'Wide body' Ogundele is centerpiece of Fran McCaffery's 2020 recruiting class
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Fran McCaffery needed a center in his 2020 Iowa basketball recruiting class.
So McCaffery turned to Josh Ogundele, a 6-foot-11, 265-pound native of England who is playing at Worcester Academy in Massachusetts. Ogundele’s paperwork was completed Monday, making him the fifth and most highly regarded of the new Hawkeyes that McCaffery signed.
“Recruiting can be frustrating at times when you work hard on somebody and don’t get them. It can be incredibly rewarding when you work hard on somebody and they come,” McCaffery told reporters Monday afternoon.
McCaffery first saw Ogundele, a three-star recruit, this summer. He offered him a scholarship. Ogundele made an official visit to campus. McCaffery went back to New England to see him three more times, including Saturday. That was the day after the Hawkeyes beat Oral Roberts to move to 2-1 this season. That was also after Ogundele had verbally committed to Iowa.
“This kid went through a lot in the past few months. Recruiting heated up for him. He took five visits,” McCaffery said.
“And he stepped up and said he wants to come to Iowa and play for the Hawkeyes. … I didn’t cancel my trip because he committed. I’m his coach now, in many respects. I broke the game down for him. What he did well and what he needs to work on. It’s all about relationships. And that’s a relationship decision I made.”
Ogundele will replace Ryan Kriener, a center who is graduating. He is set to play alongside Luka Garza for one season. He averaged 7.3 points on 59 percent shooting as a junior.
“He’s got athletic power,” McCaffery said of Ogundele. “When you see a wide-body guy, you think he’s strictly a below-the-rim guy. And he does play sometimes below the rim. But he can go up and dunk it on you, block shots above the rim. … He can play in transition.
“I think it’s important to bring in a guy that we feel is capable of playing right away.”
McCaffery, 60, said he still enjoys the constant travel involved in recruiting, which he believes is one of the most important parts of his job.
“It’s not something that can ever be dismissed. It’s not something that can ever be turned over to the assistant coaches. ‘You guys grind and I’ll make a few calls’ — it can’t be that. I’ve got to be out,” McCaffery said.
“Every recruiting situation is a snowflake. So some will have more people involved. Some will have less people involved. Some will make a quicker decision than others. Some love the publicity. Some don’t. But you can’t rush it. You can’t force it.”
McCaffery said he’s excited about the versatility of his 2020 class.
A look at the other four players:
Keegan and Kris Murray
The twin sons of former Hawkeye star Kenyon Murray are spending this winter playing for DME Sports Academy in Florida after graduating from Cedar Rapids Prairie High School. They are 6-foot-8 wing players, although Keegan carries an additional 10 pounds, at 215. McCaffery is excited about their 3-point shooting. Keegan set a Prairie record by making 87.6 percent of his free throws during his career there.
“They kept getting bigger and stronger and they kept working on their game. As soon as they decided to go to prep school, it was inevitable that we were going to offer,” McCaffery said.
“They’re both going to come in ready. They’re just complete players.”
The 6-2 point guard is the younger brother of Tyler Ulis, whom McCaffery recruited extensively before he opted to go to Kentucky. But that meant McCaffery already knew his parents and coach at Marian Catholic in Chicago Heights very well, which he said was helpful.
“Ahron is a gamer. He’s a competitor,” McCaffery said. “He plays the game at a whole other level in terms of his mental approach.”
The Indianapolis native can play either guard spot or small forward at 6-4, McCaffery said.
“You can tell that he’s been coached — he knows how to play,” McCaffery said. “You can see his feel for the game, how competitive he is, how versatile he is. He’s a great fit for what we’re trying to do and how we play."
Mark Emmert covers the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Register. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 319-339-7367. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkEmmert.
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