By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Even Brauns was a fan of the Iowa men’s basketball team long before he became a member of the team this summer.
Brauns grew up in Iowa City and used to attend Iowa games at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, dreaming that maybe he could be a Hawkeye.
That dream has since come true, although, it took a while for the 6-foot-9 Brauns to see it come true.
He didn’t have a scholarship offer from Iowa coming out of Iowa City West High School in 2020, so, Brauns took what he felt was his best opportunity at the time, which was a chance to play on scholarship for Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee.
He played three seasons for Belmont and started 29 of 30 games as a junior this past season, averaging 7.0 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. He also shot 58.3 percent from the field and finished second in the Missouri Valley Conference in blocked shots.
Brauns enjoyed his three seasons at Belmont for the most part, and he enjoyed living in Nashville.
But he also missed being home, and his desire to be a Hawkeye still burned from within.
So, when Brauns decided to enter the transfer portal just days after the 2022-23 season had ended, he was hoping it would lead him back to Iowa City.
“That was pretty much the number one reason I hopped into the portal,” Brauns said.
Hope has since become reality.
Brauns is a member of the Iowa men’s basketball team. He’s on scholarship. And he couldn’t be happier.
“It was pretty easy. Once they (Iowa) reached out when I was in the portal, it was something I felt like I couldn’t pass up on,” Brauns said. “It’s been great. I’ve been really happy with the experience and the opportunity to play here.
“The guys have been really good, so it’s been really good.”
Brauns was among six Iowa players that met with the media this past Thursday.
It was his first time being interviewed as a Hawkeye and he made it abundantly clear that he is exactly where he wants to be as a student-athlete.
Brauns, who has two seasons of eligibility, now attends college barely one mile from where he attended high school, and he’s a Hawkeye.
He also has been reunited with former West High teammate and friend Patrick McCaffery, who is also a 6-9 forward, but with a much different game and skill set than the 245-pound Brauns.
Brauns attended Iowa City Regina as a freshman before transferring to West High where he and Patrick McCaffery formed a dominant one-two punch for two seasons with Patrick McCaffery the dynamic scorer and Brauns the physical enforcer on both ends of the floor.
“It was just something I saw him having success in high school and I said I wanted that for myself so then I transferred to West,” Brauns said.
Parick McCaffery has sort of gone from being a mentor for Brauns in high school to a close friend in college.
“Now it’s more we’ve became more like peers,” Brauns said. “We’re both on the same page and deal with similar problems. So, we’ve gotten a little closer in college. We’re reaching out to each other and talking about things, especially this past season.”
Patrick McCaffery, who is the son of Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery, missed several games last season as he struggled with anxiety issues.
But when he plays, Patrick McCaffery is a versatile scorer and he is expected to be one of Iowa’s top offensive threats this coming season.
Brauns, on the other hand, is known mostly for his defense, rebounding, shot blocking and ruggedness, and Iowa will need all four of those parts of his game as it moves on witout Filip Rebraca, who started in the post in each of the past two seasons.
Iowa has struggled on defense at times under Fran McCaffery, so, the hope is that Brauns will make a positive impact on that end of the floor.
“I think that’s just naturally what’s helped me the most being in college,” Brauns said of his defense. “Just the physical tools, and I think part of it is just the natural ability, I think.
“And I think that’s what is going to help me get on the floor in the first place. And then the other stuff will help me stay on the floor.”
Brauns is one of two 6-9 forwards that Iowa has added via the transfer portal this offseason, the other being Valparaiso graduate transfer Ben Krikke, who led the Missouri Valley Conference in scoring this past season.
Brauns and Krikke faced each other last season in conference play.
“That’s been really helpful,” Brauns said of having Krikke in sort of the same situation. “Just because we kind of knew each other just from playing against each other last year.
“We’re actually living together this summer, so being able to share that experience has been real good. We’ve kind of bone over it, so it’s been nice.”
Asked what he brings to the Iowa team, Brauns leaned on his experience and playing style.
“I think maturity, I think experience and I think physicality. Knowing the game and understanding what they want to do. I’ve built that relationship already and that’s very important and is going to help me.”