Hawkeyes re-open doors to Chicago with Class of 2015

Chad Leistikow

IOWA CITY, Ia. – When Brandon Hutton's national letter of intent arrived in Iowa City on Wednesday afternoon, he became the first Chicago-area prep to sign with the Hawkeye basketball program in 10 years.

A few hours later, a second came in from Chicago swingman Isaiah Moss.

Groundbreaking? You bet.

Iowa coach Fran McCaffery stands over his bench during last year's win at Ohio State. McCaffery has 12 of 13 scholarships filled after signing four players Wednesday to his Class of 2014.

"It's a beautiful thing," said Hawkeye assistant coach Andrew Francis, the lead recruiter for both players. "It's really an exciting thing to get two kids of that caliber and character."

Iowa City and Chicago go well together, dating to Ronnie Lester, Kenny Arnold and Andre Banks in the late 1970s and early 1980s. But until Wednesday, the Hawkeyes hadn't received a basketball letter of intent from a Chicago-area high schooler since Maywood's Tony Freeman a decade ago.

"There is a history of Iowa getting good athletes, not just on the basketball front (from Chicago)," Francis said. "We want to obviously re-establish those bridges, and hopefully get a pipeline of good players to take a look at Iowa and see that this is a viable place for them to come and have success."

Hutton, a 6-foot-6 forward from De La Salle High School, and Moss, a 6-5 swingman from Chicago Simeon, comprise half of Iowa's Class of 2015. The others are 6-5 guard Andrew Fleming of Nashville, Tenn., and 6-7 forward Ahmad Wagner of Yellow Springs, Ohio, who also received recruiting interest in football.

Rivals.com ranks all four as three-star recruits. The signings leave Iowa coach Fran McCaffery with one scholarship to give.

Hutton was Iowa's first Class of 2015 commitment, in March. He has spoken highly of Iowa's family-style environment. Moss reiterated that feeling in a text message to the Register.

"We don't try to be something we're not," Francis said. "We're a real bunch of people that care about the kids that we have. We want to show that to our recruits."

Give Iowa junior guard Anthony Clemmons a little credit in landing both Chicago players. He was each player's host on their official visits.

Clemmons was pumped about the Chicago breakthrough.

"It brings a different culture in here," he said. "It helps other players (from Chicago) recommend coming here. I think that's a big plus."

How does the class as a whole fit together? It's a mix of mid-sized, versatile players filling in behind big men Aaron White and Gabe Olaseni and shooting guard Josh Oglesby, who are in their senior years.

McCaffery likes Wagner's "incredible speed and quickness." He said Fleming "can play the point, he can score at the two-spot, and is athletic enough to play the three." Hutton "can be a lock-down defender."

And McCaffery called Moss "a big-time play-maker," while Francis said he reminded him of Devyn Marble – Iowa's No. 5 all-time leading scorer who graduated in the spring.

It was just 15 months ago that Iowa suffered one of its most high-profile recruiting heartbreakers in Chicago. That was when Tyler Ulis of Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights selected Kentucky over Iowa in a tight battle.

The Iowa coaching staff, led by Sherm Dillard and Fran McCaffery, fought hard for Ulis.

You win some, you lose some. Francis was in on Moss and Hutton since their sophomore years.

Wednesday officially was a chance to celebrate two recruiting victories in Chicago.

McCaffery downplayed the significance of the signings, saying he's been recruiting in New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Chicago for years.

But, there's no mistaking the pool of ability that's available four hours East.

"It's loaded with talent across the board," McCaffery said. "It's a big city. You go into the city, you can go to the suburbs and there are players everywhere."



A look at Chicago-area recruits that signed with the Hawkeyes out of high school since 1980, sorted by their first season at Iowa:

2015 – Brandon Hutton (Chicago)

2015 – Isaiah Moss (Chicago)

2005 – Tony Freeman (Maywood)

2001 – Pierre Pierce (Westmont)

1998 – Jason Price (Chicago)

1990 – James Winters (Joliet)

1987 – Ray Thompson (Summitt)

1982 – Andre Banks (Chicago)

Note: Iowa signed Chicago-area natives Michael Ingram (Bellwood, 1988) and Cyrus Tate (Chicago, 2006), but both came to the Hawkeyes as junior-college transfers.

Source: Iowa sports information, Register research



Those who signed national letters of intent on Wednesday:

G Andrew Fleming, 6-5, Nashville, Tenn. (Oak Hill Academy, Mouth of Wilson, Va.)

F Isaiah Moss, 6-5, 175, Chicago, Ill. (Simeon)

F Brandon Hutton, 6-6, 210, Chicago, Ill. (De La Salle)

F Ahmad Wagner, 6-7, 215, Yellow Springs, Ohio (Wayne)