After early verbal commitments from Brandon Hutton and Andrew Fleming, Iowa's 2015 basketball recruiting hit a bit of a lull, but things were expected to pick up a bit after the camps and AAU tournaments that proliferate during the summer recruiting period. And, sure enough, Iowa landed the third member of their 2015 recruiting class this weekend, nabbing a verbal commitment from Ohio SF Ahmad Wagner.
(And kudos to Wagner for announcing his commitment with a simple, classic tigerhawk logo -- there's no need to fancy things up sometimes.)
The narrative around Wagner is already being written and it concerns a fellow forward prospect out of Ohio:
Four years ago, Fran McCaffery dipped into Ohio for what he felt was a very under-recruited forward. Aaron White has proven that the Iowa coach knew what he was doing.
McCaffery hoped to strike again in the Buckeye State, offering versatile front-courter Ahmad Wagner a scholarship in May. The Huber Heights (Dayton area) Wayne High product accepted it on Sunday, becoming the Hawkeyes' third verbal commitment in the Class of 2015. Brandon Hutton and Andrew Fleming already were in the fold.
White chose Iowa head of Duquesne. Last year, he earned all-Big Ten honors for the second season in a row. Hawkeye guard Roy Devyn Marble was selected in the second round of the NBA Draft in June after receiving a modest level of pursuit by colleges coming out of high school.
Wagner set up official visits to Iowa and Toledo last week. Sunday, he decided to end the process.
Rob Howe almost certainly won't be the last writer or pundit comparing Wagner to White in the coming years, either. To be sure, there are some similarities between them: both were relatively lightly-recruited prospects, both are versatile players with skillsets that aren't easy to pigeonhole, and both are (obviously) from Ohio. That said, there are a few differences between Wagner and White, too. White famously chose Iowa over the likes of Duquesne, Akron, and Toledo, and while Wagner had his own MAC-tastic set of offers as well (including Toledo; suck it, Rockets) he also reportedly had offers from fellow Power 5 schools Minnesota and Texas Tech. Physically, Wagner also seems a bit smaller than White (none of the scouting services can agree on his exact measurables -- Rivals lists him at 6-7, 215, Scout lists him at 6-5, 190, 247 lists him at 6-7, 190, and ESPN lists him at 6-6, 205 -- but all of them seem to agree that he's a bit smaller than White), which could impact his positional versatility at the college level. (Or he could have a small, completely unsurprising growth spurt in the next year or two that would render this point completely moot.)
If Wagner was a baseball prospect, he'd likely be described as "tools-y," especially if you read his own description of his skill set:
"(McCaffery) told me that I'm a guy that can do it all for them. I think I'm a versatile three man. I can go down low if I need to. I can go on the wing if I need to. Smaller defender, bigger defender, I can take advantage of that. On the defensive end, I can guard the one through five. I'm athletic. I'm long. I'm pretty fast," Wagner said.
Watching Wagner play, though, makes it harder to dismiss some of the White comparisons. Like White, Wagner seems to spend a lot of time in and around the paint and he doesn't display enormous shooting range. (Insert usual caveats regarding highlight reels.)
And, yes, he likes to dunk.
Like, a lot.
Wagner's statistical profile is also a little White-ish:
As a junior Wagner posted averages of 13.7 points, 9.9 rebounds and 3.3 blocks per contest, and offensively he did the majority of his damage from 15 feet and in. Wagner shot 62.5% from the field last season, and he also tallied ten double-doubles.
White is on his way to one of the finest careers in Iowa hoops history, so he'll certainly leave big shoes for Wagner to fill when he arrives next season. Wagner seems to be cut from a similar cloth as White, though, and McCaffery & Co. have certainly earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to identifying talent during the recruiting process and then developing it when it gets to Iowa City.
Wagner also represents the latest example of Iowa's focus on forwards in recruiting; Iowa has also added SF prospect Brandon Hutton in their 2015 class and and PF prospect Cordell Pemsl in their 2016 class. (As a reminder: these commitments are verbal and non-binding until a National Letter of Intent (NLI) is signed; Hutton and Wagner will be eligible to sign NLIs in November 2014, while Pemsl won't be eligible to sign an NLI until November 2015.) Forward was a definite area of need for Iowa in these classes because they only signed two forwards in their combined 2012-2014 classes, Kyle Meyer (in 2012) and incoming freshman Dominique Uhl. That lack of forward recruiting has left the team a little thin this season -- Iowa enters 2014 with only White, Gabe Olaseni, Jarrod Uthoff, and Uhl as scholarship options at F -- and in massive need of bodies at forward going forward (since White and Olaseni will depart after the 2014-15 season). So far they're filling those holes with some very intriguing prospects. They may not be the mega-recruits with mile-long offer sheets, but those aren't the guys that McCaffery has relied on to turn around Iowa's fortunes anyway (although it might be who he needs to help Iowa reach another level of success in basketball... which is a topic for another day). Welcome aboard, Mr. Wagner. We're looking forward to seeing you unleash some violence on Big Ten rims in the near future.