By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Fran McCaffery held a zoom conference with the media on Thursday, and despite it being early June, there was plenty to discuss.
From Joe Wieskamp’s NBA draft status to Jordan Bohannon’s head injury and position switch to life without All-America center Luka Garza to Riley Mulvey starting college a year early to graduate transfer Filip Rebraca’s role on the team for next season, Fran McCaffery addressed multiple topics during the 27-minute zoom conference.
However, one thing he didn’t address was C.J. Fredrick’s decision to transfer from Iowa to Kentucky as members of the media were told before the zoom conference started that McCaffery would only talk about current members of the team.
That makes sense since Fredrick is now gone. And really, what good would it have done for Fran McCaffery to air any grievances at this stage?
Iowa started summer workouts on Thursday, and it’s best just to move on.
So here are five predictions about Hawkeye basketball heading into next season based partly on what Fran McCaffery said Thursday, but also on other information, and some gut feelings.
1. Joe Wieskamp has played his last game as a Hawkeye: This isn’t based solely on what Fran McCaffery said during the zoom call on Thursday, but rather on a hunch based on what multiple sources are saying about Wieskamp.
Almost everything I’ve heard has the 6-foot-6 Wieskamp skipping his senior season to stay in the 2021 NBA draft.
And Fran McCaffery said nothing on Thursday to change my mind.
“I don’t know if that question can be easily answer because it differs per individual,” Fran McCaffery said about Wieskamp’s decision. “Some guys get to a point where it’s time to go. It’s time to start their professional career. Others, I’ll go if I get a guaranteed roster spot, or I’ll go if I’m guaranteed a two-way (contract). I’ll go if I have something guaranteed, otherwise, I’ll come back.
“But everybody’s different. You’d have to ask him and have him answer that question.”
Wieskamp hasn’t said anything publicly about his situation since the season ended in March, and he is currently working out in preparation for the NBA draft.
But the fact that Jordan Bohannon has agreed to switch from point guard to shooting guard for his sixth season might be an indication that Fran McCaffery is planning to be without Wieskamp next season.
It seems that Fran McCaffery hinted about that on Thursday.
“Obviously, we’re giving him what he needs to figure out if now is the right time to head to the NBA,” Fran McCaffery said of Wieskamp. “He’s really been working hard in preparation for what potentially will be a combine invite and individual workouts for specific teams.
“So he’s in great shape. He’s been in Vegas training. He was here for a while and then he took a little vacation. But he’s back training. So when you lose Joe Wieskamp’s 3-point shooting and Luka’s 3-point shooting, in particular, obviously, Jordan is a guy if you play a full complement of games, he’s probably going to make 90 threes.”
Bohannon is Iowa’s all-time leader in 3-point baskets with 364 and second all-time in Big Ten history behind former Ohio State player Jon Diebler, who made 374 treys as a Buckeye.
Bohannon said one of the reasons he wanted to switch positions was to allow junior point guard Joe Toussaint to run the offense.
And while that might be the case, Fran McCaffery also appears to be preparing for life without Wieskamp.
Fran McCaffery also said that Bohannon has fully recovered from what was described as a serious head injury that occurred when Bohannon was recently punched in the head in a downtown Iowa City bar.
“At the time, it was a serious head injury,” Fran McCaffery said. “And he’s recovered.”
2. Iowa’s starting lineup for next season: Connor McCaffery, Joe Toussaint, Jordan Bohannon, Keegan Murray, Filip Rebraca.
This lineup was predicted with the assumption that Wieskamp has played his last game as a Hawkeye, and that Connor McCaffery will be fully recovered from surgery on both hips during the offseason.
If the 6-foot-5 Connor McCaffery is healthy, he will start and play considerable minutes, as he has the past two seasons. It would sure help if Connor could improve as a 3-point shooter. But if even doesn’t, he still is the best passer on the team, is a sure ball handler, and can guard multiple positions.
And while some might say that having Rebraca, a 6-9 graduate transfer from North Dakota, as a starter this soon might be too presumptuous, I don’t think so.
Rebraca probably wouldn’t have picked Iowa without knowing that he had a very good chance to start and to play considerable minutes.
Iowa needs his size on both ends of the court, and he has proven to be a reliable and versatile scorer.
The Summit League, of which North Dakota is a member, hardly compares to the Big Ten from a talent standpoint.
But Rebraca has accomplished enough over the past couple of seasons to believe that he can be effective against Big Ten competition.
“I think he fits in perfectly,” Fran McCaffery said. “He’s a really skilled 6-9 guy that can rebound, and he can handle it, and can shoot it, and can drive it. He can pass. He gives us a lot of versatility.”
Rebraca won’t just step in and replace Luka Garza at the center position. But that seems just fine with Fran McCaffery because he doesn’t consider Rebraca to be a true center.
“I kind of want him to be a guy who’s not a straight five,” Fran McCaffery said. “He’ll play the five a lot. But he’ll be out on the perimeter.”
3. Riley Mulvey will contribute next season: I won’t go as far as to say that incoming freshman center Riley Muley will make Iowa’s rotation next season. But he will have a chance to make an impression.
Iowa, obviously, needs help inside with Garza, and with 6-11 Jack Nunge having move on, and Mulvey probably didn’t agree to graduate from high school a year early to spend his freshman season just sitting on the bench.
Mulvey grew up near Albany, N.Y., and has known Fran McCaffery for years, so there already was a level of trust before the recruiting process even started. Fran McCaffery coached at Siena, which is in Albany, for five seasons before taking the Iowa job in 2010.
Iowa was considered one of the frontrunners for the 6-11 Mulvey throughout the recruiting process, and he already was considering skipping his senior year of high school when he committed to Iowa.
“We felt like he was going to come,” Fran McCaffery said. “Obviously, we needed size and felt like he was ready. So we just kind broached the subject with him and kind of tried to talk him into it. We kind of floated the idea and he was very receptive.”
“I think he’s somebody that we can count on this year.”
4. Kris Murray will be Iowa’s most improved player next season: After seeing limited action in 13 games last season, Kris Murray is poised for a breakout season, partly because Iowa needs shooters, and that is perhaps his biggest strength.
The 6-8 Kris Murray is the twin brother of Iowa teammate Keegan Murray, but their skill sets are different.
Keegan Murray is a versatile scorer and defender, and he made the Big Ten All-Freshmen team last season.
Kris is considered the better outside shooter, however, and that’s where Iowa needs help for next season with Garza and Fredrick having moved on, and with Wieskamp expected to be gone.
“He’s going to be a real integral part of everything we do moving forward,” Fran McCaffery said of Kris Murray. “He’s a little bit different than Keegan in terms of what he does. They complement each other so they can play together.”
Fran McCaffary said Thursday that Kris and Keegan Murray, and 6-9 forward Patrick McCaffery, who is Fran McCaffery’s son, will all participate in a basketball festival this summer, either in Switzerland, or in England.
Fran McCaffery also said that Kris Murray worked some at center during practice this past season, and could play that position when Iowa switches to a smaller lineup.
5. The transfer portal will continue to change the college basketball landscape: This hardly is going out on a limb, given how much the transfer portal already has impacted the game.
There were at one time over 1,600 players in the transfer portal this spring, and with student-athletes now able to transfer once without having to sit out, look for this trend to continue.
Some college coaches have even said they now plan to build their rosters by using the portal more than recruiting players out of high school.
Fran McCaffery isn’t a fan of that approach, but he also understands that he has to use the portal to restock his roster, or risk being at a disadvantage.
“It’s going to be different moving forward as it relates to how you put your team together, essentially” Fran McCaffery said. “For years, we’ve always built programs. You bring in young kids, work with them and you help them get better, and make sure they graduate. You’re mentors. You’re counselors. And then they graduate. You have a relationship with them for a long time.
“I suspect a lot of players will be like that. But some will not. Some will chase shots, chase minutes, chase more money. So that will change how you put your roster together.”