By JOHN BOHNENKAMP
IOWA CITY — There will be two Sandforts on Iowa’s men’s basketball team, and the one who is already with the Hawkeyes knows who is the better shooter.
“Me,” Payton Sandfort said, smiling. “Not even close.”
Payton will be a junior next season when his brother Pryce joins the team. Pryce Sandfort, along with Moline (Ill.) High School teammates Owen Freeman and Brock Harding, signed letters of intent with Iowa on Wednesday, the first day of the fall signing period.
“I think he’s going to be awesome,” Payton said on Thursday.
Iowa has had a brother dynamic lately. There’s Connor McCaffery and Patrick McCaffery currently on the roster. Keegan Murray played with his brother, Kris, for the last two seasons before heading off to the NBA.
And now the Hawkeyes have the Sandforts.
“We’ll carry on the brother legacy,” said Payton, a starter with the Hawkeyes this season after being a key reserve last season as a freshman.
“They get after it pretty good,” Connor McCaffery said. “They’ll fight, and then they’ll make up. They’re brothers.”
That is not unusual, Connor said.
“I would say yeah, you’re on each other’s nerves,” he said. “But in a good way. You’re never actually mad at your brother. Well, you are, but it’s just different, different than someone you’re competing with, or a teammate. You know it won’t last the same way when it’s your brother instead of someone else.”
“I made him pretty tough growing up,” Payton said. “So he’s got some toughness to him, a little edge he developed at that age.”
The Hawkeyes are familiar with Pryce because of his frequent visits to see his brother.
“We’re already pretty comfortable with him,” Connor McCaffery said. “It should be a seamless transition for him.”
“I think there’s familiarity on a number of different levels,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “Obviously the younger guys already know the guys on the team, and they’ve watched the program. They’ve watched the games. There’s comfortability there.
“I think the fact that the older brothers are telling the younger ones to come, I think that’s great. Obviously Keegan and Kris were the same year, but you’re happy that the older brothers had a great experience.”
Payton wasn’t an aggressive recruiter, preferring to let his brother make his choice.
“I’d kind of throw in subtle jabs all of the time,” Payton said. “I would always answer any questions he had for me. But ultimately it was his decision. I wanted him to come here because he wanted to come here. I’m happy for him.”
Pryce, at 6-foot-7, averaged 26.2 points and 10.3 rebounds last season at Waukee Northwest (Iowa) High School. He led Class 4A players in points, blocks, field goals made, 3-pointers made, free throws made and defensive rebounds.
“The thing about Pryce, when he was a freshman, he started at the point and played point primarily his freshman and sophomore year,” Fran McCaffery said. “I really liked that about him. But he kept growing. He’s now about almost the same size as Payton, 6-7, 6-7 plus. But I also think it’s been good for Pryce to really expand his game. He plays at the forward position. He has to rebound. Sometimes he’s the tallest guy out there and he has to get all the rebounds and block shots, and then he brings it down, but he’s always making threes, he’s always making plays.”
“At this age, he’s a little better with the ball, making plays in the paint,” Payton said. “He’s a lot more ball-dominant.”
Freeman, a 6-11 forward, transferred from Bradley-Bourbonnais (Ill.) High School to play at Moline this season. He averaged 18.5 points and 12 rebounds last season.
“We went after Owen a long time ago and really zeroed in on him as being a frontcourt guy that could really help us immediately,” Fran McCaffery said. “He got a lot of attention. We went hard at him, and we were very fortunate he committed pretty quickly.”
Harding, a 6-1 guard, averaged 19.3 points and 5.6 assists last season.
“I think it was pretty simple — you just had to watch him play,” Fran McCaffery said. “He was really good in every area, no weaknesses. Gets where he wants to go on the floor, makes threes, makes pull-ups, finds people. Wreaks havoc on defense, great feel for how to play, great at the end of the game. He’s a winner.”
Photo: Iowa’s Payton Sandfort (right) is guarded by Indiana’s Xavier Johnson in last season’s Big Ten Tournament. (Brian Spurlock/Icon SportsWire)