By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Whichever school that Jack Nunge picks in the transfer portal, he will undoubtedly have two fan bases cheering for him.
Iowa fans were sad to learn that Nunge had decided to transfer, but they also understand his reasons for wanting a change, and for wanting to be closer to his family.
Nunge has been at Iowa for as long as Luka Garza has with this past season being their fourth season in the program.
And while Garza has soared to legendary status and now ranks as one of the greatest players in program history, Nunge has endured way more than his share of pain, suffering and anguish as a Hawkeye.
Nunge’s father died suddenly and unexpectedly just prior to the start of this season, and was just 53 years old. Nunge missed the first two games of the season while mourning the loss of his father.
He found the strength and resolve to carry on, and playing basketball, and being around his teammates and coaches, helped with the grieving process.
But then basketball was taken away when the 6-foot-11 Nunge suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee in a loss at Michigan on Feb. 25.
It was his second season-ending knee injury as a Hawkeye, and it had a devastating effect on everyone close to Nunge. He no longer had basketball to help him cope, or to serve as a distraction from all of the pain and suffering.
The recovery process from an injury can be a slow and lonely grind that weighs on a person’s mind. It was even worse for Nunge because he didn’t have his father to give comfort, support and guidance, and he also had to deal with the obstacles and challenges caused by the global pandemic.
But even with all of the adversity and anguish, the news about Nunge wanting to transfer still came as a surprise when maybe it shouldn’t have under the unusual circumstances.
“After long consideration, I have made the difficult decision to transfer following this semester,” Nunge said in a release. “This has been an incredibly emotional and difficult year for me and my family. I want to transfer to a school closer to home so I can be near my mother and siblings. I have nothing but fond memories of the University of Iowa, my teammates, coaches and fans these past four years.
“I sincerely appreciate Hawkeye Nation’s overwhelming support during my time in Iowa City. I wish my teammates the best of luck in the future and appreciate everything the University of Iowa has done for me.”
College is supposed to be some of the happiest times in a person’s life, but in Nunge’s case, college in so many ways has been cruel and unfair.
There is no explanation for it besides some are just unlucky.
It makes sense that Nunge would want to be closer to his family in Indiana, and that he would want a change of scenery after four emotionally draining years in Iowa City.
In addition to suffering two season-ending knee injuries, Nunge also was redshirted during the 2018-19 season after having played in all 33 games the previous season as a true freshman with 14 starts.
Nunge spent an entire year working on his game and was expected to be a key contributor during the 2019-20 season. But then adversity struck when Nunge suffered his first season-ending knee injury just five games into the 2019-20 campaign.
So in the span of two years, Nunge only played in five games.
Nunge’s decision to transfer from a basketball standpoint is significant because he was expected to play a key role next season without Garza on the team.
And while Iowa fans understand the significance of losing Nunge, they also understand his reasons for wanting to transfer judging from the responses on social media.
Nunge’s decision to transfer was about more than just basketball.
It was about a young man coping with personal tragedy and realizing that he needed his family nearby to help with that difficult process.
Nunge’s high school coach, Brian Gibson, praised Iowa fans for how they responded on Twitter to the news about Nunge wanting to transfer.
The responses on Twitter can get nasty when a player transfers, but not in Nunge’s case.
Looking at the tweets about Jack from the Iowa faithful. After reading their tweets, I have mad respect for these fans.
— Brian Gibson (@CastleCoachG) March 31, 2021
Even if Nunge should transfer to Indiana or Purdue, Hawkeye fans would be supportive of him.
Of course, they’ll want Iowa to win, but they won’t hold a grudge or accuse Nunge of bailing on his teammates because they know his situation is unusual, and is about more than just basketball.
Nunge also represented Iowa with class, on and off the court. He excelled in academics throughout his time as a Hawkeye and made friends for life.
Jack Nunge will always be a Hawkeye and that won’t change with him transferring to a different school.
It would be strange to see Nunge playing for another Big Ten team. But unlike so many transfer cases, it wouldn’t produce hard feelings because Iowa fans sympathize with Nunge and just want him to be happy and to feel fulfilled.
And that says a lot about Jack Nunge, and about Iowa fans.