Fran and the Future – Part 3 – The Future

Story by Derek Pech

In part 1 of our feature on Fran we discussed Fran’s first few seasons at Iowa, and how he resurrected the program from near death to the point that it is at now. In part 2, we took a deep look at the current roster and players whom we have seen play a game in an Iowa uniform. Finally, in part 3 we are going to look at the future. In this installment of the series we will provide a brief summary of each player who is, or who will be, joining the Iowa men’s basketball program in the near future.

Let’s start off with the class of 2017 recruits who are currently playing with the team overseas in Germany.

The first commitment of the 2017 Iowa recruiting class was far from shocking as he is the oldest son of Iowa men’s basketball head coach Fran McCaffery. Connor McCaffery committed to play for his Dad’s Iowa basketball team back in August of 2014. Connor is a 6’4 175 lb. SG from Iowa City, IA. He played his high school ball as a PG for Iowa City West, and he spent the majority of his high school career rated in or around the top 100 recruits in the nation. The oldest McCaffery boy is also an incredibly talented baseball player. He has accepted a full ride scholarship to play baseball for Rick Heller’s Iowa team as well. Which means Connor is currently listed as a walk-on for the basketball team. However, that situation could easily change in the coming years. Make no mistake, Connor is a Division 1 quality basketball player who is worthy of a scholarship. The only reason he doesn’t have a scholarship for basketball is because he has one for baseball, and because his Dad is the head basketball coach. It is possible that Connor takes the Doug McDermott route by remaining a walk-on with the basketball team in order to free up another scholarship. If he, and his Dad, decide to go that route then it would be an incredibly selfless thing for them to do. However, I don’t believe there are any Iowa fans who would expect them to do that as he has earned the right to be given a scholarship at some point down the road. 

It’s difficult to project exactly what position Connor will play in college. He played PG in high school, but in my opinion he projects as more of a SG at the Division 1 level. It’s easy to see that Connor is the son of a basketball coach when you watch him play. He was a floor general in high school. He led his team with precision passing, and he rarely took a bad shot. Connor excels at getting his teammates involved in the game. There’s nothing selfish about the way that he plays. For that reason, I wouldn’t rule out him playing PG at Iowa, but he’ll have to show he’s capable of doing so. A lot of people didn’t think Jordan Bohannon was quick enough to play PG at the Big Ten level, but he certainly came in and proved his doubters wrong. Connor could very well do the same.

As of right now, the plan is for Connor to redshirt as a freshman basketball player. Because he is redshirting in basketball Connor has made it clear that his priority as a freshman will be to the baseball team, but he will participate in all basketball related activities as much as he can.

Luka Garza was the second commitment of the 2017 class, and boy was he a big one. Garza is a 6’11 230 lb. center who started to explode on the recruiting circuit during the ladder part of his high school career at Maret School in Washington, DC. Garza battled weight issues throughout much of his high school career, but once he buckled down on his nutrition and started to take exercise more seriously he quickly trimmed up. After losing some of his extra weight it was clear to many schools that they had missed out on him. Fran McCaffery, and the Iowa staff, were in early on Luka Garza. It certainly seems as if that early attention is what made the difference in his commitment.

When it was all said and done Garza ended up being a 4 star recruit for the Hawkeyes. He gives Fran an offensive oriented big man to rely upon for the next several years, and it appears that Garza is poised to make an immediate impact.

Garza played in the Prime Time League with, and against, his Iowa teammates this summer. He stunned the league by averaging 30 points and 11 rebounds. He finished second in the Prime Time League in average points per game, and he put to rest any idea that he’s going to be redshirted as a true freshman. That will not happen. Barring injuries of course, Garza will be seeing some significant minutes this coming season, and it certainly appears as if he’s going to make an immediate impact on the Iowa basketball team.

The final recruit of the 2017 class was Jack Nunge of Newburgh, IN (Castle). Nunge is a 6’11 185 PF, and much like Luka Garza, his recruitment spiked significantly after his senior year of high school. It seems as if Fran McCaffery has developed a niche’ for spotting under the radar kids who end up being highly sought after, and it’s safe to say at this point that his ability to do so has helped him secure their commitments.

Like Garza, Nunge also played in the Prime Time League, and he came away from it as the league MVP as a true freshman. No matter how you slice it that is an incredibly impressive feat when you consider how much talent plays in Prime Time League. Nunge came in and averaged 31 points and almost 13 rebounds per game. Those are huge numbers for anyone to be putting up, let alone a true freshman. Nunge was almost flawless around the basket. He cleaned up the boards and threw down dunks like a veteran. It’s almost unheard of for a true freshman to put up those kind of numbers in the Prime Time League.

Nunge and Garza both came in and put the league on notice. Nunge will not be redshirting as a true freshman. He will be able to make an immediate impact with this Iowa team. He and Garza are sure to give Fran headaches when it comes to trying to decide which big men deserve minutes. Defense and intensity will likely be the determining factor.

The first commitment of the 2018 recruiting class for the Iowa men’s basketball team could, in my opinion, end up being the biggest recruit Iowa has landed in decades. I don’t say that lightly. In fact, if you read what I just wrote about Luka Garza and Jack Nunge then you know the significance behind those words. The player I’m talking about is Joe Wieskamp.

Joe Wieskamp is a 6’4 170 lb. SG/SF from Muscatine, IA. He’s a consensus 4 star recruit and top 50 player in the nation. Wieskamp is the best basketball player to come out of the state of Iowa since Harrison Barnes, and the fact the Hawkeyes were able to secure his commitment is a huge deal. It certainly helped their cause that Wieskamp grew up in a Hawkeye family.

The best word I can use to describe Wieskamp’s game is smooth. He has a beautiful shot, and he’s always under control. He makes the game of basketball look easy. In fact, he rarely shows any emotion on the court. He gives an incredible amount of effort, but he does so in a way that looks like he’s not even trying. It isn’t fair to his opponents at the Iowa high school level who have to try to guard him. He is a man among boys out there, and he is currently on pace to break former Hawkeye, Jeff Horner’s, all time points record in the state of Iowa. Wieskamp has already scored 1,573 points. He needs only 621 points as a senior to break Horner’s record.

Look for Wieskamp to finish his high school career strong, and then put the college basketball world on notice when he puts on a Hawkeye jersey for the first time.

The most recent commitment to the Iowa basketball program’s 2018 class came from CJ Fredrick out of Louisville, KY. Fredrick is a 6’4 170 lb. SG who has averaged almost 20 points per game in high school. Fredrick’s strength is his shooting. He can flat out shoot the ball with the best of them. He’s a student of the game who knows how to get open, understands how to attack a defense, and is a knock down shooter when he finds an opening.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Fredrick becomes the next Fran recruit to blow up on the recruiting trail as a senior in high school. 247’s recruiting site only lists Fredrick as a 2 star recruit. However, he currently holds offers from Xavier, Indiana, and Butler. His offers speak louder than the number of stars behind his name. Those are some legit programs who have extended offers to Fredrick so it’s clear this kid is a big catch for Fran and his staff. The real question come 2018 will be where does his scholarship come from? The Hawks do not currently have any available scholarships, but as we know a lot can and likely will happen between now and the time CJ signs. The outcome of this season, and which players earn minutes, will likely determine whether or not a couple guys end up transferring somewhere else in order to earn more playing time.

This wraps up our summer series on Fran McCaffery and his Iowa basketball program. The Hawks are currently overseas in Germany enjoying some solid bonding time as a team, and sharpening their skills against some of the best players Germany has to offer.

I firmly believe that the future is incredibly bright for Iowa men’s basketball. Fran is assembling a team that will be dangerous for many years to come, and Iowa basketball is going to be planted firmly back on the national radar before everything is said and done. I believe Fran has finally built the program to a point where it is going to maintain a level of consistency that Iowa fans haven’t seen in quite some time. In fact, I will go out on a limb and make the prediction that Iowa won’t miss another NCAA tournament in the foreseeable future (barring major injuries or incidents of course).

It’s a good time to be an Iowa basketball fan. It’s a good time indeed.

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