The hits keep coming for Fran McCaffery and Iowa Hawkeye basketball fans. After bowing out in the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament this year, despite earning the highest seed in program history, Fran and the Hawkeyes have seen Jack Nunge enter the transfer portal and Joe Wieskamp declare for the NBA Draft (though he may still return).
Iowa has been on the look for a replacement for the departed NPOY Luka Garza and the aforementioned Garza, but McCaffery has continued to strike out, even on homegrown products such as former Drake and Minnesota standout Liam Robbins.
Now, the Hawkeyes have been dealt another major blow as Fran McCaffery announced that starting shooting guard CJ Fredrick has entered the transfer portal.
That was followed up shortly thereafter with a statement from Fredrick himself.
The move is a major surprise for Hawkeye fans despite some rumors that had been swirling for well over a month. Fredrick was perhaps the least likely of current Hawkeyes to transfer, save for the two McCaffery kids on the roster.
As a reminder, the Cincinnati (Kentucky suburb) native committed to Iowa in the class of 2018 despite no available scholarships for the Hawkeyes. Due to a longstanding family relationship with Fran McCaffery, who coached CJ’s uncle Joe in the 80s at Notre Dame, Fredrick agreed to walk on at Iowa over offers from Xavier, Indiana, Penn State, Nebraska and others.
The walk-on move proved unnecessary as a scholarship opened before he suited up the first time. After a redshirt in the 2018-2019 season, Fredrick stepped right into a starting role as a redshirt freshman in 2019-2020 and has been a major contributor for the Hawkeyes the last two years.
As a redshirt sophomore, Fredrick averaged 7.5 points and 2.8 assists a game while shooting 46% from beyond the arc. The Hawkeyes notably were forced to play without CJ for a critical stretch in February and went 1-4 in games where he was unable to play in both halves. CJ was visibly hindered in his return to action and played much more passively down the stretch. He scored in double figures just once in his final 13 games following the injury that sidelined him against Indiana.
One of the best shooters in the Big Ten conference and statistically the best three-point shooter in Iowa history (47% for his career on 178 attempts, ahead of Kent McCausland at 45% on 472 career attempts), Fredrick was expected to step into a leading role in the 2021-2022 season. With Garza headed to the NBA and Wieskamp expected to join him, Fredrick was set to be the leading man and far and away the best shooter for the Hawkeyes as they look to move to the post-Garza era.
Now Iowa needs to pivot and pivot fast to find answers for next season. The Hawkeyes will be sorely lacking for shooters, even if Jordan Bohannon were to opt for a 6th year in Iowa City. McCaffery has been slow to play the transfer portal game, but with the recent departures Iowa will need to dive deep on the more than 1,500 players already on the move or risk falling from top four to bottom four in the conference in just one offseason.
Perhaps the only thing to fall so far to fast is apparently the relationship between Fredrick and the McCaffery family. Only three years after opting to walk on for Fran rather than take a scholarship from other power six programs, Fredrick is now heading out of town and it doesn’t appear to be on good terms.
While rumors swirl over the ultimate motivation, it seems the news was delivered on the decision Sunday and was not exactly received well.
what’s done in the dark will always come to the light— Patrick McCaffery (@patrickmccaff22) April 18, 2021
Both Pat and Connor “unfollowed” Fredrick on Twitter and Instagram shortly thereafter. It’s safe to say this didn’t play well given end of year meetings were held some time ago and Iowa has already missed out on a slew of quality guards in the portal with limited minutes available if Fredrick had returned.
In terms of where Frederick lands, there’s been plenty of speculation it’s to the University of Kentucky. CJ did grow up on the Kentucky side of the river in Cincinnati and the Wildcats are still a blueblood despite last season’s woes. It’s unlikely he would have the role in Lexington he would have had in Iowa City, but if anyone can sell its Coach Calipari.
But Louisville is a potential dark horse here as well. The Cardinal are coached by Chris Mack, who’s a Cincy man himself and has a relationship with Frederick already. As the head coach at Xavier, Mack offered CJ out of high school and recruited him for some time. While not on the same level as Kentucky historically, Louisville is no slouch as a program either.
All indications are this will move rather quickly. While McCaffery and the Hawkeyes have been working to land a big man already in the portal, a significant number of transfers have come with players announcing a destination within a day of actually entering the portal. Some might say that’s tampering, others will say it’s college basketball.
Whatever the case, Fran McCaffery and the Hawkeyes will be playing in 2021-2022 without CJ Fredrick.