Fran McCaffery closed a deal more than two years in the making Wednesday, and in the process secured one of his most decorated recruits as Iowa’s basketball coach.
Tyler Cook, a power forward from St. Louis ranked in the top 100 nationally in the Class of 2016, committed to the Hawkeyes during an in-home visit with McCaffery and assistant coach Sherman Dillard. Iowa was the first major program to extend a scholarship offer to Cook, who eventually became one of the nation’s most sought-after big men.
“Ever since they started recruiting me, they’ve been at the top of my list,” said Cook, who said he’s up to 6-foot-9, 243 pounds. “I’ve known those guys for over two years now. I’ve always felt comfortable with them.”
Cook was in Iowa City this past weekend for his official visit. Junior guard Peter Jok was his host, and Cook attended the Iowa-Pittsburgh football game. Earlier this week, Cook whittled his final two choices to Iowa and Florida.
Cook made the final decision official on his 18th birthday, with McCaffery and Dillard in his home.
“I feel great about it,” Cook said. “I can’t wait to get to Iowa City.”
Cook is the No. 82 overall prospect in the class, according to Rivals.com, and he's McCaffery’s highest-ranked recruit since Adam Woodbury chose Iowa over North Carolina as Rivals’ No. 50 national recruit out of Sioux City in the Class of 2012.
However, the Cook catch could be considered McCaffery’s biggest one yet. The program had earmarked Cook as its top out-of-state priority, and the commitment serves as a validation for the rebuild McCaffery’s done over the past five seasons — taking a bottom-of-the-Big-Ten program to the school’s first NCAA Tournament win in 14 years last season.
Although Woodbury was ranked higher four years ago, McCaffery didn’t have home-field advantage on Cook. He had to fend off some of the country’s flashiest programs (Kansas, Michigan and Virginia were among the dozens of offers that streamed in) to reel in Cook, who plays at Chaminade College Prep.
During Cook’s visit, the current bunch of Hawkeyes, including the large class of freshmen, affirmed what Cook had been feeling for months: that Iowa was the right place for him. Freshman Ahmad Wagner tweeted to Cook on Wednesday: “Welcome to the family.”
“I kind of knew that this was the direction I thought I was going down,” said Cook, who eliminated Arkansas from his top three earlier this week. “I kept getting that feeling and I kept praying over it, that I would be confident in that decision. After I went up for the visit, they made me feel like I was at home and already part of the program. That was just confirmation for me.”
Iowa offered Cook a scholarship in April 2014. Cook said Iowa sees him as a playmaker who can affect the game in multiple ways. He also gives Iowa much-needed size in its now-complete, four-man Class of 2016. Iowa lost 6-9 Aaron White and 6-10 Gabe Olaseni off a third-place Big Ten team last season and will see 7-1 Woodbury and 6-9 Jarrod Uthoff depart after this one.
Cook’s mother, Stephanie, told a story about how McCaffery identified a vision for Cook in the Hawkeye program long ago, how he would thin out and get taller. She saw the next step unfold Wednesday, accompanied by a Hawkeye-decorated birthday cake for her son, in her kitchen.
“That was important to me. I wanted to have somebody that had a vision for Tyler,” Stephanie Cook said, “that really believed in his talents and his abilities.”
IOWA'S BASKETBALL RECRUITING CLASS OF 2016
Jordan Bohannon, PG, 6-0, 170 (Marion/Linn-Mar H.S.)
Tyler Cook, PF, 6-9, 243 (St. Louis/Chaminade College Prep School)
Ryan Kriener, PF, 6-9, 240 (Spirit Lake H.S.)
Cordell Pemsl, SF, 6-8, 235 (Dubuque/Wahlert H.S.)