By Dylan Burn
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Coaches often spread the praise on thick when talking to the media, and Iowa men's basketball coach Fran McCaffery is no exception.
McCaffery has raved about his team's depth at previous media day events, but he thinks his current team might be the deepest of them all, which says a lot.
"I really like this team," McCaffery said at the Big Ten's annual media day event last week in New York City. "I say that all the time, but I really mean it. It's the deepest team we've ever had."
Fans can get their first look at McCaffery and the Hawkeyes on Friday when Iowa faces William Jewell College in the first of two exhibition games this preseason at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Iowa will play Belmont-Abbey College in another exhibition game next Thursday before facing Chicago State in the season opener on Nov. 10 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The players gained some valuable experience this summer thanks to a trip to Europe in August when Iowa played four exhibition games, winning all four. The experience was especially beneficial for freshmen post players Luka Garza and Jack Nunge.
"We had the opportunity this summer to practice an extra ten times and travel overseas and play four games to assimilate our younger players — Luka Garza and Jack Nunge and Connor McCaffery into the lineup," said Fran McCaffery.
Garza looked to be the best player on the court during most of the exhibition games. The 6-foot-11 center averaged 22.5 points and 10.3 rebounds in about 19 minutes of action per game.
The 3-star recruit from The Maret School in Washington, D.C. likely will be relied upon to help fill the vacancy that Adam Woodbury left when he graduated after the 2015-16 season. He and Nunge will give Iowa legitimate rim stoppers, which was missing from last season's team that finished 19-15 overall and 10-8 in conference play.
Iowa also has to fill the void left by Peter Jok, who led the Big Ten in scoring last season as senior.
"With the experience we have coming back, our young guys getting ready, we can absorb the loss of the Big Ten's leading scorer, Peter Jok," McCaffery said.
Sophomore Isaiah Moss is expected to replace some of Jok's perimeter scoring. Moss showed flashes of brilliance last season while averaging 6.5 points per game and shooting 36 percent from beyond the 3-point arc.
"I definitely have to increase everything this year," Moss said. "I think it all starts with my mindset, just have the mindset to be agressive the whole game whether it's passing or shooting or rebounding, anything to help my team.
Moss played in all 34 games last season, and started the final 28 games. He also made 29 3-point baskets, which ranks as the seventh best in Iowa freshman single-season history.
"It helped a lot just being able to get my feet a little wet," Moss said. "So going into this year I'm very confident in myself in what I can do and in my teammates."
Point guard Jordan Bohannon returns after a solid debut season in which he made the Big Ten All-Freshman team, along with Iowa forward Tyler Cook.
Bohannon made 28 starts last season and averaged just a hair under 11 points per game. The Marion native also led the team in assists per game at 5.1.
"What we had in that position was a legitimate scorer," McCaffery said. "He could make eight threes, like he did against Maryland, but the other thing he did was make big shots late in close games. He did it against Michigan. He did it a number of times."
The shot against Wisconsin, which came in Madison, is one that stands out. Bohannon drilled a 3-pointer to secure a key road win against the school where two of his three older players had played baseketball.
Bohannon not only gives Iowa a weapon when it comes to scoring, but also when it comes to passing the ball. With the bevy of frontcourt talent the Hawkeyes have, they need guys to get them the ball.
"You have to surround (the frontcourt) with guys who can pass and make threes," McCaffery said. "So you have Jordan Bohannon, Isaiah Moss, Nicholas Baer, and Brady Ellingson. I think we have that."
Iowa likely will rely on host of players to pick up the scoring load now that Jok has departed. McCaffery will have the ability to shuffle front court players in and out as he searches for the right rotation and matchups on a given night.