Recruiting Mailbag: Who are Iowa basketball's top 2023 targets? More transfer portal updates

Matthew Bain Alyssa Hertel
Des Moines Register

Hello, everyone. Welcome, once again, to the Recruiting Mailbag.

Well, former Dubuque Senior and Northern Iowa forward Noah Carter knew what he wanted. Following his weekend official visit to Missouri, the 6-foot-6 talent decided he didn't need to see Arkansas, Virginia Tech, Marquette or Florida and he committed to Tigers and new head coach Dennis Gates earlier than expected.

We've also got news regarding former Des Moines North point guard Tyreke Locure, who's had two productive years at South Alabama and one not-to-productive year at UAB. The CIML legend has committed to Louisiana-Monroe, which is a little more than a four-hour drive from his hometown of New Orleans. Locure also had interest from Jacksonville and Appalachian State.

MORE: Where were Noah Carter, Tyreke Locure in our final 2019 recruiting rankings?

Still no news from former Oskaloosa and Iowa State forward Xavier Foster. Stay tuned on that front.

Now, to this week's questions, which focus on Iowa's recent string of misses in tight end recruiting, the latest on unsigned Iowa City West senior Pete Moe, Iowa's recruitment of 2024 legacy Cooper Koch, the Hawkeyes' top 2023 basketball targets and all the latest with the transfer portal.

Other than Pryce Sandfort, who are some of Iowa's top 2023 targets?

First a quick note on Waukee Northwest 2023 wing Pryce Sandfort, because I know he's the name most casual fans know about when discussing Iowa 2023 recruiting.

The 6-foot-7 sharpshooter who can also do a lot more than shoot performed well with D1Minnesota on the adidas 3SSB circuit this past weekend in front of plenty of college coaches. It's hard to keep track of everyone who comes to watch, but Sandfort told me he remembers seeing coaches from Iowa, Iowa State, Drake, USC, Gonzaga, Virginia, Nebraska, Villanova, Washington State and Wisconsin courtside for his games.

MORE: How Pryce Sandfort became Iowa's most dominant high school scorer

He holds offers from Iowa, Drake, Washington State and Nebraska, which just offered last week. In case you missed last week's Recruiting Mailbag, here's what he told me regarding when schools ask him if he's leaning toward Iowa, where his older brother, Payton, plays:

"I say I'm completely open. I'm not saying I won't go to Iowa, but I'm not saying that I will either."

OK, onto some other names.

T.J. Power, SF, Worcester Academy (Massachusetts): Iowa always recruits well on the East Coast, and Power, a skilled 6-7 wing, is a top target from that region. He landed his Hawkeyes offer way back in August 2020 and officially visited Iowa City last October. He's a four-star talent with other high-major offers from the likes of Xavier, Wake Forest, Oklahoma, Miami, Providence and more.

"Coach McCaffery came to my game on Sunday," Powers told me this week, "and called me saying I played really well after."

Worcester Academy's TJ Power protects the ball from Cushing Academy's Marvin Musiime-Kamali.

JaQualon Roberts, SF/PF, Bloomington North (Indiana): Iowa hosted the super versatile 6-7 Roberts in December for an unofficial visit after offering him in October, and that interest has remained strong. Roberts told me the Hawkeyes were courtside to watch him in Indianapolis this past weekend with Indiana Elite.

He has also visited Indiana and Cincinnati and taken an official visit to Marquette. He is from Bloomington, so, if Indiana is serious about him, you'd have to figure the Hoosier pull is strong. But there haven't been any indications Roberts is a lock for Indiana.

North's JaQualon Roberts (24) scores during the Bloomington North versus Bloomington South boys basketball sectional final at Martinsville High School on Saturday, March 5, 2022.

Joseph "JP" Estrella, PF, Brewster Academy (New Hampshire): Iowa is looking to land its second consecutive Brewster product, with former Brewster point guard Dasonte Bowen coming to Iowa City this summer. Estrella is a 6-10 big man in the midst of a stock explosion. A relatively unknown prospect originally from South Portland, Maine, Estrella has landed offers from California, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, Wisconsin, Notre Dame, Maryland and Marquette since April began.

Iowa was his first offer way back in December 2021, though. This is proving to be a really smart evaluation job by Fran McCaffery and his staff.

Estrella told me, beyond his offers, Kansas, Tennessee, UConn and Penn State are also recruiting him.

"The Hawkeyes are very active with me and I hear from them very often," Estrella said. "I have had a Zoom with them before and would love to get down there at some point."

Are there more 2023 targets Iowa is recruiting hard? You bet. But these are three names that, in addition to Sandfort, quickly came to mind. - Matthew Bain

More:Recruiting Mailbag: Latest transfer portal news for Iowa, Iowa State, Drake, UNI; Pryce Sandfort update

Why hasn't Iowa football had its usual success recruiting tight ends lately?

Before we get into this answer, it's important to note Iowa did just get a significant recruiting victory at tight end with Lafayette graduate transfer Steven Stilianos, who picked the Hawkeyes over Virginia and Rutgers.

But, other than that, yes, there has been a recent string of misses on Iowa's top high school tight end targets. In 2021, the No. 2 tight end in the country — in-state, four-star recruit Thomas Fidone — chose Nebraska over a group that included the Hawkeyes.

The next year, in this 2022 class, Valley's Eli Raridon emerged as the No. 5 tight end nationwide, but the four-star recruit picked Notre Dame over Iowa and Iowa State.

MORE: Eli Raridon: Here's why I'm committing to Notre Dame football

Other 2022 misses included Micah Riley-Ducker (who picked Auburn) and Andrew Keller (who picked Iowa State). Most recently, Mac Markway, a 2023 four-star tight end with a paternal connection to Iowa football, went with LSU over the Hawkeyes.

Valley 2022 four-star tight end Eli Raridon committed to Notre Dame over Iowa and Iowa State.

Of course, a program is going to miss sometimes when it shoots for lofty targets. But the recent trend of the school otherwise known as "Tight End U" striking out on top recruits at that position is noticeable. That's obviously why this question was asked this week.

So, is there an issue? My gut says no. You can't win every recruiting battle. And, yeah, it sucks for Iowa that it's missed on consecutive top tight end targets. But I'm guessing that's more a coincidence of timing rather than the Hawkeyes suddenly not being appealing for future George Kittles and Noah Fants anymore.

I chatted with Allen Trieu, who covers Midwest football recruiting for 247Sports and is a longtime friend of the Register, this week to make sure I'm not crazy. He agreed.

“I think that part of it is now there’s an expectation (among the fans),” Trieu told me. “They’ve done so well with the position and they’ve produced so many NFL players. From my perspective, there isn’t anything that Iowa is doing wrong or anything that they’re not doing.

“They’ve done everything that they needed to do to put themselves in a position that lands top tight ends. That’s just recruiting, where sometimes a lot of these aren’t going to go your way, especially when a kid is considering 20, 30, 40 offers when you’re recruiting the very best of the best.”

More:Recruiting Mailbag: Is Iowa recruiting Aidan Shaw? Iowa State transfer portal targets; Xavier Foster to Drake?

Just because Fidone, Raridon and Markway had some connection to Iowa or the state, it doesn’t mean the Hawkeyes were a shoe-in. Nebraska is significantly closer to Fidone’s hometown of Council Bluffs than Iowa City. Raridon loved Notre Dame, where his dad played college football. Even though Matt Markway was a tight end for Iowa, the Hawkeyes weren’t the right fit for his son, Mac.

Sure, Iowa hasn’t gotten those top-rated recruits in recent years. But here's something else to consider: Kittle and T.J. Hockenson weren’t heavily recruited players coming out of high school. Neither was current Hawkeye Sam LaPorta. The first two are currently making millions as successful NFL tight ends, and LaPorta could be on his way. And that's just a trio of recent examples.

George Kittle wasn't a highly rated prospect when Iowa recruited him to its football program. Now, he's a bona fide NFL star.

Iowa has a reputation for taking under-the-radar talent and turning them into star tight ends. Trieu said that, yes, if it were any other program consistently missing out on its top tight end prospects, that would be an issue. That’s not the case with Iowa.

If this trend continues year after year, then there might be an issue.

But not at this point.

“Iowa has set such a precedent for being able to take lower-recruited, lower-ranked guys and turning them into George Kittles,” Trieu said. “If you’re an Iowa fan, you have to feel good. You have to feel a certain amount of trust when they find a guy like Cael Vanderbush last year in Plainfield, Indiana, that hardly anyone knows about.

“They’ve done it so many times now that you have to just trust them with that, that they’re going to find the right guy for what they’re looking for. And they know what they’re looking for in terms of what can this kid turn into, not what he is right now.” - Alyssa Hertel

What's the latest in the recruitment of Iowa City West 2022 PF Pete Moe?

Iowa City West’s Pete Moe is one of the top high school players in the state — No. 11 in the Des Moines Register’s top 50 — and has been for a couple seasons. So, it might come as a bit of a surprise that he’s stilled unsigned, even with his senior high school season complete and AAU basketball underway.

That doesn’t mean the 6-foot-9 power forward doesn’t have options. Moe, the son of former Hawkeye Jeff Moe, holds an offer from Robert Morris at the moment, and he told me that Oral Roberts, Tarleton State and Incarnate Word have all shown interest.

There’s also the possibility that Moe takes a post-grad year. He’s already in touch with some prep schools, including DME Sports Academy (Florida), SPIRE Institute (Ohio), Brewster Academy (New Hampshire) and The Skills Factory (Georgia). DME is where Keegan and Kris Murray played their post-grad year before signing with Iowa.

Iowa City West's Pete Moe dunks the ball during a Class 4A varsity boys' basketball game against Iowa City High, Friday, Dec. 17, 2021, at City High Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.

Regardless of whether he takes a post-grad year or goes with Robert Morris, which Moe says are the only options he’s considering right now, he just wants a program that helps him improve as a player, sets him up for a professional career and has coaches who believe in him. As for when to expect a decision, Moe plans to announce in May.

“I visit those prep schools in May to see which ones I like," Moe told me. "I visited Robert Morris and I loved it and the coaches are great people. I’m also thinking about doing a post-grad year, too, because it gives me another year to work on my game and get better so I can play in college.”

With a decision looming, Moe’s also focusing on AAU basketball. He's playing on the adidas 3SSB circuit with Team Rose's 17U squad this spring to get a few final chances for exposure before decision times rolls around. - Alyssa Hertel

More:Recruiting Mailbag: Who were the 8 biggest stockrisers from boys state basketball?

Is Iowa still recruiting J.R. Koch's son, Cooper Koch?

You bet.

I checked with Cooper Koch, a four-star, 6-8 power forward out of Peoria who is one of eight 2024 prospects Iowa has offered, this week to see if the Hawkeyes were still involved. They became his first high-major offer last May.

And, yes, they are still very much involved. Any quietness on the Iowa/Koch front has likely been due to him being in the 2024 class, while most current attention is focused on wrapping up 2022 and identifying top 2023 targets.

"(Iowa was) at every game I played this weekend in Indianapolis," said Koch, who plays AAU for Indiana Elite on the adidas 3SSB circuit.

Lathan Sommerville, left, and Cooper Koch, both 15, are following in the footsteps of their famous fathers, Morton standout and former member of the New York Knicks J.R. Koch, far right, and Peoria Central and Bradley grad Marcellus Sommerville. The pair are playing for the Peoria Notre Dame Irish and often practice together at a friend’s home court in Dunlap.

Koch's other current high-major offers include Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Wake Forest and Purdue. But, again, with him just being a sophomore, you can safely expect that offer list to grow for the four-star, top-50 national prospect.

Still, the Hawkeyes should be considered a strong contender. Koch's dad, J.R. Koch, played for Iowa from 1995-99 and was drafted by the New York Knicks before a six-year professional career in the U.S. and Europe. - Matthew Bain

Transfer portal updates?

In case you missed it Wednesday: A source with direct knowledge of Iowa State recruitment told me the Cyclones have locked in an official visit with Wright State transfer Grant Basile for April 30-May 1.

Basile, a 6-9 big man who averaged 18.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game last year, has been among Iowa State's top targets since he entered the transfer portal in late March. He's reportedly also set to visit Notre Dame, Wisconsin and Virginia Tech in the coming weeks. Basile is a Milwaukee native, just like head coach T.J. Otzelberger and assistant coach J.R. Blount.

I can also confirm Cyclone Fanatic's reports that VCU forward Hason Ward will officially visit Iowa State this weekend, and that Ohio forward Ben Vander Plas will officially visit Ames on April 20.

Ward, originally from Barbados, is more of a sturdy, 6-9 presence down low who averaged 6.5 points and 4.8 rebounds per game last year. Vander Plas, originally from Ripon, Wisconsin, is more of a 6-8 stretch forward who averaged 14.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game while shooting 33.8% from 3-point range this year.

Remember: Iowa State has three 2022-23 scholarships remaining.

As for Iowa, Utah Valley big man Fardaws Aimaq has once again narrowed his options to a final five. He told ESPN he's considering Iowa, Texas, Texas Tech, Gonzaga and Washington. He's also testing the NBA Draft waters.

I was told Thursday morning that Iowa and Aimaq still haven't locked in an official visit date yet, but there's no reason to believe that won't happen. Through this whole process, Iowa, Washington and Texas Tech have remained in Aimaq's top group as other schools have come in and out.

As for Drake, junior college guard Kieves "Deuce" Turner told me this week that his Drake visit was canceled because, according to him, the Bulldogs had gained traction with someone in the transfer portal. I haven't heard a ton on the Drake front this week, so I can't confirm anything regarding that. But it's certainly something to note.

As of last week, two of the Bulldogs' main targets were Turner and Utah guard David Jenkins Jr., who not long ago was a superstar mid-major scorer at South Dakota State. - Matthew Bain

Alyssa Hertel is a college sports recruiting reporter for the Des Moines Register. Contact Alyssa at ahertel@dmreg.com or on Twitter @AlyssaHertel.

Matthew Bain is the deputy sports editor for the Des Moines Register. He still covers some recruiting, too. Contact him at mbain@dmreg.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.