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Iowa Basketball: Josh Ogundele Returning to Hawkeyes After Entering Transfer Portal

The Hawkeyes get some help back in the frontcourt.

NCAA Basketball: Nebraska at Iowa
Big jelly is back in Iowa City
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa basketball fans have been eager for news regarding the transfer portal since the 2021-2022 season came to an end in the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. The Hawkeyes were forced to play small most of the season with deficiencies both in the rim protecting and rebounding departments.

Then in March, reserve big man Josh Ogundele put his name into the transfer portal and the need for a big man went from necessary to desperately so. Since that time, the Hawkeyes have seen their name attached to a number of bigs in the portal but to-date, none have announced a transfer into the program.

On Thursday, Iowa got some depth back at the position as Ogundele announced his intentions to return to Iowa City for a junior season.

Originally from London, Big Jelly averaged 1.5 points and 1.3 rebounds in 5 minutes per game as a sophomore for the Hawkeyes. Iowa fans will recall offseason hype around his workouts with rumblings that a body transformation was underway. Then Ogundele was hit with COVID-19 and struggled to get back into shape.

Nonetheless, JO gave Iowa big minutes in a handful of games this year, highlighted by a 4-point showing in 10 minutes against Purdue in the Big Ten Championship Game.

While the return of Ogundele certainly helps add depth a major position of need, it doesn’t fill the gaping hole at center for the Hawkeyes, who are expected to remain active in the portal in their quest for another big capable of stepping into 15+ minutes per game this season.

One possibility has been Utah Valley big man Fardaw Aimaq, who quickly became one of the hottest names in the portal upon announcing his transfer. Iowa made the cut to his top-5, but has not yet received a visit. That’s a problem for the Hawkeyes as Aimaq announced on Thursday he intends to announce his decision at noon on Friday, fresh off a visit to Texas Tech.

But Fran McCaffery hasn’t had all his eggs in one basket. Iowa has been mentioned as a school in contact with more than half a dozen big men, some of whom have already trimmed the Hawkeyes from their list. One name to watch is Louisiana center Theo Akwuba.

The grad transfer measures in at 6’11” and 225 pounds and averaged 9.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game in 25.6 minutes per game as a senior with the Ragin Cajuns. That’s after putting up 11.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game as a junior. He was named Second Team All-Sun Belt and Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year as a junior after transferring from Portland.

With the return of Josh Ogundele, the Hawkeyes still have two available scholarships for this year. Fifth year senior Connor McCaffery is joined by fellow senior Filip Rebraca while Ogundele is in a crowded junior class with Ahron Ulis, Tony Perkins, Pat McCaffery and Kris Murray should he withdraw from the NBA Draft. Payton Sandfort and Riley Mulvey are Iowa’s only sophomores while the Hawkeyes have signed Dasonte Bowen and Josh Dix in this year’s recruiting class. The Hawkeyes, of course, lost Keegan Murray to the NBA while Austin Ash and Joe Toussaint have left the program via transfer.

Welcome back Josh Ogundele!