ROSEMONT, Ill. — Fran McCaffery has been doing an awkward dance this spring: He's preparing his Iowa men’s basketball team as if his star guard will be returning while also advising Peter Jok about his chances of being selected in next month’s NBA Draft.
It’s a situation many of McCaffery’s peers also have experienced this spring after the NBA for the first time allowed underclassmen to participate in the draft process, including working out privately with teams and playing in the league’s combine in front of scouts. The players can weigh the feedback they receive and, if they haven’t signed an agent, return to college by May 25 if they don’t like what they hear.
Jok, a 6-foot-6 graduate of West Des Moines Valley, would be Iowa’s top returning player. He averaged 16.1 points per game as a junior, 10 more than anyone else with eligibility remaining.
McCaffery said Tuesday after a meeting of Big Ten Conference basketball coaches here that he would love to have Jok back, but has been careful not to pressure him into making a decision. He’s not expecting a final word until next week.
“I don’t want him to ever think for one second that I only want him to stay. Sure, I want Peter Jok on my team,” McCaffery said. “But I want him to be in the best possible position he can be for his future. I told him that when I recruited him, so I don’t want to change it now.”
McCaffery said Jok, who was not invited to last week's NBA combine, has worked out privately for one team but had another potential workout canceled after he injured his thumb. Jok has had conversations with other NBA teams, said McCaffery, who passes along any information that he hears from NBA personnel to his senior-to-be.
“He’s in a good place,” McCaffery said of Jok. “I think it’s been exactly what he hoped it would be.”
McCaffery supports the intent of the rule: to let players make better-informed decisions about their professional futures. But he acknowledged that it puts coaches in an uncertain spot as they decide on building a roster for next season. Do they actively recruit newcomers, assuming that a star player is leaving?
McCaffery has not.
“That would be another discussion, I suppose, in terms of deadlines,” McCaffery said. “I don’t want to be in a position where we have to tell someone, ‘Sorry, we oversigned and you have to leave.’”
Purdue coach Matt Painter has two players who may or may not enter the NBA draft: Vince Edwards, a junior-to-be, and Caleb Swanigan, who just completed his freshman season. Swanigan was invited to the combine, but Edwards was not. Neither have hired an agent.
Their return would make the Boilermakers one of the favorites to win the Big Ten. Without them?
“It’s nothing different than somebody graduating or somebody getting injured. The next guy’s got to be able to step up and play,” Painter said. “You always as a coach get consumed with what you have, not what you don’t.”