By Tyler Devine
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Iowa men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery has the unenviable task this season of replacing two NBA Draft picks in Luka Garza and Joe Wieskamp.
Garza, the reigning Naismith Trophy winner, and Wieskamp were second-round selections by the Detroit Pistons and San Antonio Spurs, respectively.
Last season, Garza became Iowa’s all-time leading scorer while Wieskamp averaged nearly 15 points per game and shot 46% from 3-point range while leading the Hawkeyes to an appearance in the NCAA Tournament as a No. 2 seed and a third-place finish in the Big Ten.
“Sometimes you look at production and it’s hard to replace that kind of production,” McCaffery said. “But also, the experience, the toughness factor and the ability to make plays down the stretch in a close game. So it’s an opportunity for others to step up.”
One player that is expected to contribute is North Dakota graduate transfer Filip Rebraca, who comes to Iowa with no shortage of experience having started 48 games at North Dakota.
The 6-foot-9 Rebraca was second-team All-Summit League last season while leading North Dakota in scoring and rebounding.
Like Garza, Rebraca possesses to ability to score both inside and outside.
Iowa also lost big man Jack Nunge and guard C.J. Fredrick, who transferred to Xavier and Kentucky, respectively.
“He’s going to be a key part of all that we’re doing,” McCaffery said. “He’s a great fit. He’s got a really complete skillset for a big guy. He can dribble and pass and shoot, stretch the floor. He’s got really good feel for how to play and he’s worked really hard in the weight room.”
Iowa also will look to freshmen Payton Sandfort and Riley Mulvey. Sandfort, a native of Waukee, is a 6-foot-7 forward with a similar skillset to Wieskamp. The 6-foot-11 Mulvey was originally supposed to be part of Iowa’s 2022 recruiting class, but reclassified to the 2021 class and has since bulked up to 245 pounds.
The Hawkeyes will also rely on sophomore center Josh Ogundele, who saw limited action in eight games last season
Ogundele has spent the offseason shedding weight and working on his outside game.
“I think Payton looks really good,” McCaffery said. “He’s skilled, he can shoot, sets things up quickly. Riley Mulvey, he’s coming around. He really can run for a guy who’s almost seven feet tall. He’s put on a little more weight, being a little more physical and he’s adjusting and trying to figure things out.
“Those two guys, in particular, are guys that we’re looking at to help this team in a variety of ways. They both bring something that we need. Obviously, Riley with his size and Payton with his skill and his shooting, in particular.”
Health Update: McCaffery said Monday that his son, redshirt sophomore forward Patrick McCaffery, is nursing a sprained ankle but it is not expected to affect the season. Fran McCaffery also told reporters that his entire team has been vaccinated against COVID-19.