It's the time of the season when college basketball fans and coaches alike are faced with many tough decisions. Which game do I watch? How much rest do I give my stars? But Iowa's basketball coaching staff is in a slightly different predicament. The upside to being near the bottom of the conference is that the rebuilding for next can be a priority. Young players can get plenty of playing time (like our youngsters haven't had enough already this season) and coaches can look to the future of the team: recruiting. We've already touched on what could be in the coming years as Iowa appears to have a decent recruiting class, but for those of you living under a rock (or say Canada - check The Manchise if you're lost), here is a little recap (ratings are via ESPN.com):
Cody Larson, PF 92
Ben Brust, SG 90
Roy Marble, Jr. SG 89
Zach McCabe, SF 87
Not a half-bad class. But now, the Iowa staff has another decision to make. With the dismissal on February 12 of former Hawkeye Anthony Tucker, the Hawkeyes have another scholarship available. What to do, what to do?
Well, assistant coach Chad Walthall said a few weeks ago, on the Big Ten Coaches Teleconference, that Iowa may look to add another recruit to this years class. More to the point, he mentioned that the team may be looking for either a combo gaurd or a post player. Walthall went on to say that if the staff doesn't find anyone they believe can be a good fit and contribute right away, they would consider "banking" the scholarship for next year. So what's the right answer here?
I have heard a lot of talk from both camps on this issue and people seem to be quite opinionated. To make matters worse, as we discussed in yesterday’s post, there may be a few more holes to fill very shortly. If the coaches are to make a move on another prospect for next year, the pickings are getting a little slim. Walthall mentions that they would be looking at a combination guard or a big man and, in my opinion, this one isn’t even close. The biggest hole to fill for next year, regardless of who leaves, will be in the post. Not that any post players are leaving after the season (or at least none are graduating), but our post play has just been so non-existent this year that anything down low would be a help.
However, I would caveat that by saying that we should only use up scholarships on post players who intend on actually playing the post. Yeah, Jarryd Cole is a post player, but does he really do anything in the post or is he just a permanent screen-man? Brennan Cougill is a big guy, but he spends more time around the arc (and in line at McDonald’s) than on the block. I have heard a lot of hype about this Larson kid coming in, but I just can’t count on a single post player to hold it down for the next few years. So, to me, if we are going to spend that scholarship, it has to be on a big man.
Now, I understand there is a former D-1 athlete in Kaylon Williams sitting up the road in Cedar Rapids just dying to get his hands on that offer, and as much as I want to say that we could really use a playmaker like him to come in and create some things for us offensively, I just feel like there are a lot of other needs that he won’t be able to help with. Granted, bringing in a JUCO guy with the experience and more rounded edges would be nice since we have such a young team, but if we are really going to go full steam ahead with this rebuilding thing (and believe me folks, we had better be), we absolutely have to be building youth.
The real question for me is whether or not to use it on youth in this year’s class, or to bank the scholly for next year. Now, I know we need immediate help, but we also have to think about our future. If we bring in five freshmen next year, we are going to be graduating five players all in the same year and will begin a vicious cycle of bringing in huge classes, followed by nobody. It would be nice to space things out over a year or two. Let’s bring in these four solid recruits and save a scholarship, along with the one we will have when Cole graduates, to nab a couple of those junior studs that are all the hype in Illinois.
Currently, the Fighting Illini are all but filled up for 2011 and don’t have enough offers to give out to the talent-rich crop in the Chicagoland area (an area we should be pulling one or two kids from every year anyway). So let’s get going on these guys now, before they are too highly touted. I understand that Lick doesn’t like to “bow down to the players,” but let’s at least get some assistants in their living rooms and get offer extended to the ones we have a shot with. I would love nothing more than to see us with Gatens, May and Fuller maturing, Larson, Marble and Brust with a year under their belt and a couple of athletic recruits walking in the front door.
Rebuilding doesn’t happen overnight (and apparently doesn’t happen in three years with the Lick), and we aren’t going to have a stable program if we simply toss our offers around to the first guy we can get. Sure, next season may not be what we would want, but do you really believe that adding another freshmen to an extremely young class is going to put us in the tourney next year? If so, you are sadly mistaken. We will be lucky to make it to the NIT next year and I would venture to say that if we do (and if we manage to make it to that point without any transfers), Lick will still be at the helm and our team may just be ready to turn a corner. It’s a long road ahead, but true Hawk fans can be patient enough to let what’s best for the program unfold and not simply cry for change now, knowing full-well that hasty moves in the present would cause irreversible damage to our future.