successful; Nunge looks much stronger at 245 lbs. (up about 30 pounds from when he arrived in Iowa City) and finally looks like a player who is Big Ten-ready.
Nunge could be a legitimate X-factor for the Hawkeyes this season, and how Fran McCaffery chooses to deploy the versatile big man will reveal a lot about this team’s makeup and its potential. Is Nunge ready to start at the four and give the Hawkeyes a pair of twin towers on the low block, or dos he project more as a stretch-five and a backup to Luka Garza? Will Nunge continue to get any minutes at the three, or is Patrick McCaffery ready to hold his own at that position even against upper-level competition? Has Nunge’s quickness and foot speed improved in addition to his increase in size and strength, allowing him to defend multiple positions and use his impressive length to create real defensive mismatches for his opponents?
No matter how Nunge looks on Friday, it will be nice to see the talented sophomore back on the court once again. Here’s hoping Nunge can make a few exciting plays to remind fans of what they’ve been missing.