Bain: Thoughts on Iowa's 2021 basketball recruiting class — now and moving forward

Matthew Bain
Hawk Central

Iowa men's basketball will officially sign its lone 2021 recruit Wednesday in Waukee wing Payton Sandfort, the Register's No. 2 in-state prospect.

Sandfort, a 6-foot-7 sharpshooter who can also rebound at a high level, picked the Hawkeyes over Drake, Utah, Stanford and Minnesota in early October.

A promising young shooter who just got better and bigger and more athletic as he aged, Sandfort projects as an excellent fit in Fran McCaffery's system. He shoots 45% from long range and runs the floor well, getting to his spots, setting his feet and consistently knocking down 3-pointers in transition. He told me McCaffery has compared him to Jarrod Uthoff and Joe Wieskamp — someone who can go up and snare a rebound, then bring the ball up and make a play in transition.

Waukee's Payton Sandfort drives to the basket as North Scott's Sam Kilburg defends during the 4A state basketball quarterfinal matchup at Wells Fargo Arena Tuesday, March 10, 2020.

Sandfort has also told me McCaffery repeatedly said Sandfort was his top 2021 target.

Obviously, coaches give targets lip service all the time, but I certainly believe Sandfort was at or near the top of the Hawkeyes' board.

For one thing, McCaffery prioritizes keeping the best in-state talent in Iowa City. And, outside Tucker DeVries, who did what most people assumed and signed to play for his dad at Drake on Wednesday, Sandfort was the state of Iowa's top prize. He's a legitimate high-major talent whose length and shooting ability figure to make him at least a role player in McCaffery's program.

Also, the Hawkeyes extended Sandfort his first offer — before any mid-major — way back in June 2019 and recruited him hard ever since.

In terms of what Iowa has planned for the 2021 moving forward, I'm hearing the Hawkeyes might be done in the class. Yes, they did also pretty heavily pursue Kentucky three-star post Trey James, the state's all-time leading blocker, who shocked just about everyone in July when he committed to Rick Pitino and Iona after being seen as a near-lock for Iowa. Milwaukee shooting guard Brandin Podziemski could be another name to watch, as he's blowing up this fall and schools around the Midwest are noticing.

But the Hawkeyes don't appear to be seriously pursuing another player at the moment. At least for now, with the NCAA giving all players another year of eligibility, Iowa doesn't exactly need another 2021 recruit. And with COVID-19 delaying any in-person recruiting and official visits until at least Jan. 1, it sounds like McCaffery and his staff are comfortable sticking with Sandfort for the time being.

Could things change if the coronavirus-caused dead recruiting period gets lifted?


Could things change if a local superstar prospect emerges in the coming months and asserts himself as a must-have?

Of course.

For now, though, Iowa is happy with Sandfort. As it should be. And, like many teams across the country, it's turning more of its attention to the 2022 class. It has offered 20 2022 targets; that's already more than half of the 34 offers it extended while recruiting the 2021 class.

Matthew Bain covers recruiting and pretty much anything else under the sports sun for the Des Moines Register and USA TODAY Network.  Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.