The Iowa Hawkeyes have had a terrible, really bad, no good start to the offseason. We all knew National Player of the Year Luka Garza was going to be going pro and the expectation for nearly a year has been that Joe Wieskamp would join him. But with Jack Nunge hitting the transfer portal after his injuries and the tragic death of his father, the lineup started to look thin. Things went from bad to worse earlier this week when the program’s all-time leader in three-point percentage, CJ Fredrick, abruptly departed as well.
On Thursday, the Hawkeyes finally got some much needed good news as North Dakota big man Filip Rebraca, who Iowa has been pursuing for weeks, announced he had made a decision to join the Hawkeyes for 2021-2022.
Rebraca is a big time pick up for Fran McCaffery and staff on a number of fronts. For starters, he is physically big. At 6’9” and 222 pounds, Rebraca has a build to bang inside in the Big Ten.
Questioning that? He already has. Last December, Rebraca led all scorers with 23 points in a 76-67 loss to the Minnesota Golden Gophers while holding their star big man Liam Robbins to just 9 points on 4-11 shooting. He added six boards for good measure.
That size is exactly what Iowa needs with both Garza and Jack Nunge now gone. Iowa has freshman Josh Ogundele set to return and class of 2022 center Riley Mulvey reclassified to this year to add depth, but the Hawkeyes desperately needed at least one experienced big to plug in for serious minutes in 2021-2022. That’s Rebraca, who will also have the option to return in 2022-2023 if he chooses due to the extra year all players are afforded thanks to COVID-19.
Filip Rebraca (@FRebraca) becomes only the second player in UND’s Division I history (2008-present) to score at least 1,000 points and grab at least 500 rebounds in less than three years of action, joining only Troy Huff. #UNDproud | #LGH pic.twitter.com/r0E7PbnDJb— Alec Stocker Johnson (@smartalec_nd) February 2, 2021
The North Dakota product, originally from Serbia, averaged 16.8 points and 7.6 rebounds per game as an All-Summit League player last season. Notably, he isn’t simply a body in the post. He’s a versatile big with an ability to step out beyond the arc, shooting nearly 37% from deep a season ago. He has a little bit of everything and believes he can play the 3, 4 or 5.
Beyond the on-court impact the big man can make, his commitment is big time for Iowa as it provides some positive momentum after an offseason of woes. Despite the turmoil, Fran McCaffery identified Rebraca as soon as he hit the portal and was able to close the deal with him.
Also of note, landing him meant keeping Rebraca off of Iowa’s schedule. Despite offers from Virginia Tech, South Carolina and Stanford, this one came down to Iowa vs. Minnesota. A head-to-head win over the Gophers is a major bonus.
As per of the recruiting process, Rebraca told 247Sports his decision would come down to a three key factors:
“My decision will come down to three things. Academically I need a program that offers my masters degree in person because I’m an international student, second I want to go to a program that has a history of winning and a culture of winning. I want to play on the biggest stage and go to march madness. Lastly a team that can help develop my perimeter skills even more. I feel like I took a big step this year, but I want a team that will allow me to grow in that aspect and see the vision I have for myself.”
Academically, Iowa checks the box. We all expect them to be able to check the box helping him develop his outside game. Now, will they help check the box of getting back to March Madness? He’ll certainly be a big help in that effort.