Iowa basketball added a pair of walk-ons. What can they add to the Hawkeyes?

Iowa men's basketball program has seen a few walk-ons make an impact over the last several years. Most recently, guard Austin Ash earned a scholarship before last season and earned another scholarship at The Citadel for his final year of eligibility this year.

Before him, forward Nicholas Baer was a four-year contributor who initially was a walk-on. 

Two more names will begin their journeys with the Hawkeyes this season, both are hoping for similar stories: guards Dante Eldridge and Amarion Nimmers. They come to the program with interesting back stories, Eldridge is the son of newly promoted assistant coach Courtney Eldridge and Nimmers was an all-state player from Rock Island, Illinois and who turned down mid-major scholarships for a chance at Big Ten basketball. 

One month into workouts, they are adjusting well. 

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"They've been great, incredibly hard workers," coach Fran McCaffery said. "Dante is a little bit different. He played high school ball with (Connor and Patrick McCaffery), he's grown up in this gym. Amarion's come in great shape, I'm excited to see how he develops. 

"(Nimmers) did have scholarships. He viewed himself as somebody who can play at this level. He wanted that challenge so I think you have to really respect a guy that thinks that way." 

Amarion Nimmers turned down scholarship offers from smaller schools to walk-on at Iowa.

Nimmers, a 6-foot-3 combo guard, saw his recruitment suffer due to the COVID-19 pandemic and an ankle injury that limited him throughout his junior year. He got on Iowa's radar with a 45-point game last December with McCaffery in attendance, his 23.9 points per game season average combined with Division I level athleticism made him a potential steal for Iowa's 2022 class. 

Nimmers and Nicholas Baer share a connection, both played for the Quad City Elite AAU team. Conversations with Baer and QC Elite director Logan Wynn helped sway Nimmers to commit and try to earn a scholarship early on. 

Iowa beat out Illinois, who also offered him as a preferred walk-on. He also had offers from Eastern Illinois and other lower-level Division I programs. 

"Without the pandemic, I could have been on scholarship right now," Nimmers said. "The pandemic was kind of hard but just take the chance of betting on yourself. They knew like everybody knows that I can play there so I'm just I'm just taking a risk." 

Eldridge played alongside Connor and Patrick McCaffery at Iowa City West and graduated in 2019, the same year as Patrick. Despite a father on staff who served as director of recruiting, the opportunity to play at Iowa didn't come from him.

"Actually Fran asked me if I was if I wanted to come join out of high school," Eldridge said. "I felt like I needed a little more experience before I entered that level. So I kind of just took my time until I felt like I was ready." 

Iowa's Dante Eldridge, son of assistant coach Courtney Eldridge, is a newly added preferred walk-on this year.

After one year at William Penn (NAIA), Eldridge transferred to nearby Kirkwood Community College. As a sophomore he started in all but one game at point guard helping Kirkwood to a Iowa Community College Athletic Conference championship. Now he feels ready to contribute at Iowa.

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His father said that his path will benefit the team in a few ways. He's a junior in eligibility so he's experienced his competitive energy is a needed addition in day-to-day practice.

"I really developed myself as a point guard," Eldridge said. "Putting people in the right spots and just bringing energy and effort all the time. Playing defense for 94 feet, creating shots and just making sure everyone's engaged and comfortable." 

With Eldridge and Nimmers and last year's walk-ons Luc Laketa and Carter Kingsbury, Iowa sits at a full 15-man roster and a good competitive balance between scholarships and walk-on players. The newest additions know it's a hard road to playing time or a coveted scholarship down the road. They both said their immediate goal is to find as many ways to helping the team win as possible. 

"You have to do the little stuff like dive on the floor," Eldridge said. "Not everyone wants to pick up 94 feet but if you find someone I can, that's a plus. Everyone has their niche. So if you find what you're good at and what you could bring to the table, do that to the best that you can do." 

Kennington Lloyd Smith III covers Iowa Hawkeyes football and men's basketball for the Des Moines Register. You can connect with Kennington on Twitter @SkinnyKenny_ or email him at