Iowa assistant Andrew Francis talks 2019 recruiting goals, future strategy
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Iowa assistant coach Andrew Francis sat in his Carver-Hawkeye Arena office Wednesday, legs fully extended under the desk. Two cell phones sat side by side to the left his open lap top. And the Investigation Discovery channel quietly played on a wall-mounted TV.
Francis was preparing to scout Penn State. Before that, though, he chatted one-on-one with the Register about Hawkeyes’ recruiting.
Entering his 10th season on Fran McCaffery’s staff, Francis has become a prominent face for Iowa on the recruiting trail, just like he was for Siena when he and McCaffery coached there.
In a 30-minute conversation with the Register, Francis discussed 2018 signees Joe Wieskamp and C.J. Fredrick, recruiting goals for 2019, 2020 recruiting and the impact of Christian Williams’ transfer.
Iowa already has a power forward/stretch forward for its 2019 class in Patrick McCaffery. Francis said Iowa could look to the perimeter for the other two scholarships, although it's known the Hawkeyes also like power forwards Trayce Jackson-Davis and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl.
But on the perimeter, two positions stand out as possibilities: point guard and "perimeter stopper."
"Obviously, in the 2019 class, we’ve identified someone that really could help us, and that’s something that’s high on our radar," Francis said. "What we’re looking for in that class is to improve our point guards, that backcourt position, with some speed and athleticism and quickness and shiftiness off the dribble. If you look at our team and the makeup of our team, that’s something that is not the strongest part of what we have.
"The other part of that is, do we look at a guy who could be a perimeter stopper, who also has the ability to score the basketball a little bit. But someone who is tenacious defensively, who can really move their feet and guard multiple positions on the wing."
Francis could not talk about specific unsigned recruits due to NCAA rules, but four-star, top-40 Bettendorf product D.J. Carton is considered Iowa's top point guard target. The Hawkeyes have been on Minneapolis product Tyrell Terry for a while, too.
In terms of perimeter stopper options, Iowa has offered Michael Moreno, a three-star small forward out of Kentucky. It's also pursuing Malik Hall, a four-star prospect out of Wichita, Kan., who is originally from Illinois. Those
Wieskamp and Fredrick
Joe Wieskamp's potential record-breaking senior season only adds to what Francis already thought: that the Iowa signee could be a "good one."
"If you’re in this business long enough, you’ll come across a kid who you think will be really good, or has the tools to be very good," Francis said. "But how a guy develops, what he develops into, what’s his emotional state, how does he grow mentally, how does he grow physically — you just don't know some of that stuff. It’s projection, but it’s not an exact science, as we all know.
"We thought, ‘Boy, this guy has a chance to be pretty good,’ because he had a great stroke, great work ethic, really good size back then and I think he’s grown a little since (his junior season). His ability on the perimeter has gotten better, his ball-handling has gotten better, his stroke is still sweet. Efficient, understands how to play."
Francis was then asked if he anticipates Wieskamp having a sizable role next season.
"We expect him to come in and compete," he responded. "We expect him to want to have a role right away. Now, what happens from there, obviously, only time will tell that. But he’s a guy that’s really developed, and he’s a guy that, as you watch him now, you say to yourself, ‘OK, he’s college-ready.’ But he still has to get accustomed to the speed, physicality, all the nuances of college basketball."
Switching over to Fredrick, Francis said “that is big-time” in reference to the Kentucky product committing to the Hawkeyes before he had a guaranteed scholarship.
"I mean, that's the ultimate, when you think about it," Francis said. "That’s a guy that you can say to yourself was all-in before he even got here. To have that level of commitment from a young guy that had options — scholarship options — to have that, obviously meant a great deal to us.
"When you have a young guy that says to you, ‘Boy, I really like what you guys are doing. I really want to be a part of that.’ That says a lot in my opinion. Guys that want to come and be a part of what you’re growing."
Balancing 2019 and 2020
The Hawkeyes will compete with the bluebloods of college basketball for Oskaloosa’s Xavier Foster, a five-star 2020 power forward who checked in at No. 19 in Rivals’ latest class rankings. They’re already in a full-throttle pursuit, along with Creighton and Iowa State. Foster also holds offers from Missouri, Illinois and Texas A&M, with many more on the way.
Iowa also offered Jalen Suggs, a five-star 2020 point guard from Minneapolis, last November. Francis is thought the be the lead recruiter here.
The Hawkeyes have also expressed early interest in Norwalk point guard Bowen Born.
Francis discussed balancing 2019 priorities with early 2020 recruiting action.
"You have to understand what you’ve got to do now, but you’ve always got to be thinking about the future and you’ve always got to be planning for the future," he said. "So, all of the guys we have recruited who are in that 2020 — maybe even some 2021 kids that you’ve got to start paying attention to — you have to make sure you stay connected to coaches, whether it’s AAU coaches, high school coaches, high school assistant coaches.
“Right now, we’re on some good players in 2020, obviously 2019. And recruiting changes every year based on what happens with your team. So, every year, you’ve got to evaluate where your team is, does anyone on your team feel the need for a change, you’ve got to reevaluate that. And if that does happen, look we lost Christian Williams — we didn't see that one coming."
How did Williams’ transfer change things?
"It affected us, obviously," Francis said. "We looked at him as a veteran guy — guy who understood how to compete at this level. A guy who brought some stability to the point guard spot. So there was an expectation that he would be there to help. But you always are prepared for different things, just like in a game you've got to make adjustments, and we had to make the adjustments. I think the thing that hurt more than anything, more so than him leaving, was Connor McCaffery getting sick. That obviously wasn't expected. We wouldn’t have felt as much of the sting as we’ve felt if Connor didn't get sick."
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.