IOWA CITY, Iowa – If another player and person like Bryce Cartwright were to become available during the spring or summer, the Iowa men’s basketball team could sure use him.
Cartwright was the perfect fit as a point guard, a key piece to Fran McCaffery’s rebuilding puzzle.
He played his freshman season at Fresno State, where he started 20 games, before transferring to Paris Junior College in Texas for his sophomore season. So by the time Cartwright joined forces with McCaffery in 2010, he was two years removed from high school and an experienced point guard.
Cartwright led the Big Ten in assists in conference games as a junior. He helped to steer Iowa in the right direction at a time when the program was suffering from a shortage of talent in the wake of the Todd Lickliter coaching disaster.
The circumstances have changed considerably since then, with Iowa coming off three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances and four consecutive 20-win seasons.
But McCaffery still could use a point guard from any level; high school, junior college or a graduate transfer.
Illinois high school senior point guard Charlie Moore would’ve been a nice addition to the Iowa roster, but his ship has sailed.
Moore, who previously was committed to Memphis, announced on Wednesday that he had trimmed his list to eight schools, but Iowa didn’t make the cut.
New York City guard Christian Vital has Iowa in his final three schools, along with Connecticut and Louisville. Vital has talked for several weeks about wanting to visit Iowa City, but nothing has materialized yet.
The 6-foot-3 Vital already has visited Connecticut twice, including on Tuesday with his mother, according to multiple reports.
So it’s hard to take Vital’s interest in Iowa real serious until when or if he visits the UI campus.
The process of fitting in doesn’t really start until a recruit arrives on campus for a visit. But even that doesn’t tell the whole story because fitting in takes time.
McCaffery was fortunate that Cartwright fit in as a student-athlete and as a teammate because there always is a risk involved.
Cartwright grew up in California and could’ve easily succumbed to homesickness or bailed at the first sight of snow or freezing temperatures. But he stayed the course and played a significant role in the rebuilding process.
McCaffery doesn’t have to use his one available scholarship this spring. He could save it for the 2017 recruiting class, whose only recruit at the present time is McCaffery’s son, Connor McCaffery, a 6-5 guard from Iowa City West High School.
Two additional scholarships became available this spring after freshmen Brandon Hutton and Andrew Fleming both said they would transfer from Iowa after the spring semester. The 6-5 Fleming announced that he would transfer to Tennessee-Chattanooga, while the 6-5 Hutton is expected to transfer to a junior college.
One of the the scholarships already has been promised to 6-7 sophomore-to-be forward Nicholas Baer, while the other will be used if McCaffery finds the right fit.
Point guard, obviously, is a concern for next season with graduating seniors Anthony Clemmons and Mike Gesell having used up their eligibility.
Sophomore Christian Williams and incoming freshman Jordan Bohannon will be expected to fill the void at point guard. Williams stands 6-6 and probably could play both guard positions and small forward, while the 6-1 Bohannon is more of point guard in terms of his size.
Williams barely played until late in this past season. So whoever plays point guard for Iowa next season will have little to no experience at the Division I level, unless McCaffery were to add a graduate transfer.
McCaffery doesn’t agree with the rule that allows a graduate transfer to play immediately at another school. But that wouldn’t stop McCaffery from adding a graduate transfer under the right circumstances.
“Definitely, if the right grad transfer presented himself, we would take him,” McCaffery said earlier this month. “Because typically, we end up playing against them.”
You could argue that it would benefit Iowa more in the long run to save the scholarship and let Williams and Bohannon learn on the fly next season.
The team will sort of be in a rebuilding phase anyway after losing four senior starters. So why not save the scholarship and rely on who you already have on the roster?
On the flipside, you could argue that the addition of a veteran point guard would lift Iowa’s ceiling higher to where next season wouldn’t be a rebuilding phase.
Imagine somebody similar to Cartwright playing alongside Williams and Bohannon for one or two seasons.
With recruiting, the circumstances change almost on an hourly basis. Coaches have to be patient and persistent, which is not easy.
Nor is finding another hidden gem like Bryce Cartwright.