IOWA CITY, Iowa – No disrespect to the other three players in Iowa’s 2016 recruiting class, but the most important piece to the puzzle was added on Wednesday.
That doesn’t mean Tyler Cook will be better as a Hawkeye than fellow basketball recruits Cordell Pemsl, Jordan Bohannon or Ryan Kriener.
It just means that Cook’s commitment carries more weight on the recruiting front because Iowa coach Fran McCaffery had to withstand a bunch of power five offers to land the 6-foot-8 forward from St. Louis.
Landing Cook, who is ranked as a 4-star recruit, sends a powerful message that McCaffery can hook a big fish who isn’t from Iowa or from just across the river from Iowa. It shows that the Hawkeyes are a serious player again and that McCaffery can close the deal against elite competition.
Think about where the Iowa program was when McCaffery was hired in March 2010 and how inconceivable it would’ve been for a 4-star recruit from St. Louis, or from practically anywhere for that matter, to even have considered the Hawkeyes under such dire circumstances.
With Cook committing, it shows that persistence pays off. And, of course, so does winning, probably more than anything else. McCaffery has come up short on numerous recruits that he had identified and reached out to early in the recruiting process. But he kept swinging for the fence and finally crushed one on Wednesday.
Iowa was the first major program to offer Cook a scholarship. He knew early on that he was a priority for the Hawkeyes, a piece they hoped would blossom into a star for them to build around.
Credit also goes to assistant coach Sherman Dillard for his role as Cook’s lead recruiter. McCaffery closed the deal, but Dillard helped to build a level of trust and understanding on both sides.
I learned on Tuesday that Cook might commit to Iowa on his 18th-birthday, which was Wednesday. That made sense because it seemed pretty obvious after reading comments from Cook’s mother in a story by Rob Howe that Tyler was close to committing to Iowa.
You have to like a school’s chance of landing a prospect whose mother raves about how comfortable the prospect’s family feels at that particular school.
Stephanie Cook told allhawkeyes.com on Monday, which was the day after Tyler had returned from his official visit to Iowa, that her son was comfortable with the Iowa players, with the Iowa coaches and with the environment at the University of Iowa.
Tyler Cook also cancelled his visit to Arkansas, which was scheduled for this weekend. The left only Iowa and Florida as his finalists.
A school with Florida’s rich tradition and bright sunshine never should be counted out, but Wednesday’s commitment still didn’t come as a real surprise because outside of winning and playing time, there isn’t anything more important in recruiting than feeling comfortable.
And when mom feels comfortable, that can only help.
It also probably helped that Billy Donovan isn’t the Florida coach anymore. He resigned after last season to become the head coach for the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder. Donovan built a dynasty at Florida, winning two national titles in back-to-back seasons, but his presence alone was the driving force behind that dynasty.
Cook is the first 4-star recruit who isn’t from Iowa or from just across the river from Iowa (Mike Gesell) to commit to the Hawkeyes under McCaffery. It’s no coincidence that Cook’s commitment comes during a stretch in which Iowa has made back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances.
This past season was the high point as Iowa finished 12-6 in the Big Ten and won an NCAA Tournament game for the first time since 2001. Four starters return from last season, including three seniors.
So there is a good chance Cook will join an Iowa program in the fall of 2016 that’s coming off three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, but with opportunities for playing time.
That’s how you land a player who has multiple power five offers from other schools that also have fancy facilities, devoted fans and charismatic coaches.
You win on the court and then you win in the living room, and ultimately on signing day and beyond.