If there is one thing absent from the 2016-17 Iowa Hawkeyes roster, it’s Woodbury/Olaseni-esque length. While this current roster construct may turn out to be one of the most athletic that Iowa fans have ever seen, everyone from the point guards to the “centers” are in between 6’5” and 6’9”. In fact, there are only two players on the official Iowa roster listed under 6’5” in Brady Ellingson and Jordan Bohannon.
Versatility is without doubt McCaffery’s not-so-secret ingredient to his special sauce. We all know that he wants his players to understand multiple positions in hopes of creating mismatches all over the floor. His point guards need to know how to play all three wing positions and likewise for the bigems.
Their are a plethora of small ball forwards (at best) who want to take you outside where they can use their agility to beat you offensively, but have major question marks when it comes to banging with some of the Big Ten boulders on the defensive end.
With that said, I DO think that Tyler Cook and Ahmad Wagner will be able to hold their own in the strength department down low, but if one or both get into foul trouble (or if Cook just isn’t ready to play more than 20 minutes a game), McCaffery is going to be forced into playing some of those long wings out of position. Dom Uhl has experience filling in here — something he might say he’s comfortable doing, but we all know he rather be out on the wing — but after that, what’s left? There are two true freshman in Ryan Kriener and Cordell Pemsl who will likely have every opportunity to prove that they can take their fair share of those minutes from Uhl if the staff can get them Big Ten ready in the next couple of months, but that’s a big “if” right now. And of course, Dale Jones will be back in the fold if he is (and can stay) healthy.
But that’s about it.
And the coaching staff must agree as they have gone out and earned the commitment from not one, but two big men in the class of 2017.
First up was Luka Garza out of Maret School in Washington D.C., who is ranked by 247Sports as 4-star product and the second ranked player in the state. Garza — who had 21 offers that included the likes of Indiana, Georgetown and Louisville — measures out at 6’11” and 230 pounds. He’s an inside-outside offensive threat with an actual jumper and back-to-the-basket game where he leverages his size and strength by creating real estate DEEP in the post (you can see both in the first two highlights in the tape below):
Some other things that look good: He keeps the ball high on the offensive glass or when he gets a pass in the lane — which is an underrated skill set. He’s got great hands and looks like he plays the baseline with ease. He’s rather slippery for being so damn large. He really, really has a legit jumper. DID YOU SEE THAT TRANSITION SPIN MOVE? Whoa.
It’s like Jarrod Uthoff and Woodbury combined their best attributes in a lab and out came Garza. Putting him in the high post with Tyler cook on the block is going to be rather fun to watch.
Missing, of course, is any sort of defensive highlight which is worrisome; especially if you’ve read the ESPN weaknesses:
Mobility is a problem and so he's rarely able to rebound outside his area and is a defensive liability anytime he's pulled to the perimeter. He also lacks great bounce and so he isn't much of a rim protector or explosive finisher.
But that looks awfully familiar, no?
He doesn't possess great mobility and definitely needs to improve defensively, especially guarding the lane and the basket.
I don’t think I’m speaking out of turn by saying that I trust McCaffery to capitalize on this skill set because they have done it before.
Next up to commit to the Hawkeyes was Jack Nunge. If Garza is the love child between Uthoff and Woody, Nunge is Aaron Whie & Uthoff incarnate:
Nunge is a 3-star power forward prospect out of Newburgh, Indiana who held offers from Nebrasketball and Vanderbilt with interest from Wisconsin and Stanford.
If you’re anything like me, landing a 6’9” forward FROM Indiana who was also getting interest from the Buzzcuts is always the best thing a program can do.
Nunge has the offensive skill set necessary to make an immediate impact (I already can’t wait to overreact to his Prime Time League stats next summer). He averaged 19.3 points (on 43% shooting from downtown) and 11.4 rebounds per game during his junior season. From all reports, he’s also a fantastic defender who has great timing when playing the passing lanes and is a plus shot blocker (he averaged over three blocks per game).
Scholarships be damned, these are two prospects that will immediately change the outlook of Iowa’s post problem. While I am personally putting my marbles in the Garza basket, Nunge could easily be the one to steal the hearts of Hawkeye faithful who are feeling a little empty from Uthoff’s graduation:
“Hawkeye fans are going to love Jack Nunge,” Gibson (Castle High School Head Coach) said. “He’s a perfect fit for the style of play there. It’s going to be fun to watch him progress as the years go by at Iowa.”
However you choose to look at it, Wagner, Cook, Kriener, Pemsl, Garza and Nunge make for a much brighter and BIGGER picture for the foreseeable future for McCaffery and the Hawkeyes.