One of the most notable things about Fran McCaffery's tenure at Iowa -- especially in comparison to his predecessor at Iowa -- has been the remarkable continuity that Iowa has enjoyed. Iowa basketball was something of a revolving door under Todd Lickliter, as players with eligibility remaining routinely looked for the exit door every off-season. Worse, it was usually a critically important player that was looking for the exit door. Fran's arrival managed to put the brakes on the transfer merry-go-round and Iowa managed to avoid any notable transfers for a few years. Pat Ingram ended the transfer-less streak a season ago and today came word that a few more Hawkeyes are looking to continue their basketball careers elsewhere.
Stokes, Meyer granted release to transfer. #Hawkeyes http://t.co/GQNLVavyzz— Iowa Basketball (@IowaHoops) April 8, 2014
Darius Stokes, a junior in 2013-14, has one year of eligibility remaining. He arrived at Iowa in 2010 as a walk-on and redshirted in 2010-11. He saw limited action in 2011-12: 12 appearances, 3 minutes per game, 0.3 ppg, 0.8 rpg. He also saw limited action in 2012-13: 12 appearances, 3.2 minutes per game, 0.7 ppg, 1.3 rpg. He was rewarded with a scholarship prior to this season, but his overall contributions didn't change much: 14 appearances, 3.1 minues per game, 0.2 ppg, 0.3 rpg. Stokes was the same player he's always been at Iowa: a guy who sees action at the end of blowouts (good or bad) and against the litany of cupcakes that Iowa plays in the non-conference portion of their schedule. Stokes' career game came arguably came against South Dakota in 2012, when he notched 2 points and 2 rebounds.
Stokes also arrived at Iowa as a legacy -- his father, Greg Stokes, played for Lute Olson and George Raveling's Iowa teams back in the early '80s and was a wonderful player. Stokes the elder was a three-time All-Big Ten performer (second team in 1983 and 1984, first team in 1985) and still ranks 3rd on Iowa's all-time scoring list (1768 points). Stokes the younger was never that good (nor was he ever expected to be), although his legacy status did contribute to his notoriety around these parts.
Of course, his real notoriety came from his bench celebrations, which were -- and this is hardly hyperbole -- legendary. No one on Iowa's sideline cheered on his teammates more boisterously or with such unfettered energy. His towel-waving, fist-pumping, and wild clapping antics were the delicious cherry on top of dozens and dozens of great Iowa hoops highlights over the last few years and they will unquestionably be missed next year. (SIDENOTE: If you've got any GIFs of Stokes celebrating, send 'em our way or post 'em in the comments.)
Kyle Meyer, a redshirt freshman in 2013-14, has three years of eligibility remaining. He arrived at Iowa as part of their 2012 recruiting class, McCaffery's breakthrough effort that also included Mike Gesell, Adam Woodbury, Anthony Clemmons, and Patrick Ingram. Meyer was easily the least-polished of those recruits and always seemed to be a bit of a project; Iowa's relative abundance of bigs allowed him to redshirt a year ago and that same relative abundance of big prevented him from seeing much action this year. He appeared in 12 games this season, averaging 4.3 minute per game, 0.5 ppg, and 1.3 rpg. Meyer's career night came against Maryland-Eastern Shore in November: 8 minutes, 3 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 fouls, and 2 turnovers. Meyer had a knack for stuffing the stat sheet, even in limited minutes. (Except for his other most notable performance, against Fairleigh Dickinson in December, when he posted the almost-mythical five trillion: five minutes played, zero stats of any kind accumulated).
Of the two, Meyer's transfer is far more surprising. After three years of similar (and middling) results, I think the die had been cast in terms of Stokes' playing time. Stokes also went through Senior Day festivities when Iowa played Illinois in their final home game of the season a month ago, so it seemed very likely that he was moving on. As a transfer, Stokes will presumably be looking to take advantage of the NCAA rule that allows graduated players to transfer to a new program for graduate school without losing any eligibility.
But Meyer seemed to have realistic hope of seeing added minutes in the not-too-distant future. It wasn't a shock that he struggled to get minutes this year, when Iowa had plentiful options in the front court: Adam Woodbury, Gabe Olaseni, Zach McCabe, Melsahn Basabe, Aaron White, and Jarrod Uthoff. But next year seemed like a year where Meyer could see the court a lot more, with McCabe and Basabe both gone. It was hard to know exactly what he might have been able to contribute, given the limited action we saw him in this year, but to me he seemed like a potential McCabe replacement. Like the Sioux City Scrapper, he seemed to have some definite floor-stretching ability -- 5 of his 10 field goal attempts this season were from deep (small sample size alert!) and he rarely seemed shy about hoisting a three-pointer. I don't know if he could have matched McCabe in terms of grit, hustle, and defensive effort. Alas, we'll have to watch his development now from afar.
The departure of Stokes and Meyer opens up two additional scholarships for McCaffery to either fill this year (perhaps with a JUCO addition -- step on down, Willie Atwood! -- or a D1 transfer of their own) or roll over for next year, when Iowa currently projects to have three open scholarships. He could also give a scholarship to a walk-on, such as Kyle Denning or Okey Ukah.
The transfer tide has turned a bit at Iowa, but it's not something to be alarmed about yet. The players transferring from Iowa the last few years have been fringe players, not star players (as was the case under Lickliter). And college basketball is increasingly a sport where transfers are a key part of roster construction -- just take a peek at the (still-growing) list of players transferring to new schools in 2014 -- as our neighbors to the west have shown in recent years (and, to be fair, they've also enjoyed a considerable amount of success from this approach). Players increasingly want to play, not sit on the bench for multiple years, and they're willing to move elsewhere to get that opportunity. Stokes and Meyer are just the latest examples of that trend. Good luck to them as they move forward.