By John Bohnenkamp
Iowa, with consensus national player of the year Luka Garza on a team consistently in the national polls all season, was a TV draw in the 2020-21 schedule.
That, coach Fran McCaffery said on Monday, has helped in recruiting.
Iowa has two commitments for its 2022 recruiting class, 6-foot-3 guard Dasonte Bowen from Brewster (N.H.) Academy and 6-5 guard Josh Dix from Council Bluffs.
McCaffery said the attention given to the Hawkeyes last season, including nationally-televised games as well as 15 weeks in the top 10 of the Associated Press poll, made a difference in the summer when talking to recruits.
The attention given to Garza, who finished second in the nation in scoring, also paid off.
“I think with Luka in particular, and the fact we were on CBS three times last year, it’s changed a lot,” McCaffery said. “You still have the same challenges. Our league is really difficult. We’re banging heads with all of the prestigious programs, and we’ll continue to do that. We’ll get some, we won’t get some. But I think the reception has been really positive.
“For example, when you ask a recruit, ‘Hey, have you seen much of us?’ In-state, you expect that. But if you’re recruiting outside our geographic footprint, are people very aware of our team, our style of play, our conference? They are.”
McCaffery said other factors, including the strength of the Big Ten and the fact that all of the Hawkeyes’ games are televised, make a difference as well.
“I think it’s a function of we were good, but I also think it’s a function of our league, our league’s television partners, and the fact we play every night of the week,” McCaffery said. “I think that has really helped our identity, and will continue to do so.”
CONNOR’S STATUS: McCaffery said his son, Connor, has returned from offseason hip surgeries.
Connor McCaffery, a 6-5 senior guard, started every game last season, averaging 3.3 points and 3.1 rebounds while finishing second on the team with 112 assists and ranking fourth in the nation with a 3.73 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Connor is splitting his time this fall with the basketball and baseball teams. He missed all of Iowa’s baseball season last spring because of the surgeries.
“I think he’s come back well, but it’s a thing where it’s a longer rehabilitation process,” Fran McCaffery said. “Then you factor in he’s also trying to play baseball, a sport that he hasn’t played for a year. So he’s been going to both, he’ll split his time.
“He’s practiced very well when he’s practiced with us, as I would have expected him to. But just having his veteran presence, talking to the young guys, has been very important. He’s going to be an integral part of everything we do this year.”
THE SCHEDULE: Iowa opens the nonconference schedule with six home games, a slate backloaded with tougher games in December.
It’s designed to help the Hawkeyes’ young roster.
“I think the thought process this year was just try to kind of figure our team out, give these young guys a chance to develop early at home, and then, obviously, it gets tougher as you move on,” McCaffery said.
Iowa doesn’t play on the road until the ACC/Big Ten Challenge game at Virginia on November 29, followed by the Big Ten opener at Purdue on December 3.
The rest of the December schedule includes a Big Ten home game against Illinois on December 6, at Iowa State on December 9, and a neutral-court game against Utah State at Sioux Falls, S.D, on December 18. Virginia (20th) and Utah State (47th) are the only teams on the nonconference schedule ranked in the top 50 in the NCAA’s NET rankings last season.
Iowa’s nonconference schedule last season included a neutral-court game against Gonzaga and a home game against North Carolina. The schedule ranked 15th overall, 165th in nonconference games.
“I think in those situations, you’re going to try to play more home games when you’re a young team,” McCaffery said. “Last year, we had some opportunities present themselves that were unique.”
Photo: Iowa and Gonzaga tip off in a game in Sioux Falls, S.D. in December. (Brian Ray/hawkeyesports.com)