Recruiting Rundown: Who are the top priorities for Iowa basketball?
Iowa fans were left hoping it wasn't a fad.
High-speed lineups with long arms spread the floor last season and produced stretches of high-flying basketball that led the Hawkeyes to their first NCAA Tournament win since 2001.
But first-team all-Big Ten forward Aaron White is gone and three more senior starters will be soon. Will the stylish system leave too?
"Whenever the NBA champions do something that works it becomes trendy, and you look at what Golden State did in the finals with shooters and speed and there's a feeling that's where basketball is starting to head," said Tom Kakert, publisher of Rivals.com's Hawkeye Report.
"Iowa has shown some of that. But there's no substitute for a back-to-the basket big guy."
Coach Fran McCaffery's staff stocked up on wing talent in the Class of 2015, bringing in six new commits between 6-foot-5 and 6-foot-8.
How the mostly-positionless newcomers fit with senior starters Mike Gesell, Jarrod Uthoff and Adam Woodbury will dictate success this season.
But what about after? That's what summer recruiting is for.
At a lanky and bouncy 6-9, Uthoff has seamlessly slid into McCaffery's plans, but Gesell and Woodbury were prized high school recruits that have become program anchors, starting 201 total games in three years.
The holes they'll leave in the lineup can't be filled by an army of young wing players. And solutions will have to be found outside Sioux City and South Sioux City this time around.
"There are three scholarships left open and I think they want two bigs and a point guard," Kakert said.
Here are four key items on the 2016 recruiting to-do list for the Hawkeyes:
PRIORITIZE THE NEXT POINT GUARD
Why there's a need: Gesell and his trustworthy backup Anthony Clemmons are entering their final year of eligibility and there are no other point guards on the roster.
Who could help: Ball-handler by committee? Incoming 6-6 guard Christian Williams?
"He's got kind of a Devyn Marble feel to his game," Kakert said. "But they're still trying to cast a net for a point guard."
Those options are less than ideal to be full-time going forward.
That's why Chicago-based four-star guard Charlie Moore is a top priority.
"Iowa and Illinois are the two schools recruiting him the hardest," said Brian Snow, national recruiting analyst for Scout.com. "Iowa has been there the longest and put in the most effort."
Moore is 5-11 and known for his quickness and toughness out of the backcourt. He's not as heralded as 2014's Chicago point prospect Tyler Ulis, but Iowa is right in the mix and has him visiting Iowa City on Saturday.
"When he gets hot shooting he can put a team on his back, but sometimes he's the best player for both teams, which can be a problem," Snow said. "He's had a great spring and has seen his stock rise."
Four-star Philadelphia prospect Tony Carr and Indianapolis three-star C.J. Walker have offers as well. Drawing in a potential role player could be made more challenging by the arrival of Connor McCaffery in 2017, an outstanding 6-5 guard at Iowa City West.
"It's an interesting dynamic because a lot of people think the coach's son is going to be the point guard," Kakert said. "Kids want to play. I'm sure that comes into play when Fran and the staff are talking to potential players."
FIND MUSCLE FOR THE MIDDLE
Why there's a need: Heckle Woodbury all you want, but at 7-1 and 245 pounds, his physical presence in the paint will be sorely missed after 2015-16. Especially without Gabe Olaseni to relieve him.
Who could help: Mid-majors love Hershey, Pa., center Dylan Painter and he's slated for a visit next week. Listed as a 6-10 true post player, Painter also has Big Ten offers from Northwestern and Penn State.
"He's a fundamental kid that can rebound and score with either hand down low," Snow said.
Nick Rakocevic is a skilled four-star stretch four that won an Illinois state championship last season, but plans to trim his list in the next couple weeks and is still under 200 pounds at 6-11.
More immediate physical help could come from Apple Valley's (Minn.) Brock Bertram or Spirit Lake post Ryan Kreiner. At 6-9, 240 pounds, Kreiner is still waiting on a high-major offer and for Iowa to ask for another in-state big. Dubuque Wahlert's Cordell Pemsl (6-8, 235) committed last year.
"Kreiner is being evaluated and has decent size," Kakert said. "If they were to miss on some players, I could see them coming back to him at some point."
Offers for 2017 were given out this week to Kaleb Wesson (6-9, 260) from Westerville, Ohio and Luka Garza (6-9, 215) from Washington D.C.
KEEP STOCKING UP ON SCORERS
Why there's a need: Without White, the Hawkeyes will be even more reliant on balance and pace to get Uthoff and junior Peter Jok their allotment of shots. The 2015 signees should keep the points coming, but how many and how soon?
Who could help: The 2015 group has capable scorers in Oak Hill product Andrew Fleming and Waterloo West (by way of Tyler Junior College) forward Dale Jones, but there's always space for offensive stars if they want to come to Iowa City.
Four-star guard Kevin Huerter seems to be an obvious choice for the McCaffery family.
"His father played at Siena and was a radio guy for the team when the McCafferys were there," Kakert said. "Kevin and Connor are good friends and when they were young, talked about playing college ball together."
Huerter is a 6-5 guard with a notoriously smooth stroke and recently picked up offers from Baylor, Maryland and Syracuse.
"Kevin is one of my favorite players in the class," Snow said.
"He's really exploded onto the scene lately and is making great strides. He's made himself a big-time, high-major player."
Tyler Cook is a physical forward out of St. Louis that Snow says, "tries to dunk everything." He's also on big on Iowa State's radar.
The name to get Hawkeye fans dreaming is Michael Porter. ESPN's No. 2 overall prospect in 2017 is the son of former Cedar Rapids Jefferson and Iowa women's basketball star Lisa Becker, but lives in Columbia, Mo., because his father is an assistant coach for Missouri's women.
"He's probably got 200 schools that have offered him, so Iowa may have a little bit of an in," Kakert said. "All the blue bloods are involved. It's interesting to see his name associated with Iowa at least."
The 6-9 phenom is keeping interested parties up-to-date on his recruitment through his Twitter feed and USA TODAY blog and still has Iowa on his preferred list of 17 scholarship offers.
"Michael Porter is an elite talent," Snow said. "He's a big-time athlete, an elite shooter, and one of the best players regardless of class in high school basketball."
"But there's no such thing as a cutting a list to 17 schools."
GET A STAR OUT OF THE IN-STATE HAUL
Why there's a need: This stays on the to-do list longer than 2016 given the investment McCaffery's staff has made in Iowa products. Given the resources applied to Pemsl (2016), Muscatine's Joe Wieskamp (2018) and eventually Connor (2017) and Patrick McCaffery (2019), the Hawkeyes will require big-time results.
Who could help: Connor could be the closest to playing time of his fellow Iowans and ESPN has the head coach's son listed as the nation's 53rd best player in 2017. He might not continue to be a point guard at the Big Ten level, but that may not matter.
"Connor McCaffery is tough, can really rebound from the wing spot, is a good shooter and good passer," Snow said. "He's athletically limited, but he knows what he is and plays to his strengths."
Wieskamp is even higher in 2018: buzzing at 16th overall in ESPN's top 25. At a lanky 6-4, he scored 18.6 points a game in Class 4-A for the Muskies as a freshman.
"Joe knows how to play, can shoot the ball and really impressed me when I saw him in May," Snow said. "I think he has a ton of potential and can be an excellent player for Iowa down the line."
Pemsl could win his third straight state championship when he returns from knee surgery and Patrick McCaffery is dunking before his first high school minutes.
Could the Hawkeyes see a true star develop out of the bunch? They'll have to wait and see.
"One of the things Fran said when he arrived was that Iowa would get the top kids in the state," Kakert said. "For the most part, he's done that when those kids have been good enough."