Hawkcentral.com columnist Chad Leistikow breaks down the 2016-17 Iowa basketball roster.
There’s still a lot of mystery surrounding Fran McCaffery’s seventh Iowa basketball team.
(With five freshmen and five sophomores among the 13 scholarship players, how could there not be?)
But it’s certain to be unlike any of his previous six.
Iowa will be bigger. Yes, bigger — even without 7-foot-1 center Adam Woodbury. There’s a good chance McCaffery’s shortest starter will be 6-6.
“Even though we’re a young team, we’re not a young, skinny team,” McCaffery said Friday after getting his most important bit of off-season news — that all-Big Ten Conference guard Peter Jok would return for his senior season. “We’ve got some bodies that are ready to compete.”
A lot has been fluid since the season-ending loss to eventual national champ Villanova in the NCAA Tournament. Freshmen Andrew Fleming and Brandon Hutton transferred; Nicholas Baer was put on scholarship; Iowa signed Rutgers de-commit Maishe Dailey and then Jok announced his return.
Of course, Jok will be next season's focal point. But it’ll take a blend of 9-10 regulars to make McCaffery’s up-tempo system hum.
The composition of that group will remain fluid from now until November — and probably beyond. But with five newcomers starting summer school in a few weeks and gaining official access to Iowa’s coaching and training staff, the competition is about to begin.
Here’s an early look at how Iowa’s starting lineup and rotation could look in 2016-17:
Point guard: Christian Williams
News flash*: This is Iowa’s most uncertain position. ( * –Denotes sarcasm)
Point guard 2016-17 has been fretted about for at least six months, with the impending and now final departures of four-year point guards Mike Gesell and Anthony Clemmons. But in 6-6 Williams, Iowa will present a different kind of point. He has the wingspan of a power forward. Because the point’s biggest job is to just get the motion offense started, there won’t be as much magnified pressure on the sophomore, who did show flashes after breaking into the rotation late last season.
Shooting guard: Peter Jok
Jok should be putting up 15 to 20 shots a game, and it sounds like he will be. As pure a shooter as McCaffery’s had at Iowa, the 6-6 Jok has not only been given the green light, he also has the occasional OK to blow through a red, too. If Jok can increase his conditioning one more notch and show he can get with high frequency to the foul line (where he shoots 85.2 percent), he’ll lead the Big Ten in scoring.
Forward I: Dom Uhl
Iowa’s best candidate at small forward might be its tallest starter, at 6-9. Uhl’s got potential to light it up from 3-point land (he was hitting 55 percent from deep before tailing off in the second half of last season) while also defending the post. Word has it he’s been one of the most-improved Hawkeyes since the season ended. He averaged 2.1 points as a freshman and 6 points as a sophomore. Expect a similar jump to at least 10 points as a junior.
Cook one of four to sign with Iowa Wednesday.
Forward II: Tyler Cook
Rivals’ No. 74 overall recruit in the Class of 2016, Cook (6-8, 240) has the physical tools to compete right away amid the Big Ten grind. After landing Iowa's highest-ranked prospect since Woodbury in 2012, don’t expect McCaffery to stash Cook on the bench. He is a solid defender, a McCaffery prerequisite for floor time. Fans should be able to get their first glimpse of Cook when the Prime Time League begins June 16 in North Liberty.
Forward III: Ahmad Wagner
Give him a full off-season and 25 minutes a game (instead of 10), and expect Wagner (6-7, 225) to take a production jump as a sophomore. He was Iowa’s best freshman a year ago, providing a spark defensively and around the rim. Wagner works hard, so you can bet he’s addressing last season’s woeful free-throw percentage (51.4).
The Bettendorf native is now a FORMER walk-on.
Sixth man: Nicholas Baer
Baer needs to be more than a feel-good story as a sophomore. He’s the perfect sixth man. He hustles, he defends and — as we saw against the likes of Michigan State and Villanova — he can score, too. Baer said he was hoping to add 10-15 pounds to his 6-7 frame in the off-season. He won’t take opponents by surprise any more.
Seventh man: Dale Jones
How quickly the forward (6-7, 220) rehabs and conditions from December ACL surgery will dictate how much he contributes. If Iowa can get a good 10 to 15 minutes a game from Jones, it's worth getting him on the court. He shoots 45 percent from 3-point range and can rebound. Defense is his biggest question mark.
Eighth man: Jordan Bohannon
Iowa needs its state’s reigning Mr. Basketball to contribute right away. Bohannon’s size (6-0, 170) might lend itself to Gesell comparisons. The initial scouting report: Bohannon might not be as good a defender as Gesell, but he could be a better shooter. Expect growing pains and some excitement from the former Linn-Mar star.
Ninth, 10th men: Brady Ellingson, Isaiah Moss
They’re different kinds of wing players, but both will get a chance to back up Jok.
Ellingson (6-4) is a spot-up sharpshooter who limits mistakes — similar to Josh Oglesby in a lot of ways — but needs to regain confidence after losing his spot in the rotation last season.
After redshirting, Moss (6-5) gets a chance to flash an athleticism that turned heads in practice last season. Consistency and aggressiveness are key for Moss’ development.
Others off the bench:
Maishe Dailey: At 6-6, 184, Iowa’s late signee needs to pack on strength.
Cordell Pemsl: A knee surgery slowed the 6-8 Dubuque Wahlert star’s ascent.
Ryan Kriener: Don’t forget the Spirit Lake product (6-9, 240); there’s always room for post depth.