Iowa basketball freshman Riley Mulvey quickly learning what Big Ten basketball is about
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Riley Mulvey couldn't wait for his Hawkeyes basketball career to begin. So much so that he skipped the line a year to be a part of the 2021 team.
The 7-footer from Rotterdam, New York, re-classified to the 2021 class from his original 2022 class. He was a three-star prospect and the second highest-ranked 2022 recruit in New York when he committed in March.
But, after head coach Fran McCaffery presented him with the idea of coming a year early in the spring, Mulvey opted in. He joined the team as a summer enrollee and has been participating in all team activities.
It didn't take long for his Big Ten introduction.
It came at the hands of teammate and fellow big man Josh Ogundele.
"First day, the first day I was here," Mulvey said, "Josh Ogundele just hit me and I just went backwards and it was like, 'Oh my gosh.' That was definitely one of those, 'Hi, we're in the Big Ten now' (moments)."
Physicality isn't the only aspect of the game Mulvey is adjusting to; he also noted the speed at this level is significantly faster. However, the 17-year old believes he received the best preparation available to make an immediate impact in the Big Ten.
Mulvey left New York after his sophomore year to transfer to St. Thomas More in Connecticut, where high school sports were not postponed due to the pandemic. There, he logged 14.2 points, 11.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.9 steals and 3.9 blocks per game.
St. Thomas More plays in the New England Preparatory Athletic Council (NEPSAC), a conference made up of independent schools that often feature high-level recruits and older players completing a postgraduate year.
NEPSAC gameplay rules almost mirror the NCAA, too.
"I've been used to 20-minute halves, the 3-point line where it is now," Mulvey said. "The physicality of older people, people who are older than high school seniors. I've been able to get used to that."
As for the older players on the team now, Mulvey says several have taken him under their wings to help him get adjusted, most notably Jordan Bohannon and Connor and Patrick McCaffery.
"The best piece of advice was one time we were playing," Mulvey said, "I was told to just run, try and get ahead and we'll get you the ball. ... Each time I've done that, I've gotten the ball and scored it. I was also told to go toward the hoop for a rebound and almost every time I've done that, I've gotten it and scored."
Mulvey is one of two freshman additions to this year's team, along with three-star wing Payton Sandfort, the Register's No. 2 in-state 2021 prospect.
"He's definitely improved so much with shooting," Mulvey said. "As soon as the first week was up, he was hitting everything. He's a great player, passer and he's gotten stronger. It's been fun to play with him and against him."
Evaluating his own game, Mulvey describes himself as a defensive presence. His game begins with protecting the rim, and from there, he's able to run the floor to contribute offensively.
He's young. But early conversations with Fran McCaffery have Mulvey excited about how he can help this year's team.
"He said he brought in Filip Rebraca as a grad transfer to kind of take the brunt of everything," Mulvey said. "I'll play right behind that and come off and try to adjust and play off of that.
"I hope to contribute being able to play on the defensive end. Shot-blocking, playing help defense — that's where I thrive best."
With several months before Iowa's first game, it's unknown exactly how many minutes Mulvey will see this season. He's confident he'll be prepared.
"I've definitely gotten stronger since I've been here," Mulvey said. "I've probably put on 5-10 pounds of muscle and lost 5-10 pounds of fat, so being here has really helped with that. I feel like I'm a better player now than I would've been had I not decided to come here."
Kennington Smith is the new Iowa Hawkeyes beat writer for the Des Moines Register. You can connect with Kennington on Twitter @SkinnyKenny_ or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org