IOWA CITY, Iowa – Noah Fant wants to leave his home state to play college football, while Jordan Bohannon wants to stay home to play college basketball.
In both cases, that’s good news on the recruiting front for University of Iowa athletics.
Fant, a 6-foot-5, 215-pound tight end/defensive end from Omaha, Neb., did the highly unusual thing of turning down a scholarship offer from Nebraska for football to commit to Iowa.
The only recruits I can think of who did the same thing recently are former Iowa defensive back Shaun Prater in 2008 and former Hawkeye offensive linemen Seth Olsen in 2005.
Former Iowa all-America linebacker Larry Station and former defensive end Sean Ridley also grew up in Omaha and picked Iowa over Nebraska. But that was over 30 years ago, and they both committed at a time when the Iowa program was thriving under Hayden Fry.
As for Bohannon, he also did something unusual on Friday by committing to the Iowa basketball program.
The 6-1 senior point guard from Linn-Mar will become the fourth member of his family to play Division I basketball, but the first to do so at Iowa despite his father’s connection to the school.
Bohannon is the son of former Iowa quarterback Gordy Bohannon, who led the Hawkeyes to the 1982 Rose Bowl. Two of Jordan’s older brothers played basketball at Wisconsin, while a third brother, Matt Bohannon, is currently a starting guard for Northern Iowa.
It’ll be nice for Gordy to finally have a chance to reconnect with his Hawkeye roots when Jordan starts playing for Iowa. And if Jordan is anything like his sharpshooting older brothers, Iowa coach Fran McCaffery might have gotten a steal.
I’ve covered college basketball for over two decades and it’s hard to think of many players that were better perimeter shooters than Jason Bohannon when he played for Wisconsin from 2006-10 and Matt Bohannon now.
Jordan is supposedly cut from a similar cloth. Leave him open and risk paying the price.
It’s probably fair and accurate to say that McCaffery had other point guards like Charlie Moore and Tony Carr ranked ahead of Jordan Bohannon on his wish list. But McCaffery still stayed in touch with Jordan Bohannon throughout the recruiting process and told him that a scholarship might become available.
That was McCaffery’s way of covering all his bases. You shoot for who you feel are the best, but you still cater to the rest.
Bohannon could’ve become impatient and committed to another school because he had other options, including scholarship offers from DePaul and Lehigh.
But he kept his ego in check and waited for McCaffery to finally come around to offering him a scholarship. There is no time or place in recruiting to feel sorry for yourself, especially if you want something bad enough.
Bohannon seems to have realized that and now he gets to live a dream by playing for his father’s college alma mater just 30 miles down the road.
“I want to thank all the schools that stayed with me throughout this process,” Jordan Bohannon said Friday in a statement. But I’ve decided to attend the University of Iowa. I’ve always dreamed of playing for my home state school and do it with a great group of guys. I am looking forward the future and I can’t wait to be a Hawkeye.”
The critics might say that McCaffery is settling for a less-heralded recruit. But it’s hard to argue with the results with Iowa coming off one of its best seasons in years. Iowa has improved in each of McCaffery’s five seasons as head coach.
So what is there not to like at this stage?
All three of Iowa’s recruits in the 2016 class also are from in state. The other two players committed are 6-8 forward Cordell Pemsl from Dubuque Wahlert and 6-9 center Ryan Kreiner from Spirit Lake.
Nothing against the other 49 states, but it’ll make for a better story if McCaffery can win big with homegrown talent.
That brings me back to Fant’s surprising decision to be a Hawkeye. He announced his choice early Friday on an Omaha radio station. He praised Iowa for recruiting him the hardest and he likes that Iowa wants him to play tight end.
“Iowa was out of this world in recruiting me,” Fant told the Omaha World-Herald in an interview Friday. “I got mail every day. Direct messages (on Twitter). They made me their No. 1 priority.”
It took guts for Fant to pledge to a Big Ten border rival and to announce it on a radio station in which most of his listeners probably despised the decision.
He is the 23rd player to commit to Iowa’s 2016 recruiting class. There aren’t many scholarships left for the class, maybe two or three at the most. So the Iowa coaches likely will be more selective before adding the final pieces.
South Dakota offensive lineman Matt Farniok, whose older brother played at Iowa State, Indiana defensive lineman Jovan Swann and Florida defensive back K.J. Sails are three players that Iowa is targeting.
It won’t be easy landing any of the three, but it wasn’t easy landing Fant, either. It took a lot of work, and it sounds as if nobody outworked the Iowa coaching staff.
The challenge now is to keep Fant committed until the February signing period. Winning is the best way to accomplish that.