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It's a time-honored tradition in sports journalism: When a team isn't doing so hot and you've churned out thousands of words about it, turn to the future.

Or, specifically with the Iowa men's basketball team, write about its 2019 recruiting class.

The Hawkeyes got off to a great start when four-star, top-40 prospect Patrick McCaffery "officially" committed to his dad's team this fall — leaving Iowa with two remaining 2019 slots. McCaffery, who's averaging 21.4 points for powerhouse Iowa City West this winter, is well-liked in the club basketball circuit and regarded as a guy that other top-tier prospects would want to play with.

So, as high school basketball around the Midwest enters its second half, here are six 2019 Hawkeye targets you should keep an eye on. 

Trayce Jackson-Davis, PF

Height/weight: 6-foot-8, 210 pounds

High school: Center Grove (Greenwood, Indiana)

Rivals: 4 stars, No. 28 in the class; 247Sports Composite: 4 stars, No. 47

Why Iowa wants him: He and Patrick McCaffery are basically each other's yin and yang. McCaffery's more of a wing/stretch power forward, while the lefty Jackson-Davis is more of a sturdy inside presence. He's got elite athleticism and already boasts a frame that could handle college minutes.

What are Iowa's chances? The big dogs are starting to call — UCLA offered in December — and Indiana is thought of as the favorite. But Jackson-Davis visited Iowa in late September and has developed a strong relationship with Patrick McCaffery, which puts him right on the fringe between realistic and long shot.

D.J. Carton, PG

Height/weight: 6-2, 180

High school: Bettendorf

Rivals: 4 stars, No. 69; 247Sports Composite: 4 stars, No. 78

Why Iowa wants him: Carton should be priority No. 1 right now for Fran McCaffery's Hawkeyes, who need a point guard like Carton. Carton can jump out of the gym, but his cerebral passing and leadership qualities stand out the most. He's got the ability to impact the game on both ends. That's why he's become one of the Midwest's hottest prospects.

What are Iowa's chances? There are so many schools in the mix, including Ohio State, which just offered. But the Iowa is certainly among the early front-runners. Carton's grandfather, Gene Meeker, played for the Hawkeyes in the 1950s, and he lives just an hour from campus. Plus, Patrick McCaffery is recruiting him hard. Carton told HawkCentral he'll likely wait until around signing day next year to make a decision.

Michael Moreno, SF

Height/weight: 6-6, 195

High school: Scott County (Georgetown, Kentucky)

Rivals: Unrated; 247Sports Composite: 3 stars, No. 226

Why Iowa wants him: Moreno is a jack-of-all-trades wing, perfect for Iowa's offense. He shot 38 percent from long range and 58 percent overall as a sophomore and he can score at all three levels. If he improves his ball-handling skills and creates for himself more effectively, he'll gain some more interest.

What are Iowa's chances? At this point ... pretty good. Iowa is Moreno's only Power Five offer (Bradley and Eastern Kentucky have also offered).

E.J. Liddell, PF

Height/weight: 6-8, 220

High school: Belleville West (Belleville, Illinois)

Rivals: 4 stars, No. 94; 247Sports Composite: 4 stars, No. 98

Why Iowa wants him: Liddell has a frame that projects well at the college level. He averaged 20 points, 8.1 rebounds and 4.3 blocks as a sophomore on varsity last year. He can stretch outside, but his strength rests in the paint right now. His great vertical and long stride make for some acrobatic finishes.

What are Iowa's chances? The Hawkeyes are a contender, though Illinois and Missouri have prioritized Liddell early. Liddell has taken unofficial visits to Iowa, Illinois, Kansas State and Missouri. He also knows Tyler Cook. That certainly doesn't hurt.

Tyrell Terry, PG

Height/weight: 5-11, 160

High school: De La Salle (Minneapolis, Minnesota)

Rivals: Unrated; 247Sports: 4 stars, No. 126

Why Iowa wants him: With Detroit's Rocket Watts trending toward Michigan State, it's looking like Terry is Iowa's other top 2019 point guard option along with Carton. What he lacks in size, he makes up for in speed, creative passing and a high-level 3-point shot.

What are Iowa's chances? Good. The Hawkeyes have been in on Terry for a while, and he's visited campus. Butler and Nebraska have also offered, and Minnesota has expressed interest. But it'd be hard to say any school is in a better position than Iowa. Of course, any mutual interest here might depend on how many point guards Iowa wants once signing day rolls around next year.

Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, PF

Height/weight: 6-9, 220

High school: Bishop Miege (Roland Park, Kansas)

Rivals: 5 stars, No. 16; 247Sports Composite: 5 stars, No. 19

Why Iowa wants him: Robinson-Earl is a no-doubt blue-chip prospect. He's got it all: Size, speed, athleticism, footwork, solid perimeter skills — you name it. Basically every big school will take a serious look at Robinson-Earl, the son of former Kansas star Lester Earl.

What are Iowa's chances? This is a long shot. Kansas is considered the very heavy favorite. The Hawkeyes' thread of hope? Through different elite camps and club basketball events, Robinson-Earl and Patrick McCaffery have developed a good relationship. They both participated in the prestigious NBPA Top 100 Camp in June.

Matthew Bain covers college football and basketball recruiting for the Des Moines Register. He also helps out with Iowa and Iowa State football and basketball coverage for HawkCentral and Cyclone Insider. Contact him at mbain@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.

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