It's been an eventful week at Wells Fargo Arena for Iowa boys' state basketball, to say the least. And we're just talking on the court.
We've already seen a No. 8 seed, that was the No. 4 seed in its own district, advance to the Class 1A championship in Wapsie Valley. We've seen stellar performances from stars such as Norwalk's Bowen Born, Waukee's Payton Sandfort and Tucker DeVries, Ankeny's Braxton Bayless and North Linn's Austin Miller.
This has also been a big week for recruiting, as coaches from throughout the Midwest have come to watch Iowa's top prospects at the Well.
Here are my recruiting thoughts and observations from state basketball this week. Who's raising their stock? Who is standing out? What are the updates/buzz I'm hearing on the top prospects?
Let's get into all those answers right now:
Biggest stock-riser: Landon Wolf, Cedar Falls
The junior shooting guard/wing has had the most eye-opening performance of the week in the Tigers' 64-62 Class 4A quarterfinal win over Dowling Catholic. He scored 22 points on 9-for-11 shooting, including 4-for-6 from long range. He also forced a Maroons turnover in the final seconds, which he turned into the game-winning layup.
Coaches from Drake, Northern Iowa, Iowa, South Dakota and Nebraska-Omaha were among those on hand for his performance. If those schools weren't already interested in Wolf, especially the mid-majors, they likely are now. Nebraska-Omaha, Missouri-Kansas City and North Dakota had already been showing interest.
Wolf then logged nine points, six rebounds, three steals and a pair of assists in Cedar Falls' semifinal loss to Ankeny.
I'm not saying offers will start pouring in. But Wolf showed enough promise this week to make college coaches want to evaluate him either this spring or summer on the AAU circuit with the Iowa Barnstormers.
Offers often come after those spring and summer evaluations.
Wolf is a long, 6-foot-5 perimeter player with a smooth 3-point stroke that knocks down 45.4% from long range. He's not quite the same athlete as his brother, UNI receiver and basketball walk-on Logan Wolf. But he's a pesky defender and a more naturally gifted basketball player with higher upside, thanks to his length and shooting ability.
We've got him ranked at No. 13 in the latest in-state 2021 recruiting rankings.
Expect him to jump in the next update.
Rising prospect to watch: Tanner Te Slaa, Boyden-Hull
Te Slaa is a kid who was flying under my radar entering the state tournament, but that is no longer the case. Among college coaching circles, his name is starting to circulate more as he wraps up his sophomore season.
Iowa, meet this 6-4 2022 combo guard from Boyden-Hull. He plays mostly point guard in high school, but he could play anywhere on the perimeter in college. He's a long athlete with a natural feel for the game who may not be done growing. He just knows where to be, what to do, when to attack, when to defer. It doesn't hurt that he shoots 45% on 3s, either.
And he's doing all that as a sophomore.
South Dakota State has already offered and had him on campus several times. The Jackrabbits and Nebraska-Omaha were courtside for Te Slaa's quarterfinal on Monday. South Dakota, Drake and UNI were among those on hand for his Wednesday semifinal. Drake watched him during the season, too. He told me his coach has also heard from Creighton, and he's received a letter of interest from Iowa.
Te Slaa will play his AAU ball with South Dakota Attack this spring and summer, up a year with the U-17 squad. They play on the Prep Hoops Circuit. He'll get the chance to open more eyes then.
Tucker DeVries: My recruitment is wide-open
Waukee wing Tucker DeVries, the Register's No. 1 in-state 2021 prospect, logged 20 points, seven rebounds and three assists in the Warriors' state quarterfinal win over North Scott on Tuesday.
Obviously, Drake head coach Darian DeVries was courtside for that one. Iowa was also there. Tucker told me Creighton and Iowa State coaches told him they'd watch his games this week online, too.
There's a running thought behind the scenes that DeVries, who visited Creighton last weekend, will wind up either playing for his dad at Drake or for Creighton, the team he grew up rooting for.
But that message certainly isn't coming from DeVries or his family.
That thought is likely keeping other schools from getting seriously involved at this point.
But the family has been clear with me about this, and I double-checked with DeVries this week just to make sure: Tucker DeVries' recruitment is wide-open. He is very much open to other options, and goodness knows he's good enough to have other options.
Iowa, Iowa State and Texas are among the other schools that have shown interest.
Kansas called DeVries back in June, too.
Drake, Creighton, South Dakota State and Air Force are his current offers. He's talented enough to have more now, and he's certainly talented enough to land more this spring and summer on the AAU circuit. We'll see if schools are comfortable getting involved.
DeVries logged 17 points, seven rebounds and four assists in Waukee's semifinal win over Ankeny Centennial.
Angelo Winkel eyeing big AAU season
Another prospect having a strong week? Winkel, the 2021 power forward/center out of Bishop Garrigan.
The bouncy 6-9 post logged 22 points and 14 boards in his team's Monday quarterfinal win. He had 16 points and 15 rebounds Wednesday. And he logged 15 points and 12 boards in Friday's Class 1A final. In all three games, he showcased the kind of athleticism that you might not think he has if you're just looking at his stats.
South Dakota State, Nebraska-Omaha and South Dakota are among the schools he considers most interested in him, and all three saw him this week. Utah State is also involved.
From a talent perspective, Winkel, the Register's No. 7 in-state junior, has long been considered one of Iowa's most intriguing 2021 prospects. But it's so hard to get a good evaluation of a big man playing against 6-foot posts in small-school competition.
So, AAU evaluations are all the more important for a prospect such as Winkel.
Unfortunately, he hasn't been able to find consistency with an AAU program, which has made it harder to keep track of him. He played for All-Iowa Attack, Iowa Barnstormers and Iowa Chill at different points last spring and summer.
Now, though, he feels like he's found his AAU home. He'll play this upcoming season with Tamin Lipsey and the All-Iowa Attack. That's good news for his recruitment.
Checking in on a local junior college prospect
Remember Luke Appel? The 6-8 stretch forward out of Marshalltown who went to Kirkwood Community College?
He turned into a star who averaged 15.9 points and 8.4 rebounds per game while shooting 56.2% and 37.9% on 3s this past season for the Eagles.
It sounds like South Dakota State and South Dakota are going all-out to land Appel, and Nebraska-Omaha is joining the race, too; it just offered in late February. The Jackrabbits have an intriguing tie: The coach who recruited Appel to Kirkwood and coached him as a freshman, Bryan Petersen, is now an assistant at South Dakota State.
Speaking of juco ...
It sounds like Ankeny senior guard Braxton Bayless could wind up going the juco route. He holds offers from Kirkwood, DMACC, Kansas City (Kansas) and Iowa Lakes.
Bayless, a physical, 6-1 guard who can score from all three levels, had the best game of anyone this week: He scored 41 of Ankeny's 68 points in the Hawks' victory over Iowa City West in the 4A quarterfinals. It was a dazzling performance that showed that what the son of former Iowa State guard Ron Bayless is capable of.
We just saw former Waterloo East guard Tyrese Nickelson have a breakout freshman season at Indian Hills. He'll be a sought-after sophomore next year. It feels like Bayless is a prospect who, in a couple years, could wind up in a similar position.
Bayless logged 11 points and four assists in Ankeny's semifinal win against Cedar Falls.
Matthew Bain covers recruiting, Iowa/Iowa State athletics and Drake basketball for the Des Moines Register and USA TODAY Network. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.
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