By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – His family back home in New York probably already knows, but just in case they don’t, Riley Mulvey’ first few days as an Iowa basketball player have been a ton of fun.
At least, that was Mulvey’s message on Thursday as he met with the media for the first time as a Hawkeye.
“I’ve honestly just had a ton of fun being here already, playing basically every day has been, obviously, a dream come true,” Mulvey said while grinning from ear to ear. “It’s been so fun to play against people that are real good.”
The 6-foot-11 Mulvey, who is from Rotterdam, N.Y., was among five Iowa players that met with the media on Thursday on the concourse at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The others were sixth-year senior guard Jordan Bohannon, point guards Joe Toussaint and Ahron Ulis, and forward Patrick McCaffery.
Mulvey’s life has changed dramatically since he committed to Iowa over Syracuse in March. He decided about a month after committing to Iowa to reclassify to the 2021 senior class in order to start college a year sooner.
“I’d say that’s definitely the toughest decision,” Mulvey said of bypassing his senior year of high school. “My decision to come to Iowa was pretty easy to make, and then the decision on top of that to come early was definitely the hardest part for me.”
It was hard for Mulvey because to skip your senior year of high school is a major sacrifice. He had to grow up in a hurry and get used to being far from home.
Mulvey as a junior attended St. Thomas More, a prep school in Connecticut.
He said prep school helped him prepare for college because many of the players that Mulvey competed against were a year older than most high school students.
His prep school league also used rules that are similar to the college game.
“So I’ve been used to playing twenty minute halves and playing with the three-point line the way it is now,” Mulvey said. “And the physicality of people who are older than high school seniors.”
Mulvey’s new team is now getting used to playing without All-America center Luka Garza, who finished his career in March as Iowa’s all-time leading scorer, and as the consensus National Player of the Year.”
Garza’s departure had something to do with Mulvey’s early arrival.
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery needed help at center, and he convinced Mulvey that starting college a year early would be beneficial to Mulvey, and to the team.
“The level of competition is exactly what I expected. It’ super high,” Mulvey said. “It’s really fun to be here and just playing against everyone who’s super strong, super fast, super athletic; everything. It’s super fun to be here.”
Mulvey said the word fun over and over while being interviewed Thursday.
He also said the transition from prep school to college has been easy, partly due to having family who live in the area.
“To be honest, I haven’t had any difficulty transferring from the east coast to here because I have family here,” Mulvey said. “I have a bunch of people that I know here. It’s not really a problem per se to be here. It’s just fun.”
Asked to describe his playing style, Mulvey spoke confidently.
“I’m definitely a rim protector who tries to run the floor as best he can, who can shoot the ball really well,” he said.
Mulvey will compete against redshirt freshman center Josh Ogundele for minutes in the post.
Graduate transfer Filip Rebraca will also compete for playing time in the post as Iowa tries to replace Garza by committee.
Rebraca will be expected to play a significant role right away, while Mulvey will have time to develop and get used to competing at the Big Ten level.
“(Coach McCaffery) said he brought in Filip as the grad transfer to take the brunt of everything, and then I’ll play right behind that,” Mulvey said.
Mulvey and the 6-10 Ogundele compete against each other every day in practice, and Mulvey learned right away, thanks to Ogundele, what Big Ten physicality is all about.
“First day I was here Josh Ogundele hit me and I just went backwards, and I was like, oh, my gosh,” Mulvey said. “That was definitely one of the, hi, we’re in the Big Ten now.”
Mulvey said he already has benefitted from Iowa’s strength and conditioning program.
“I’ve definitely gotten stronger since I’ve been here,” Mulvey said. “I’ve probably put on about five to ten pounds of muscle and lost like five to ten pounds of fat. So being here has definitely helped with that. I feel like I’m a better player then what I would’ve been if I hadn’t have come here early.”
Being matched against Ogundele every day in practice is also helping to make Mulvey a better player.
“I think that playing against someone as good as him, as big as him, as strong as him is definitely going to help me elevate to the next level completely in every single way,” Mulvey said.
Mulvey will certainly have an opportunity to contribute if he shows that he is ready to compete at the Big Ten level, especially on defense.
“I think being how I am on defense I think that I’ll help very well on the defensive end and then on top of that, working on my offensive game to able to score at will whenever I get the ball and be able to make the right pass on the way out,” Mulvey said. “And whatever is open, will take it.”
Mulvey’s freshman season is for sure to have some peaks and valleys as he makes the transition to college.
But if Thursday’s interview is an indication, he seems thrilled with his decision to be a Hawkeye, and to be starting college a year early.