Hawkeyes Aren’t Immune From Roster Fluctuation

By John Bohnenkamp

Joe Wieskamp is going to go through the NBA draft process again, while keeping his eligibility.

Jordan Bohannon has talked about the possibility of returning for a sixth year.

And Iowa coach Fran McCaffery is scouring the NCAA’s transfer portal, looking for a post player.

The Hawkeyes have opened their spring workouts, but what the roster will look like heading into the summer is anybody’s guess.

And that, McCaffery said, is the new way of college basketball as players will be allowed to transfer once without having to sit out a year.

“It’s like this — normally, we recruit our team, and then you graduate people and you sign players. So you don’t have a lot of room,” McCaffery said on Wednesday. “So it’s not like I wouldn’t take a transfer. Now, it’s a little bit different. You’re approaching 1,500 names in the transfer portal, all of whom are eligible immediately. So that’s a game-changer for everybody in this profession, players and coaches.”

The mass movement of players comes after a season played during the COVID-19 pandemic, in which the NCAA determined that players would get an extra year of eligibility.

Wieskamp’s decision wasn’t a surprise to McCaffery. Nor was the possibility of Bohannon returning for a sixth year — the guard said earlier this month he was considering taking advantage of that additional year.

“It’s a unique time,” McCaffery said.

The biggest focus is in the frontcourt — the Hawkeyes still need help inside with the departure of senior center Luka Garza, the consensus national player of the year.

Jack Nunge, who suffered a knee injury late in the season, was expected to return, but he transferred to Xavier. Josh Ogundele, a freshman this season, played sparingly after a disjointed offseason caused by the pandemic.

So, while there are plenty of big names available in the transfer portal, McCaffery has a narrow focus.

“There’s players in the portal that we would like to have, but we have people in those positions here,” he said. “So, to stockpile players at a certain position is not something that ever interested me, nor should it interest any player. But when you have a need, well, that’s different. We have a need in the post and that’s what we’ll address.”

Wieskamp, a forward who just finished his junior season, announced on Wednesday that he would be going through the NBA draft process as he did after his freshman season. His plan is on retaining his NCAA eligibility, but in a statement said he would be graduating this summer.

McCaffery said he expected Wieskamp to be invited to the NBA’s draft combine, which means he would be a likely pick in the two-round draft. 

McCaffery said he knows Wieskamp will take his time before making a decision on whether to return.

He needs to take whatever time it takes to make that conclusion.

Bohannon’s return would add to an already crowded backcourt.

Asked what he would tell underclassmen like sophomore Joe Toussaint and freshmen Tony Perkins and Ahron Ulis, McCaffery said, “What do you tell any of your players at any point in time? You tell them the truth. They’re smart guys. They came here with the expectation that certain players will leave at a certain time. Well, they may not. But at the same time, every one of those guys got an extra year of eligibility as well. So it’s just a different scenario we’re all faced with, and we’ll get through it. We understand it, we understand it’s an adjustment. It’s not exactly how everybody pictured it. 

“My hope is eventually it will kind of get back to normal. But in the short run, this is where you’re at.”

It’s not something McCaffery is enjoying.

“It’s awful,” he said. “I’ll tell you this — I talked to a friend of mine yesterday, he lost his three best players and he signed five guys out of the portal. He said to me, it’s like putting an AAU team together. And he’s expecting to do that every year, and a lot of coaches are.

“So it will change so much, how we will build our program. It will change for our fan base, that really enjoys watching a player come in as a freshman and get better. We’re going to continue to do the best we can to build it that way. But again, guys may leave and then you’ve got to replace them. You replace them with somebody from high school, you replace them from somebody in the portal. We have occasionally signed junior-college guys. Your team will fluctuate a lot more than it has in the past. But I keep saying the same thing — that’s where we’re at.”

Photo: Joe Wieskamp (right) is going to enter the NBA draft process while retaining his NCAA eligibility. (Brian Ray/hawkeyesports.com)

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