Iowa has one available scholarship after Nicholas Baer was rewarded with one.
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Fran McCaffery remains opposed to the graduate-transfer option in college athletics. But the Iowa basketball coach wouldn’t hesitate in welcoming one this year.
“Definitely, if the right grad transfer presented himself, we would take him,” McCaffery said Thursday prior to the Hawkeyes’ season-ending banquet at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “Because typically, we end up playing against them.”
Twelve of the Hawkeyes’ 13 scholarships in 2016 are spoken for. They were full until Andrew Fleming and Brandon Hutton decided to transfer, then McCaffery rewarded walk-on Nicholas Baer with a full ride last week.
Iowa’s biggest need is at point guard, where departed Anthony Clemmons and Mike Gesell gobbled up almost every minute last season. At this point, McCaffery's only two options at point will be gently used sophomore Christian Williams and incoming freshman Jordan Bohannon.
Among the smattering of top unsigned high school seniors, the Hawkeyes remain in the hunt for New York City’s 6-foot-2 Christian Vital, a former UNLV commitment.
But the right grad-transfer would be the cleanest option, allowing McCaffery to fill up to 13 this year while getting immediate impact at a position of need, then having that scholarship open up again for the Class of 2017.
The market isn’t overflowing with fifth-year point guards. Of the 72 grad transfers listed at ESPN.com, the biggest name is probably 5-foot-11 former Michigan player Spike Albrecht, who missed last season with double hip surgery.
“It’s a little different now, because there’s so many transfers,” McCaffery said of plans with the available scholarship. “There’s still a few good (high school) players left, but there’s a lot of transfers — guys thinking about transferring, coaching changes, a lot of movement. So we’ll see. We have one. It’s great to have in case we find the right guy this year. But it will also be great going into next year if we don’t use it this year.”
Baer's first phone call
Speaking of scholarships, Baer’s was well-deserved. He was Iowa’s top bench player at times. McCaffery told the Bettendorf native about the reward in their postseason one-on-one meeting.
Baer’s first call? To his mom, Joy Kelly.
“She cried,” Baer said. “That’s to be expected. I love my mom. She’s the most important person in my life.”
With his school paid for the next three years, Baer’s next goal is to add about 15 pounds. He’s at 6-foot-7, 198 pounds. He'd like to get to 210, 215. Strength coach Bill Maxwell is working with him to add the weight, which hasn’t come easy for Baer in the past.
“A lot of protein. A lot of steaks, hopefully,” Baer said. “I know what I need to eat. Packing peanut-butter sandwiches between class.
“I know if I can put on those 15 pounds, it’ll give me a different dimension to my game, to be more physical and elevate my game.”
The Bettendorf native is now a FORMER walk-on.
A forgotten player at times who will return next season is Dale Jones. The 6-foot-7, 220-pound forward tore the ACL in his right knee for the second time, an injury that occurred during a Dec. 1 practice. He had surgery Dec. 18. Next season he'll be a fifth-year senior; he's hoping for a sixth after that, but hasn't heard back on his medical redshirt application.
Doctors at Iowa told him his first surgery, when he was at Tyler (Texas) Junior College might not have been done properly, which led to the second tear.
“Knowing how great I played at a junior college, the records I broke there with it not being fully done correctly … Now I’m at one of the best medical schools in Iowa,” Jones said. “They’ll get it done properly, I think I’ll be OK.”
Jones came back in 10 months last time, and he hopes for a quicker timetable this time because it wasn’t a full tear. He is an inside-outside force who shot 45 percent from 3-point range (9-for-20) in his six games last season.
The Iowa forward is going through his second recovery from an ACL tear. The first one happened at Tyler Junior College in Texas.
What’s next for seniors?
Consensus all-American Jarrod Uthoff wasn’t at the banquet. He is working out in Las Vegas in preparation for the NBA Draft Combine in mid-May. He’ll likely get an invitation.
Two other seniors, Mike Gesell and Adam Woodbury, will have to scramble to make the jump to the NBA. McCaffery was disappointed that Woodbury, the 7-foot-1 leading rebounder in the Big Ten Conference, didn’t get a spot in the Portsmouth (Va.) Invitational, which is where former Hawkeye Gabe Olaseni made his mark a year ago.
But with the new rules allowing underclassmen to go through the draft process and return to school with no penalty (as long as the athlete doesn’t hire an agent), there are more players for the same number of spots.
“I think Adam in particular, there’s no question he would have been invited any other year than this one,” McCaffery said. “It’s unfortunate for him. But they’ll both still get plenty of NBA workouts.”
Gesell and Woodbury said Thursday they were both close to signing with agents.
Gesell likely will head overseas. “That’s a pretty likely path,” he said. “Hopefully I get some good opportunities. Hopefully I’ll get a couple NBA workouts this summer, and if I do well in those, get a chance to play summer league.”
Woodbury said “some teams have expressed interest. Now when I sign with my agent, they’re going to try to call those teams and schedule some workouts and go from there.”
What about Jok?
Guard Peter Jok was at the banquet, but slipped into the arena and wasn’t interviewed. He is going to test the NBA waters, and likely come back for his senior season.
“There’s a lot of guys in that same position. He’ll get it figured out,” McCaffery said. “Obviously: Will he get invited to the combine? That would be a question. Will he get NBA workout opportunities? When those decisions are determined, that will make it a little more clear for him in terms of his path.”