By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Fran McCaffery has received verbal commitments from three players in the 2023 recruiting class, and he would like to add at least one more player to the class.
That could happen on Friday should center J.P. Estrella pick the Hawkeyes, but don’t count on it.
Estrella has scheduled a press conference for this Friday, and will choose between Iowa, Tennessee and Syracuse, but Tennessee is reportedly the heavy favorite to land the 6-foot-11 four-star recruit from New Hampshire.
In fact, some reliable sources said Estrella to Tennessee is already a done deal.
Estrella raved about his visit to Iowa in late July as a guest on the ‘Just Jonesin’ podcast, which is hosted by Dallas Jones on Hawk Fanatic.
Estrella spoke so highly of Iowa that it was easy to assume that he would ultimately pick the Hawkeyes.
But then shortly after having visited both Iowa and Syracuse in the same week, Estrella said on social media that he would announce his choice for college on Sept. 2, which is this Friday.
It seemed odd that he would wait a month before announcing his decision, and that he would go as far as to pick a day to announce a decision that he supposedly hadn’t made yet.
But on the other hand, this is a huge decision for Estrella to make and how he chooses to handle it is certainly his business.
Iowa already has a center committed to the 2023 class in 6-10 Owen Freeman from Illinois, so perhaps Estrella was concerned about that, although, it’s easy to envision two versatile post players both playing in Fran McCaffery’s system.
Estrella also didn’t make it this far by being afraid of competition.
There was speculation that name, image and likeness could be a factor in Estrella’s decision, and according to those same reliable sources, it was a big factor in Tennessee emerging as the front-runner.
Rivals has Estrella 100 percent committed to Tennessee, which is as committed as a recruit can be without actually being committed.
Sources have told Hawk Fanatic that Iowa simply couldn’t match Tennessee’s lucrative NIL deal.
Iowa has an NIL collective, but it’s designed to pay student-athletes that are already enrolled at the University of Iowa an equal amount each month.
That approach certainly makes sense from a fairness standpoint, but it also leaves Iowa vulnerable because there will be times when Iowa can’t match another school’s NIL deal.
Estrella’s recruitment appears to be one of those times.
It would be hard to blame a kid for taking a lucrative NIL deal because money talks, especially a large amount of it.
It also would be hard to blame Fran McCaffery and his assistants for coming up short in this case if it truly came down to NIL because again, money talks.
You win some, but you also lose a lot more battles in recruiting.
NIL has just made it more challenging.
Some could say that blaming the expected loss of Estrella on NIL is just an excuse, but that doesn’t seem true in this case.
One of the problems with NIL, besides how loosely it’s monitored, is a lack of transparency.
Iowa and Tennessee are both solid programs with highly respected head coaches in Fran McCaffery and Rick Barnes.
Both programs have a lot to offer, so it makes sense that NIL would be the deciding factor.