CORALVILLE, Ia. — Iowa basketball coach Fran McCaffery juggled playing time among 11 players last winter, and those decisions figure to be even more difficult this season.
McCaffery told reporters at the team’s year-end banquet Sunday that he doesn’t anticipate any surprise departures from his young and deep squad. Only star guard Peter Jok is graduating, and oft-injured junior Dale Jones is deciding whether to transfer for his final year of eligibility or enter the working world.
That frees up two scholarships for incoming post players Jack Nunge and Luka Garza, both of whom figure to demand playing time alongside 11 established Hawkeyes.
And McCaffery’s son, Connor, has verbally committed to join the program after a standout career as a guard at Iowa City West, although there currently isn’t a scholarship available for him.
“It’s going to be hard. I’ve thought about it a lot,” McCaffery said of doling out minutes next season.
The team, which finished 19-15 this season, will benefit from having 10 extra practices this summer in preparation for a trip to Germany in August. That will also give McCaffery four exhibition games to make some preliminary judgments about his roster before fall practices.
“I just am a firm believer in that all will get solidified as we have an opportunity to go through that process,” McCaffery said.
McCaffery said he had postseason discussions with each of his players and there were “no issues at all” related to potential transfers.
“The thing about me, I’m very direct,” he said. “But I’m very direct all year so it’s not like I’m going to hit them with something at the end-of-the-year meeting that they’re going to be completely shocked by.”
As for his oldest son, who also intends to play baseball at Iowa, McCaffery said his status remains unchanged, but that he expects a final decision soon about what the next year holds for Connor.
The Hawkeyes handed out their postseason awards at Friday's banquet. The winners:
- Freshmen Jordan Bohannon and Tyler Cook shared the newcomer of the year prize..
- Sophomore Ahmad Wagner was named most improved player and won the inaugural Kenny Arnold Hawkeye Spirit Award.
- Sophomore Nicholas Baer was named best rebounder and best defensive player.
- Bohannon won as best playmaker.
- Jok won the Chris Street Award, the equivalent of the team's MVP.
Jok readies for NBA
Jok has had three whirlwind weeks since Iowa’s season ended with a second-round loss in the National Invitation Tournament. He flew to Phoenix and won the NCAA men’s 3-point shooting contest. He was in Las Vegas this week working out. And he leaves for Phoenix again Monday for his final preparations for the NBA combine and the June draft.
No wonder Jok showed up for Sunday’s banquet without a belt. Wagner had to come out of the ballroom shortly before the festivities to give Jok a suit jacket to wear as a way to cover up his missing accessory. It was one last assist from one teammate to another.
Sometime in the past three weeks, Jok also found time to hire an agent.
“It was stressful. It’s harder than picking a college,” Jok said of the interviews.
“(I wanted) somebody that was going to have my back through the whole process, that was going to fight for me, and then also have a good relationship so no matter what happens they’re still going to have my back.”
Jok said he wasn’t ready to announce the name of his agent.
But he said he’s also been talking to his cousin, Luol Deng of the Los Angeles Lakers, about what to expect as he gets ready for the draft. Deng was a first-round pick in 2004.
From Sudan to Iowa star: Inside the personal evolution of Peter Jok
Jok started to go through the draft process a year ago after his junior season, but only got one workout in before injuring his thumb.
He feels better prepared this year.
“You’ve got to come ready to play every time,” Jok said. “It’s mostly mental, traveling back and forth, traveling to work out for teams.”