Cook one of four to sign with Iowa Wednesday. Rick Brown/HawkCentral.com
IOWA CITY, Ia. – Fran McCaffery has made a concerted effort to keep the Iowa in Iowa basketball during his six seasons as coach.
McCaffery signed four players to national letters of intent Wednesday. Three of them – Cordell Pemsl, Jordan Bohannon and Ryan Kriener – are from Iowa. Having a home-state base is great, but you need some difference makers to go with them.
And that’s what Iowa got, potentially, in 6-foot-7 power forward Tyler Cook from Chaminade College Prep in St. Louis, Mo. Getting Cook, ranked 81st nationally by Rivals.com, reflects the progress McCaffery has made in rebuilding the Iowa program.
“We just got a high-profile guy,” McCaffery said. “Would he have come if we were a sub-.500 team? I don’t know. Probably not.”
Cook, who had 20 Division I offers and selected the Hawkeyes over Florida, could be a pivotal piece of the Iowa program moving forward.
“I look at Tyler as a player that we identified as one of the best players in the country,” McCaffery said Wednesday. “And you can’t always get those guys. I don’t care where you coach, to be able to attract someone of his caliber, the impact that that has on our program, it’s just immense. I mean, it’s a game changer.”
When you’re not one of college basketball’s bluebloods, you’ve got to recruit beyond the uniform. At Iowa, McCaffery and his staff had worked hard to build relationships with recruits. In the case of Cook, McCaffery and assistant coach Sherm Dillard worked at getting to know him starting in his sophomore year of high school.
“It’s often hard when you look at the amount of time that it’s going to take you, but (Cook) was an easy one,” McCaffery said.
When Cook made a campus visit, he spent more than four hours after a Jan. 17 game against Ohio State with McCaffery in his office, sharing each other’s vision for the future. McCaffery loves Cook’s ability to impact a game in different ways.
“He understands how to be great,” McCaffery said. “As great as he is, I see even greater potential.”
Cordell Pemsl, a 6-foot 8 forward from Dubuque Wahlert, committed to the Hawkeyes in the spring of 2014. He’s had several knee issues since, adding a hurdle to his transition to college.
“He had surgery that I think will correct any future problems,” McCaffery said. Of course, you never know, but it really looks like he’s in a good place physically now, and there is no doubt in my mind that he’s going to have a great impact for a long time.”
McCaffery took a risk a few years back on Peter Jok, signing him when others stayed away because of a knee injury. Jok looks like he’ll be one of the Hawkeyes’ top scorers in his junior season. Time will tell if Pemsl follow the same path.
Big shoes to fill
McCaffery is hesitant to make comparisons. But he made one when discussing the quick shooting release of Linn-Mar guard Jordan Bohannon.
“He pulls it right in your face,” McCaffery said. “I don’t like to make a ton of comparisons, but kind of like Steph Curry does. You don’t think he’s going to shoot, and he shoots it right in your face. Which is important, because he doesn’t have great size.”
Jordan, who is 6-1, is following the footsteps of three brothers who played Division I basketball. Jason played at Wisconsin, Zach at Air Force and Wisconsin and Matt is a senior at Northern Iowa.
Many compare Jordan with Jason, who was a senior in 2009-10 and averaged 10.3 and 11.6 points his final two seasons at Wisconsin. Jason shot 37.9 percent from 3-point territory for his career. If Jordan can match those numbers, McCaffery hit a home run with this scholarship offer.
Spirit moves you
Kriener gained a lot of attention playing for Hank Huddleson’s Martin Brothers AAU team this summer. Minnesota, Wichita State and Missouri offered the 6-10 forward from Spirit Lake scholarships this summer.
“I saw him when he was young, and we always liked him,” McCaffery said. “The thing that impressed me about him was he just keeps getting better, and the way he performed this summer really elevated himself in our eyes because he always had great size and he also has versatility.”
Kriener has the potential to be a perfect frontline addition – a guy who had the size to battle inside in the Big Ten but can take his game to the perimeter as well.
Kriener, Pemsl and Bohannon all played for Martin Brothers, just like current Iowa seniors Mike Gesell and Adam Woodbury did. Gesell considers that an advantage.
“I think chemistry is a huge part of winning teams,” Gesell said. “To already come in with a guy where you have lots of chemistry on the court, you know how each other are going to play on both ends of the floor.”
Pemsl’s injuries didn’t give him a chance to play much with Bohannon and Kriener. But that familiarity should be a plus at Iowa when they enroll in the fall.
“They all wanted to be here,” McCaffery said. “They all are comfortable with each other. They know each other’s games. I think it will be a bonus, no question.”