Harty: A star recruit, an unfair perception and the year’s busiest week
IOWA CITY, Iowa – My first intention was to write a column on one topic, but there is too much happening right now to be an old mule with blinders on.
My apologies to Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz, but in this case I couldn’t just take it one column idea at a time, not during arguably the busiest sports week of the year for Iowa Hawkeye athletics.
Let’s start with national signing day for basketball on Wednesday in which four was the popular number because that’s how many players the Iowa men and women both signed to national letters of intent.
The women’s class is ranked 18th nationally by Blue Star Basketball, while the men’s class consists of 6-foot-8 power forward Tyler Cook, who is a 4-star recruit from St. Louis, and three Iowa natives.
The Iowa natives are 6-10 forward Ryan Kreiner from Spirit Lake, 6-8 forward Cordell Pemsl from Dubuque Wahlert and 6-1 Linn-Mar guard Jordan Bohannon, who is the son of former Iowa quarterback Gordy Bohannon and the first of four brothers who have played Division I basketball to sign with their father’s alma mater.
Kreiner and Pemsl both bring size and are decent athletes. They both also bring an unwavering allegiance as two kids from instate who love the Hawks.
Bohannon’s case is a little different, considering his older brother Jason Bohannon was a star guard at Wisconsin from 2006-10, while another older brother, Matt Bohannon, is currently a senior guard at Northern Iowa, and one heck of a player himself.
Zach Bohannon also played for Air Force before transferring to Wisconsin.
None of the Bohannon brothers were even close to being alive when Gordy led Iowa on its improbable march to the 1981 Big Ten title in Hayden Fry’s third season as head coach.
It’s almost as if the relationship has come full circle over the past decade. Gordy Bohannon finally will be an Iowa parent when Jordan joins the team for the 2016-17 season instead of the parent of a player from a rival school.
That has a good sound to it.
As for Iowa’s only out-of-state recruit, praise to Iowa coach Fran McCaffery and his staff for landing Cook because it wasn’t easy, not when so many other programs wanted Cook’s signature, including national power Florida.
You could make a strong case for Cook being McCaffery’s most important recruit, given Cook’s status as a 4-star prospect from out of state. Iowa senior center Adam Woodbury also was considered a huge catch, figuratively and literally, when he signed with the Hawkeyes. But the 7-1 Woodbury also is from Sioux City, so Iowa had a built-in recruiting advantage, while the wasn’t the case with Cook.
It probably helped in Cook’s case that Billy Donovan left Florida after last season for the NBA where he is now the head coach for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Donovan built a little dynasty at Florida, winning back-to-back national titles in 2006 and 2007.
Nothing against current Florida head coach Mike White, but he isn’t nearly as influential as Donovan when it comes to recruiting.
Cook reportedly enjoyed his visit to the sun-baked Florida campus, but not enough to put the Gators without Donovan ahead of Iowa when it came time to make a decision.
It just shows how important timing is in recruiting.
McCaffery rebuilt the Iowa program in time for Cook to be interested, while Donovan left Florida in time for McCaffery to not have to recruit against him.
Now let’s shift to football where the Iowa Hawkeyes are ranked fifth in the College Football Playoff rankings. That is certainly one sentence I never expected to write during this improbable season that gets better with each Saturday.
My only advice is to enjoy the moment because history shows they don’t come around very often. Iowa’s 11-2 season in 2009 was six years ago. Michigan and Wisconsin both have had three different head football coaches during that time, while the Big Ten has gone from having 11 to 14 teams.
It’s hard not to be a homer when the team you cover is 9-0 despite a rash of injuries to key players. So maybe that’s why I’m tired of hearing Iowa described as being not flashy.
In no way am I suggesting that watching Iowa is must-see television, but it’s not boring, either.
From the unpredictable heroics of junior quarterback C.J. Beathard to the elusive running style of Akrum Wadley to Desmond King making interceptions at a record pace, Iowa brings a lot to the table.
Saying the current team isn’t flashy feeds a perception about Iowa that usually is accurate under veteran coach Kirk Ferentz. But not this season, not with Beathard running the offense, not with the defense and special teams performing at a high level and not with New Kirk calling the shots.
The Hawkeyes should look pretty flashy on Saturday while wearing alternate black uniforms against Minnesota in a rare night game at Kinnick Stadium. Throw in a few individual highlights by Beathard, Wadley and King and that’s entertainment to me, especially if Iowa wins.
Ferentz isn’t a huge fan of the new uniform craze, but he’s willing to put his feelings aside in order to please his players and the fans.
Some also say that wearing alternate uniforms helps with recruiting. That seems kind of silly, but whatever it takes, I guess.
“This really is not my line of expertise, I’ve got to tell you,” Ferentz said of the alternate uniforms. “I like the uniforms we’ve got, so to me why would you change them. We’ve got classic uniforms, and there’s several teams in college football that do. So why would you change those
“But it’s a fun thing, so what the heck. I’m not a fun killer, either. We’re all for it. If it makes us play better, then we may be in them next Saturday, too.”
Let’s first get through this week, though, because it might be the busiest seven-day stretch on the Hawkeye yearly sports calendar.
In addition to the much-anticipated wrestling/football doubleheader at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, the Iowa men’s and women’s basketball teams also will play doubleheaders to start the season on Friday and Sunday. That is Hawkeyes sports pretty much non-stop for three consecutive days, including a historic wrestling match.
It might not all be flashy, but it will have our attention.