Roster analysis: Which Iowa newcomers are ready to join hoops rotation?
NORTH LIBERTY, Ia. – Curiosity is high about how Fran McCaffery will wedge as many as 14 players into his typical nine- to 10-man rotation in this upcoming Iowa basketball season.
We know he's got six solid returnees, including four starters, that barring injury will consume at least 150 of the 200 available minutes against most opponents. So the 2015-16 Hawkeyes, even without Aaron White, Gabe Olaseni and Josh Oglesby, will have a lot of familiarity.
That means there are three or four regular supporting roles that will be filled by a pool of seven or eight guys who are essentially newcomers and also happen to represent the future of Iowa basketball.
The Prime Time League, back in action Thursday in Waterloo and Sunday in North Liberty, has provided a glimpse inside the evaluation process. What fans care about most is more short-term, how the new pieces blend with the old for the 2015-16 season.
Coaches are learning what they can in eight hours a week in organized summer workouts and will get a better sense of things this fall.
So, what you are about to read is early projections ascertained by observation and interviews.
With that disclaimer in mind, here is summer speculation of how Hawkeye playing time could be dispersed (sorted by average minutes; total equals 200) in a typical game this winter against Big Ten Conference-level competition:
Jarrod Uthoff, 6-9, Sr.
Position: Said recently he would play more power forward (the 4) in McCaffery's motion offense with White gone. Was mostly at small forward (3) last year.
Analysis: Probably McCaffery's most unique talent in six years, Uthoff can create his own shot and make it from anywhere inside 25 feet. His rebounding (6.4 a game as a junior) and length on defense (team-high 56 blocks) are essential as Iowa transitions to playing smaller. Averaged 32.9 minutes and 1.6 fouls in Big Ten games a year ago, so there's no reason to take Uthoff off the floor except for the occasional breather.
Projected per-game minutes: 35
Adam Woodbury, 7-1, Sr.
Position: The only true center (5) on the roster.
Analysis: Arguably McCaffery's top recruiting get at Iowa seems ready to expand his game in his final year. In the PTL, he's been playing almost every minute while consistently hitting 15- to 17-footers. With Olaseni gone to the NBA Summer League, Woodbury can take a huge jump in last year's Big Ten averages in points (6.4) and minutes (21.1) if he can avoid foul trouble.
Projected minutes: 30
Mike Gesell, 6-2, Sr.
Position: Starts at point guard (1) for the fourth consecutive year.
Analysis: Graduated in three years, so the Year 4 focus is predominantly hoops. His 52-point scoring night at the PTL was a reminder that he is more than a distributor. Should get a bump in his average of 25.8 minutes in Big Ten games, and his range should improve with his elbow healed.
Projected minutes: 28
Peter Jok, 6-6, Jr.
Position: Said he's moving to the 3 (Uthoff's primary role a year ago) after being Iowa's starting shooting guard (the 2) in Big Ten play while averaging 22 minutes.
Analysis: Smooth shooter capable of averaging 15 points a game. Jok looks leaner and stronger and affirmed his summer focus is on conditioning and diet. Stamina has slowed Jok's progress; Iowa needs him to break through and be the No. 2 scoring option. Position change reinforces that these Hawkeyes will be perimeter-oriented.
Projected minutes: 25
Anthony Clemmons, 6-2, Sr.
Position: Could see relatively equal minutes at the 1 (backing up Gesell) and 2 spots.
Analysis: A glue guy and significant piece to the McCaffery puzzle because of his versatility as a ball-handler, defensive stopper and legitimate 3-point threat (37.3 percent as a junior). His experience alone will help him up his 19.2 Big Ten minutes a game from last year.
Projected minutes: 23
Dom Uhl, 6-8, Soph.
Position: Flexible, but fits best at the 4.
Analysis: Has packed on 20 pounds in one year, and the eye test says that's mostly muscle. Could lead the committee to back up Woodbury at the 5. An outside threat who scored 35 points in a recent PTL game, Uhl was unafraid of big situations in spot duty as a freshman. Coaches love his total package and won't hesitate to up his 10 minutes a game.
Projected minutes: 16
*Important disclaimer: The veterans' minutes projections are safer bets than the newcomers, who have four months to grow before the season opener in November. Also, the two red-shirt freshmen are deemed newcomers for the purpose of this exercise.
Brady Ellingson, 6-4, RS Fr.
Position: A classic shooting guard.
Analysis: How much he plays at the 2 depends on how much he can do besides stroke the 3-pointer, which is his main weapon. Oglesby saw lots of court time, even amid struggles, because he played smart defensively. Ellingson has an excellent feel for the game, so the guess here is he limits his mistakes and makes the most of his recently awarded medical redshirt.
Projected minutes: 12
Andrew Fleming, 6-4, Fr.
Position: A 2 that can shoot the 3 and score off the dribble.
Analysis: Said his senior year at the famed Oak Hill Academy, with 10 Division I recruits, has elevated his game to that of a college sophomore. His approach at the PTL shows fearlessness, and teammates say he's been the most impressive freshman. There's no question he's ready to contribute.
Projected minutes: 11
Dale Jones, 6-8, Jr.
Position: Could swing between the 3 and 4, which are basically the same position under McCaffery.
Analysis: The junior-college transfer was signed to stretch defenses more than pound inside, despite his power-forward size. More of a catch-and-shoot guy — attempted 30 3-pointers (making 13) vs. 20 2-pointers in his first three PTL games — that can provide instant offense.
Projected minutes: 9
Brandon Hutton, 6-6, Fr.
Position: More of a 3.
Analysis: Wants to contribute immediately as a lock-down defender, and McCaffery will make a spot for him in the rotation if he can deliver. Physically rock-solid with the ability to score and rebound (had 29 points, 14 rebounds in one PTL game). Should develop into a fan favorite with his tenacity and confidence.
Projected minutes: 7
Ahmad Wagner, 6-7, Fr.
Position: Built like a 4.
Analysis: Physically ready to contribute, with the ability to run the floor and score around the rim. Has struggled with 40 percent foul shooting (6-for-15) in the PTL. Physically ready to contribute, with the ability to run the floor and score around the rim. Has struggled with 40 percent foul shooting (6-for-15) in the PTL. Might find himself stuck behind Uthoff and Uhl, but should show what he can do in nonconference play before becoming a key contributor as a sophomore.
Projected minutes: 4
Nicholas Baer, 6-7, RS Fr.
Position: Good fit at the 3 or 4.
Analysis: Brings a high motor and high basketball IQ to the frontcourt (sound familiar?). Can shoot the 3. Big Ten action might be a year or more away, but coaches love the walk-on's versatility and we should see what he brings in some nonconference games. Averaging 11.7 points a game in the PTL.
Projected minutes: 0 (Reminder: This is a projection for Big Ten rotation minutes)
Christian Williams, 6-6, Fr.
Position: Could play the 1, 2 or 3.
Analysis: Comfortable with the ball in his hands, which hasn't happened much in the PTL (six points in two games) with Gesell and UNI sharpshooter Matt Bohannon as teammates. High upside as a ball-handler and defender. Arrives with a slender build. Redshirting might have its advantages, unless something happens to Gesell or Clemmons.
Projected minutes: 0 (most likely redshirt candidate)
Isaiah Moss, 6-5, Fr.
Position: A classic wing, more of a 2 or 3.
Analysis: He needs to finish up academic work before enrolling at Iowa, so he's not playing in the PTL. Coaches love his athleticism, but even if he does get his classwork in order for the fall semester, he'll be playing catch-up.
Projected minutes: Inconclusive