Iowa men's basketball newcomers: Luka Garza and Jack Nunge expected to have immediate impact
IOWA CITY, Ia. — It's a time-honored tradition at college basketball media day photo sessions: Make the freshmen awkwardly pose together for what feels like 10 minutes until smiles are practically stuck on their faces.
It was no different for Luka Garza, Jack Nunge and Connor McCaffery on Monday afternoon in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Those three warrant the attention, too. Garza and Nunge are projected to have significant roles, even in Iowa's deep front court, while McCaffery, who will redshirt this year, is in the midst of a two-sport journey as a Hawkeye.
Here's the low-down on Iowa's newest players:
Luka Garza, freshman
Garza averaged 24.6 points, 11.7 rebounds, 2.5 blocks and 1.1 assists in his senior year at Maret School in Washington, D.C. He was a four-star recruit and ranked a top-100 2017 prospect by ESPN. The 2017 Gatorade D.C. Boys Basketball Player of the Year, Garza picked Iowa over 19 other schools, including Louisville, Indiana and Notre Dame.
Projected impact: Garza should be an immediate contributor for the 2017-18 Hawkeyes. He led the team during its European tour, averaging 22.5 points and 10.3 rebounds on 70 percent shooting. His inside-outside versatility will earn him big minutes right away. A starting spot isn't out of the picture.
What they're saying: "He’s obviously legit. He was rated (high as a) freshman this year coming in for basketball. ... He’s a beast on the board, he finishes very well through contact, he’s a great free throw shooter. The more we give him the ball down low, it’s going to help us and it’s really going to boost his stock, too." — Iowa sophomore forward Ryan Kriener.
Jack Nunge, freshman
Nunge averaged 22.8 points, 11.6 rebounds, 3.5 blocks and two steals per game as a senior at Castle High, where he was one of four finalists for Indiana's Mr. Basketball in 2017. Rivals gave him three stars and rated him the No. 147 prospect in the class of 2017. Nunge picked Iowa over eight other programs, including Creighton, Nebraska and Vanderbilt.
Projected impact: Nunge's ability to shoot from outside will earn him early playing time. As the season wears on and he becomes more comfortable with his role in the offense, those his minutes should only go up. As you'll hear in a couple seconds from Kreiner, it's hard to guard a guy Nunge's size who can shoot the 3.
What they're saying: "Jack’s a little different. He’s a 7-foot (3-point shooting) man. He shoots the ball incredibly well from the 3. I think this year, at the beginning of the year, people are going to sag off. They’re going to see a 7-footer and not going to guard him. He’s going to knock a few down, people are going to realize they have to get out there and then he’s really going to be able to show his ability off the dribble too." — Kriener.
Connor McCaffery, freshman
McCaffery averaged 19.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.8 steals per game as a senior for Iowa's Class 4A champion, Iowa City West. He was named Des Moines Register's All-Iowa Basketball Player of the Year. A four-star prospect, ESPN ranked McCaffery 90th in the Class of 2017 and Rivals ranked him 116th. He committed to Iowa as a sophomore to play for his father.
Projected impact: McCaffery is a smart, strong guard who fits in well with the crop of players behind Jordan Bohannon. If pulling his redshirt becomes absolutely necessary, Fran McCaffery would be comfortable with Connor initiating the offense. Connor's court vision and passing are his best qualities, but his 41 percent 3-point shooting doesn't hurt.
What they're saying: "ESPN’s not wrong when they put him in the top 100. He’s a big, physical guard, really takes care of the ball well. He's one of those guards that you love to play with." — Kriener.
Matthew Bain covers preps, recruiting and the Hawkeyes for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, The Des Moines Register and HawkCentral. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewBain_.