Almost got 'im -- again.
New Hawkeye Trey Dickerson, a fellow JUCO recruit and a friend of Willie Atwood, did what he could to guide his friend to join him at Iowa in 2014, but on Thursday afternoon Atwood opted to sign his National Letter of Intent to attend Arizona State next year.
Willie Atwood has committed to Arizona State— Brad Winton (@JucoRecruiting) April 24, 2014
Iowa was one of Atwood's final three (along with Florida State and Arizona State), but came up short in their pursuit of the 6-8, 215 lb. PF from Connors State (Oklahoma) College who averaged 15.6 ppg, 9.0 rpg, and 2.1 apg over two seasons in the JUCO ranks. This decision continues an unpleasant trend for Iowa hoops of coming close but failing to seal the deal, both in recruiting (see also: Ulis, Tyler) and on the court (see also: too many goddamn games to count).
Atwood's decision leaves Iowa with two remaining scholarships for the 2014 class with no obvious names to fill them and the pool of recruits (from the JUCO, high school, or D-1 transfer ranks) rather thinned out. While it was widely expected that Iowa would carry over one of those two scholarships for the 2015 class, carrying two scholarships over was viewed as an unlikely option (as it could create somewhat imbalanced classes for Iowa and also deny them the opportunity to add a player who could provide assistance next season). That said, most of Iowa's remaining class of 2014 eggs appeared to be in the Atwood basket and it's not clear where they might turn next to fill that scholarship.
One option could be Nevada transfer Cole Huff. Huff, a 6-8, 205 lb. forward from Southern California spent the last two seasons at Nevada and had a breakout effort in 2013-14: 12.4 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 45.1 FG%, 40.3 3FG%. Iowa faces some stiff competition to land Huff, though:
Nevada transfer Cole Huff told @CBSSports he'll visit Creighton, Iowa, + Dayton. Michigan + USC are also in mix. Depends on restrictions.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) April 23, 2014
Huff's Michigan offer is contingent on a few things: whether they land another recruit (G Aubrey Dawkins) and/or whether Mitch McGary decides to declare for the NBA Draft. As for what Huff himself is looking for from his new school:
His decision to transfer hinged largely on finding a team that would allow him to play small forward as well as going to program strong in player development.
I think Iowa checks out just fine on the player development point -- just take a look at the development of Gabe Olaseni or Roy Devyn Marble under Fran, to name but two examples. The small forward point is interesting. If Aaron White moves to the 4-spot (see below), Jarrod Uthoff could inherit his starting job at the 3-spot. Uthoff will be a junior next season and would be a senior in 2015-16, when Huff would first be eligible to play at Iowa. What impact that might have on Huff's decision is unclear.
Of course, it should also be clear by now that Huff is not a like-for-like replacement for Atwood in the recruiting game. He doesn't play the same position (Huff is a SF rather than a PF and also seems more perimeter-oriented) and while Atwood would be able to provide an immediate impact next year, Huff (as a Division I transfer) would need to sit out the 2014-15 season, per NCAA regulations. Huff may indeed be a good addition to Iowa's program -- more talent is never a bad thing -- but it wouldn't address the most glaring needs Iowa has for 2014-15.
Huff's isn't looking to make a decision on his transfer destination until he makes official visits to the schools he's considering; currently he's scheduled to visit Iowa on May 2 and Dayton on May 9. He hasn't scheduled visits yet with Michigan, Creighton, or the other schools he's considering.
Atwood's decision to attend Arizona State over Iowa leaves Iowa's post options for 2014-15 somewhat muddled. With Melsahn Basabe and Zach McCabe both exhausting their eligibility and Kyle Meyer opting to transfer, there are certainly minutes to be had in the post for Iowa next year. Atwood would have been a logical choice to fill many of those minutes. Without Atwood, Iowa could look to play White more at the 4-spot (where he's arguably been more effective, as his quickness makes him a difficult match-up for most post players) with Uthoff taking White's starting spot at SF. The stickier question might be who comes off the bench to spell the starters next year; if Iowa's not able to add another front court body with immediate eligibility, incoming recruit Dominique Uhl may need to be the primary backup for both White and Uthoff. (Another option would be to replace White with Olaseni, who could provide a unique twin tower front court with Adam Woodbury, but Olaseni's primary role figures to be as a backup for Woodbury, to enable him to get a breather.)
'Round and 'round the creepy wheel turns; where it stops no one knows...