Recruiting mailbag: Who's Iowa State focusing on for last 2021 scholarship? Does Raridon commitment say anything about Iowa?

Matthew Bain
Des Moines Register

Hello, everyone. Welcome, once again, to the recruiting mailbag.

When I was a kid, I had zero idea why my dad liked tending to his garden so much. He'd take me to the garden center with him, where he'd stock up on the different plants or produce he wanted to grow. I enjoyed being with him, but, again, I had no clue what type of joy he derived from doing all this stuff.

Now, I can proudly say I am my father's son. It's funny how we turn into our parents as we age, because I definitely inherited my dad's green thumb. May 10 is right around the corner, and I'm not sure I can express how excited I am to plant our tomatoes, onions, bell peppers and lettuce.

No, I am not 46. I'm 26. Yes, I know I sound like I'm 46.

But I'm sitting here on my couch writing this, with the morning sun shining through the window and onto my raised garden bed, just waiting for its plants. During the pandemic, it's been important to find little things in life that give you joy. For me, growing vegetables is one of those little things.

Anyway ... enough of that tangent. You're here for sports. So let's get to it.

This week's questions focus on what Iowa State men's basketball is trying to do with its final scholarship, the potential for future Drake basketball transfers, who benefits most from the transfer portal, and why Valley's Eli Raridon picked Notre Dame.

What will Iowa State do with its last 2021 scholarship?

Iowa State is looking to add a wing with its final 2021 men's basketball scholarship. It has been publicly connected to several names in the transfer portal, but I'm told the Cyclones are focusing on only one target at the moment: Penn State transfer Izaiah Brockington.

He is the guy right now. It's been that way for a while, despite names you may have seen the Cyclones tied to on Twitter. A source with direct knowledge of the recruitment said Iowa State has conducted two virtual Zoom visits with Brockington.

Iowa forward Keegan Murray (15) and Iowa's Connor McCaffery (30) defend Penn State guard Izaiah Brockington (12) during a NCAA Big Ten Conference men's basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.

Iowa State is all-in on the 6-foot-4 wing from Philadelphia. He averaged 12.6 points and 4.9 rebounds per game last year while shooting 43% overall. Brockington played his freshman season at St. Bonaventure and spent the past three seasons at Penn State, sitting the first year due to NCAA transfer rules.

His best 3-point shooting year was that freshman season at St. Bonaventure, when he shot 41.5%. He shot 26.7% and 27.9% on 3s in his past two years at Penn State.

Brockington is down to a final four of Iowa State, BYU, Arkansas and Wake Forest, and I'm told coaches expect a decision by the end of the week, perhaps even Thursday.

If the Cyclones land Brockington, they'll be done in 2021 and can turn their focus toward adding more pieces to their 2022 class, which already includes Ames point guard Tamin Lipsey and Minnesota combo guard Eli King.

5 p.m. UPDATE: Brockington committed to Iowa State about six hours after this mailbag was published. The Cyclones are now done in their 2021 class.

Their newest offer came last week to Anthony Black, a four-star, 6-7 combo guard out of the Dallas suburbs. I know what you're probably thinking: That's nice that Iowa State is offering talented prospects, but does it have the same chance with a Texas kid that it would a Midwest kid?

Well, here's your Midwest connection: Black's dad is Terry Black, a Baylor Hall of Famer who grew up in Milwaukee (attended Messmer High) and played two seasons at Ottumwa's Indian Hills before heading to Baylor in 1999. Cyclones head coach T.J. Otzelberger and assistant coach J.R. Blount have deep dies in Milwaukee, and Black played at Indian Hills right after assistant coach Daniyal Robinson's two years there. 

How did Notre Dame beat Iowa for Eli Raridon?

I saw some people on Twitter suggest that Valley tight end Eli Raridon's commitment to Notre Dame, preceded by Lewis Central's Thomas Fidone picking Nebraska last year, is an indictment on Iowa football. Why? Because for the past two years, the state's top tight ends, who were also nationally sought-after prospects, committed elsewhere.

That notion couldn't be further from the truth. There has been no indictment on Iowa football or its recruitment of tight ends.

I talked at length with Raridon last week as we prepared his first-person essay for the Register in which he announced his commitment to Notre Dame over Iowa, Iowa State and Tennessee. This was a case of a lifelong Notre Dame fan realizing his dream — not somebody turning down Iowa because it wasn't good enough.

He wrote as much in his piece: "It was tough for Iowa, too, because their tight end tradition is just as good as Notre Dame’s."

Raridon's dad, Scott Raridon, played offensive line at Notre Dame in the early 2000s. Eli grew up driving to a few Fighting Irish games a year and watching the other games on TV. He nearly cried when Michigan State beat Notre Dame on the fake field goal in 2010. He dressed up as a Notre Dame player every Halloween.

Eli Raridon, right, poses for a photo on Halloween years ago next to his dad, Scott Raridon.

If Iowa, or any other school for that matter, had managed to pry Raridon away from Notre Dame, it would have been a significant recruiting upset. The same goes for Fidone last year. He grew up a passionate Huskers fan, and it was always going to be hard to pull him elsewhere.

So don't worry, Hawkeye fans. There's nothing wrong with Iowa's tight end recruitment. It will continue to land talented guys at that position.

Drake has a handful of young players who aren't projected to have large roles this year. Should fans worry about transfers?

Drake men's basketball coach Darian DeVries seems to employ the same strategy that the head coach at my alma mater, San Diego State's Brian Dutcher, preaches:

"Get old, stay old."

The Bulldogs have won, for the most part, with experienced talent during DeVries' three years. They're active in the transfer portal and the junior college ranks. They'll try to win with experience next year, too, as Drake brings back all major pieces except Joseph Yesufu, who it replaced with Omaha graduate transfer point guard Ayo Akinwole.

Of course, that doesn't mean young players can't have a role. Yesufu played in 13 games before getting injured as a freshman, and his sophomore role led to him transferring to Kansas. Redshirt freshmen Issa Samake and Nate Ferguson played key minutes last year, too.

Next year, incoming freshman Tucker DeVries is expected to have some sort of role. You can probably bet on Samake and Ferguson continuing to get minutes, too, although one might get the majority behind Darnell Brodie. It's hard to see Drake's other young players — Okay Djamgouz, Jordan Kwiecinzki, Bryceson Burns and incoming freshman Conor Enright — carving out significant roles.

Drake University's Bryceson Burns dribbles the ball during a Drake University vs. Illinois State game on Feb. 1, 2021. Drake defeated Illinois State 95-60, improving to 17-0 for the season.

There's obviously a chance anybody transfers. It depends on what those guys want: Do they want minutes right now elsewhere? Or are they comfortable waiting and growing until it's their time in the spotlight at Drake? When they're the old guys in "Get old, stay old."

Who benefits the most from the transfer portal?

High-major programs.

Yes, some will be hurt when their premier player heads to a Duke or a Kentucky. And there are certainly divorces that hurt in a different way, when a star player leaves because he just didn't think it was the right fit. But many of the guys who transfer out of high-major programs are doing so because they weren't satisfied with their role or they weren't getting enough minutes. 

With mid-majors, however, it's more common for the star players to leave. Yesufu is the perfect example. He had a breakout sophomore year. He loved it at Drake, but he also wanted to maximize his opportunities in college. And this thing called the transfer portal would help him do that. So, he entered. Now he's a projected starter at national title contender Kansas.

That story is common throughout mid-major college basketball. 

Kellan Grady left Davidson for Kentucky. Payton Willis left Charleston for Minnesota. Markquis Nowell left Little Rock for Kansas State. Fatts Russell left Rhode Island for Maryland. David Collins left South Florida for Clemson. Jamir Harris left American for Seton Hall. Tyson Walker left Northeastern for Michigan State.

I could go on and on and on.

Point is: The transfer portal can help or hurt anybody in the country. But I'm willing to bet it hurts, and is going to continue to hurt, mid-majors more than high-majors.

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 mbain@dmreg.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.