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Iowa Hoops Player Profiles: The Reserves

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The Hawkeyes return three freshman and bring in two more

Syndication: HawkCentral Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Iowa Hawkeyes basketball season is coming at juuust the right time. While the expectations aren’t as high as last year, the possibility of a successful season still exists. Over the next week, we’ll take a look at the players on Iowa’s roster and what type of season we might expect from them. Up next are the reserves.

Just a quick primer here, in that the designation as “reserve” is a function of being either a freshman or returning scholarship player with very limited minutes. Considering Fran’s penchant for playing a ton of bodies, it may be easy to see guys from this spot rise into much more prominent roles.

Ahron Ulis

#4, Sophomore, 6’3”, 195 lbs
2020-21 stats: 1.6 PPG, 1.2 APG, 42% FG, 7.0 MPG, 17 games

Ulis is the player of this bunch with the most time on the floor and he served pretty well as a spot player when called upon in games while they were still in the balance. Most notably, in 14 minutes at Rutgers post-Connor McCaffery injury, he provided a steady hand with a basket, 4 assists, and no turnovers. That’s something to build off of.

The brother of Tyler Ulis, he entered Iowa as a prospect trending up, selecting the Hawks over DePaul and New Mexico, among others. But with his height, ball-handling, and savvy, it’s easy to see how he could operate in Fran’s free flowing offense. At 6’3”, he’s also got some size to throw at opposing PGs.

Unlike Tyler, Ahron doesn’t have that elite speed. I’ve got him simply as a reserve and not a “role player” because there remain a lot of bodies in front of him. Joe Toussaint as a starter and Connor McCaffery as 6th man may mean PG minutes are tricky to come by, to say nothing of Fran regressing and sliding Jordan Bohannon to that role. Best case, minutes-wise, is Connor’s role is more designated as a wing/forward and Ulis commands the lion’s share of minutes as JT’s primary backup.

Kris Murray

#24, Sophomore, F, 6’8”, 225 lbs
2020-21 stats: 0.6 PPG, 0.6 RPG, 3.2 MPG, 13 games

Kris Murray shares the same recruiting profile as his twin, Keegan, in that both left Cedar Rapids Prairie with limited offers before heading to Daytona for a prep year. They both got taller, showed they could ball in a different setting, and the Hawkeye offers swooped in before anyone else could snag them.

Kris came to Iowa City as the more perimeter-oriented player than Keegan, with a solid stroke from deep. He also shoots left-handed while his brother is a righty*. For him, knockdown shooting is probably the path to playing time. Best case for him is that he was just a year behind Keegan in development/readiness and we see him post a season very much like his brother’s 2020-21. You take that.

* Kenyon Murray said somewhere that he taught Keegan to shoot right-handed despite doing everything else left-handed. You notice it especially when Murray is driving to his left. Very controlled.

Josh Ogundele

#23, Sophomore, F, 6’11”, 265 lbs
2020-21 stats: 0.9 PPG, 1.0 RPG, 2.1 MPG, 8 games

Ogundele was recruited to Iowa after the Hawks missed on Xavier Foster in the fall of 2019. What a couple years it’s been as Foster was dismissed from ISU while Ogundele is trending the right direction in his body & conditioning.

A look to his HS tape shows a guy who can really combine skill with an ability to bang down low. He took and made an occasional three. The time between the end of his 2020 HS season and coming onto campus at Iowa were tough and he gained weight during the COVID lockdown and inability to practice. He’s still probably a year away as a potential big time contributor.

However, he’s done what he needed to do while at Iowa. His conditioning looked much better in minutes against Nebraska vs. the beginning of last year. He stood up Kofi Cockburn in the Big Ten Tournament in a singular defensive possession. He’s continuing to get his body right. He’ll be in line for some minutes with the loss of Luka Garza.

Payton Sandfort

#20, Freshman, F, 6’7”, 215 lbs
2020-21 stats (HS): 16.6 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 3.1 APG, 56% FG, 49% 3P

Sandfort is the first of two 2021 recruits, coming from Des Moines, IA area HS Waukee. He was a part of the state championship team from last year and was first-team all state. According to 247, he was a 3-star, top 200ish type of player. Classic Iowa recruit.

His shooting really sticks out, with an ability to make shots off the bounce and in spot-up situations. He has some handles and can get up when the time calls for it.

Riley Mulvey

#44, Freshman, 6’11”, 245 lbs
2020-21 stats (HS): 14.2 PPG, 11.7 RPG, 2.4 APG, 3.9 BPG, 1.9 SPG

Perhaps the most intriguing of the bunch, Mulvey reclassified from 2022 into Iowa’s 2021 class after Iowa struggled to recruit behind the departures of Garza and Jack Nunge. Though the Hawks have Filip Rebraca & Ogundele, Mulvey is the guy who most looks the part of a modern center.

He’s springy. He dunks. He can get to the perimeter. Fran said his defense is ahead of his offense and that might not be a horrible thing. A player like Mulvey emerging along the backline could enable Iowa to play stickier defense out front, knowing Mulvey could be there to clean it up. Both he and Ogundele could facilitate Rebraca to play more “4” as needed, as well.


Fran told Jon Rothstein he thinks he can play a million guys which is either good or bad. Iowa’s had tournament teams with deep rotations and when deployed correctly, you can see different guys have success on different nights. When it’s not working, it feels like McCaffery is over-tinkering.

Either way, the above five will have their shots at playing time and a couple might even find themselves as important pieces by season’s end.