Recruiting Mailbag: Latest transfer portal news for Iowa, Iowa State, Drake, UNI; Pryce Sandfort update
Hello, everyone. Welcome, once again, to the Recruiting Mailbag.
Before we get started, let's check in on former Oskaloosa and Iowa State big man Xavier Foster really fast.
In last week's Recruiting Mailbag, you read that Foster is focusing on out-of-state schools. Of the schools who have shown interest, TCU, Prairie View A&M, Alabama A&M, Charleston, Coastal Carolina, Florida International, Cal Baptist and Arizona State are out-of-state options with warmer weather, which he has expressed a desire for.
The update this week is that Foster is now planning visits with his finalist schools and he will take those visits in April. Dates and destinations aren't finalized yet, but they will soon. I'll do my best to keep you posted on that.
For now, let's get to this week's questions, which focus on the latest transfer portal intel for Iowa, Iowa State, Drake and Northern Iowa, an update from Pryce Sandfort and a look at how Division II Drury plucked both Trey Lewis and Ashton Hermann from Iowa.
Has Fardaws Aimaq scheduled a visit to Iowa? Here's the latest update
As of Thursday morning, no, Utah Valley transfer Fardaws Aimaq had not yet finalized an official visit with Iowa, a source with direct knowledge of Hawkeye recruitment told me, but the two parties are working on dates and there's no reason to believe the visit will not happen. That same source did, however, confirm that Iowa is traveling to Utah Thursday to visit with Aimaq. 247Sports was first on that news.
So, in other words: Yes, there is strong mutual interest here, and yes, expect Iowa to secure an official visit with arguably the most sought-after transfer in the transfer portal this month.
Iowa continues to seem like a legitimate contender for the 6-foot-11 Canadian big man who recorded 27 — yes 27 — double-doubles last season. Arkansas was thought to be another school well-positioned with Aimaq, but the Razorbacks just landed commitments from Makhel and Makhi Mitchell, twin bigs who played for Rhode Island last year. Of course anything is possible ... but those additions would logically now rule Arkansas out of the Fardaws Aimaq sweepstakes.
Kentucky, Gonzaga, Texas Tech, Texas, Houston, Washington and Arizona are also involved. And, if you're keeping track at home, yes, those are more schools than the five he was reportedly focusing on last week — Iowa, Arkansas, Texas Tech, Washington and Kentucky. (Hello, Zags, Longhorns, Cougars and Wildcats.)
Credit the Hawkeyes here: They are going all-in on Aimaq. There's really no buzz at all about them looking at other bigs in the transfer portal. And in an era in which it seems like schools could be in contact with double-digit potential transfer targets at one time, it's meaningful that Iowa is seemingly putting all big man effort on Aimaq right now. - Matthew Bain
Any Drake men's basketball transfer portal or recruiting updates?
Based on conversations I've had in recent days, it sounds like two transfer targets have emerged above the rest at the moment for Drake men's basketball.
One comes from the transfer portal, and one is a junior college product.
First, the portal name, and it's a familiar one if you're a fan of Midwest mid-majors. Drake is pursuing Utah guard transfer David Jenkins Jr., who scored 8.5 points per game this year while shooting 39.6% from long range. The 6-2 scorer played his first two college seasons under T.J. Otzelberger at South Dakota State, averaging 16.1 points per game as a freshman in 2017-18 and 19.7 points per game as a sophomore in 2018-19. He then followed Otzelberger to UNLV, where he sat one year and scored 14.8 points per game in 2020-21.
With Otzelberger leaving for Iowa State, Jenkins took advantage of the new immediate eligibility rule and transferred to Utah for this past season. He's one of the best 3-point shooters in the country.
The junior college target is Kieves "Deuce" Turner, a 6-2 guard from South Plains College. He's the No. 57 juco prospect in the 2022 class, per JUCORecruiting. Turner told me he is finalizing visit plans to Drake, and that visit will likely take place April 15.
A Pennsylvania native, Turner played his freshman season in 2020-21 at Bucknell, averaging 8.3 points per game over 11 games, before transferring to South Plains. There, this past season he averaged 18.3 points per game while shooting 43.9% overall and 38.5% from long range. Beyond Drake, his other offers ar UTEP, Canisus, Wagner, Arkansas State, Hampton, Northern Illinois, McNeese State, IUPUI, Tarleton State, UTRGV, UMass Lowell and North Alabama. - Matthew Bain
Who is Iowa State now targeting in the transfer portal?
After landing Temple guard transfer Jeremiah Williams over Illinois, DePaul and Georgia earlier this week, Iowa State's transfer portal focus is now on finding a big man.
So, who's that target?
Readers of last week's Recruiting Mailbag are already familiar with this name: Grand Basile, the 6-9 big man out of Wright State. The Milwaukee native averaged 18.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game while shooting 49.8% from the field last year. Iowa State is in deep with Basile, and Notre Dame and Wisconsin are other schools that have been tied to him.
As of Wednesday evening, no on-campus visit had been scheduled yet. The Cyclones would love to bring him to Ames for a visit. - Matthew Bain
What's the latest with Iowa and Drake 2023 target Pryce Sandfort?
I talked a bit with Waukee Northwest 2023 wing Pryce Sandfort on Wednesday. Here's the latest from the 6-7 prospect who is playing his all-important 17U AAU season this spring and summer with adidas powerhouse D1Minnesota.
Virginia and Nebraska are the newest schools to reach out, joining Iowa State, Gonzaga, USC, Clemson, Stanford, Utah, Loyola Chicago and Wake Forest as interested schools that haven't offered.
Iowa, Drake and Washington State, who have all offered, are in regular contact.
Coaches from all those schools are telling Sandfort they'll try to get to Indianapolis this weekend to watch Sandfort during the first live evaluation period, the first of four during the AAU season.
I thought this was funny: The schools that aren't Iowa all ask him the same thing.
"All of them usually check with me and make sure that I'm not just going to go to Iowa," said Sandfort, the younger brother of Iowa freshman Payton Sandfort, with a laugh. "That's a common message that they will all say to me."
His answer to them?
"I say I'm completely open," Sandfort said. "I'm not saying I won't go to Iowa, but I'm not saying that I will either."
Sandfort, ranked the state's top 2023 prospect by the Register and rated as a four-star prospect ranked No. 100 overall in the class by the 247Sports Composite, is poised to have an eye-opening summer with D1Minnesota, a program that routinely has benches full of college coaches watching its games.
"I want to show I'm a top player in the country," he said. "Just keep working hard, get better and see what happens."
In terms of decision timeline, Sandfort told me he's planning to play out the spring and summer, see where his interest stands at that point and then commit in the fall.
In terms of visits, Sandfort said he doesn't have any currently planned but that Loyola Chicago and Nebraska have talked to him about getting him on campus in May. - Matthew Bain
How did Drury land both Trey Lewis and Ashton Hermann?
When Trey Lewis and Ashton Hermann committed to Drury in February, the Panthers picked up two of the best boys basketball players in Iowa. Hermann is the No. 4 player in the state and Lewis comes in at No. 8 in the Register’s ranking of the state's top 50 boys basketball players. In terms of recruiting rankings, Hermann is No. 10 in the state's 2022 class and Lewis is right behind him at No. 11.
Both were fringe Division I prospects getting looks from low-major and mid-major D-I programs, but no offers. They are seen as high-end Division II recruits, and Drury, down in Springfield, Missouri, hit a grand slam in landing both Iowans.
But it hasn’t exactly been the best year for Drury, which finished the season 10-16 overall and 7-10 in conference play. It was the first season under new head coach Chris Foster, and the Panthers have now seen seven players from the 2021-22 roster enter the transfer portal.
So, it begs the question: How did Drury land two of Iowa’s top talents with a below-average season, a new coach and a ton of roster movement?
“I wanted to go to a school that made me feel wanted, and they wanted me,” Lewis told me. “They stood out to me right when I got to campus. I love the coaching staff, the facilities and just the environment.”
Hermann echoed his future teammate’s sentiment.
“They pretty much said, ‘We want to bring in these guys and we think you guys are program changers,’” Hermann said. “How they expressed how much they care about us and how much they wanted us, it made me feel like, 'Yeah, that’s where I want to go to college and play basketball for four years.'"
Both players expressed that they wanted to go to a program where they wouldn’t ride the bench and there was an opportunity to get playing time right away. With several players in the transfer portal, that opens the door for Hermann and Lewis to be instant contributors for Drury.
And if the two of them can adjust to college and perform the way they did in high school, there’s no question that Hermann and Lewis have the potential to start as freshmen. Hermann is a versatile guard who can shoot from anywhere on the floor. Lewis has a high 3-point clip and a knack for creating offensive opportunities.
The question I really had was whether Hermann and Lewis were a package deal. Both players had different answers for this, but it does seem like the Panthers’ coaching staff had a plan in mind.
Lewis, who committed to Drury on Feb. 1, told me he didn’t even know the Panthers staff was also talking to Hermann. To be fair, the two play in different classes for high school basketball and have only played against each other a few times.
“I had no clue they were talking to Ashton,” Lewis said. “When I saw that pop up, that made me very excited when he committed.”
Hermann committed on Feb. 9, and he had a bit of an idea that Drury wanted something special from the duo of Iowa high school stars.
“So, when I went on my official visit down there, when I went into coach Foster’s office, there was a star around me and Trey, and they were just really sold on us,” Hermann said. “They wanted us to play together and they thought that we could really do some damage at Drury.”
Long story short, Hermann and Lewis picked Drury because of the opportunities for playing time, the comfortability with the team’s system and because the coaching staff wanted them to make a difference in the Panthers’ program.
Whether Hermann and Lewis become the dangerous duo Drury is hoping for is yet to be seen, but the two players are already working on developing that chemistry – on and off the court.
Hermann and Lewis were paired up on the same team in the Iowa Basketball Coaches Association All-Star game, in which they combined for 17 points to win the title. Off the court, the two plan on rooming together when they get to Drury, so that should help their on-court connection even more. - Alyssa Hertel
Does Northern Iowa have any targets in the transfer portal?
I haven't heard as much about Northern Iowa targets in the transfer portal. (That obviously doesn't mean the Panthers don't have any, though.)
The one name I've seen UNI tied to is Norfolk State transfer Jalen Hawkins, a 6-2 guard who averaged 12.9 points while shooting 35.5% from outside this season. He would have up to two years of eligibility wherever he goes. New Mexico State, San Francisco, Clemson, Buffalo, Georgia State, SIU and Missouri State are among the other schools reportedly showing interest. - Matthew Bain
Matthew Bain is the deputy sports editor for the Des Moines Register. He still covers some recruiting, too. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.
Alyssa Hertel is a college sports recruiting reporter for the Des Moines Register. Contact Alyssa at email@example.com or on Twitter @AlyssaHertel.