In the present, Iowa basketball saw Keegan Murray become the highest-selected Hawkeye ever a week ago in the 2022 NBA Draft. Iowa hoops got some good news for the future, too, with verbal commitments from a pair of notable prospects. Let's discuss the big get first.
I have grown up dreaming of playing for the Hawkeyes. Yesterday I made that dream a reality! I am proud to say I have committed to play for the University of Iowa Hawkeyes and Coach McCaffery!— Cooper Koch (@CooperKoch44) June 23, 2022
GO HAWKS!! pic.twitter.com/iJWhPGa7pg
Cooper Koch gave a verbal commitment to Iowa last week, giving the Hawkeyes' recruiting efforts a significant boost. Koch, a 6'8", 205 lb prospect out of Peoria, IL, is rated a 4* prospect by Rivals and 247 Sports. He chose Iowa over offers from Wisconsin, Illinois, Purdue, Indiana, Wake Forest, Western Illinois, and Bradley. (Hey, shoot your shot, Braves.) His final three was reportedly down to Iowa, Wisconsin, and Purdue. Landing a high-value prospect is always good; landing a high-value prospect and keeping him away from a Big Ten rival is even sweeter.
Koch is projected to be a strong member of the Class of 2024. In addition to his 4* rating, he's already rated 51st nationally by 247 Sports, 57th by ESPN, and 71st overall by Rivals. Hopefully those numbers continue to inch upward over the next two seasons. As a Class of 2024 prospect, Koch won't be providing any immediate aid to Iowa -- he won't be on campus until fall 2024 -- but he certainly could be a key piece of Iowa hoops' medium-term future.
And, yes, Cooper Koch is the son of J.R. Koch, who starred on several of Dr. Tom Davis' Iowa teams in the 1990s. Hey, the last time Iowa added some legacy recruits, it worked out pretty well... BUILD THE WHOLE TEAM OUT OF LEGACY CROOTS (AND COACH'S KIDS). Ahem.
Koch spoke briefly about his decision to join Iowa:
Big smile as Peoria Notre Dames Cooper Koch discusses his commitment to Iowa Hawkeyes pic.twitter.com/f5MrSoJsG2— Jim Mattson (@hoijim) June 23, 2022
He elaborated on his decision in some comments to 247 Sports, where he explained that the draw of Iowa wasn't just following in his dad's footsteps -- but also the style of play that Fran McCaffery runs:
“They’re a team that plays free," Koch said previously of what he likes about the Hawkeyes. "You can go out there and be positionless. The staff doesn’t worry if you make a mistake, you’re still going to be in there. Coach McCaffery trusts you to take a shot, get the rebound, and push it.”
“There is no one through five positions,. Everybody has the freedom to do whatever they want. So guys like me, Keegan [Murray], Patrick [McCaffery], and Kris [Murray] can play out on the perimeter or in the post anytime we feel like it.”
“It’s exciting to watch. I think I’m best when I start inside and work my way out. I’m able to pick apart a defense like that.”
Koch is considered a strong ballhandler and a good passer, with the ability to score inside and outside. In fact, he projects as a stretch big who is able to punish defenses with his shooting prowess from behind the three-point arc, especially on corner threes. Offensively, Jarrod Uthoff seems like a pretty good recent potential stylistic comparison for his game.
The 2024 recruiting class could be a big one for Iowa hoops (there may be as many five scholarships available in that class) and landing an early commitment from Koch gets the ball rolling in a very big -- and very positive -- way for that class. Check out some highlights of Koch below:
Koch is a big get for the 2024 class, but Iowa is far from done with the 2023 recruiting class, too. They secured a verbal commitment from an in-state guard recently as well:
Harding, a 6'0", 155 lb guard prospect, has a very different recruiting profile than Koch. While Koch is a 4* prospect and widely coveted by several high-major programs, Harding is a bit more... under the radar. He's unrated by Rivals or 247 Sports (and ESPN) and while he had 17 offers, Iowa is his only high-major offer. His best mid-major offers were from Loyola, Drake, Saint Louis, Colorado State, Rice, Appalachian State, and the directional Illinois schools.
While Iowa had been keeping tabs on Koch since he was a 7th grader (it's not as creepy as it sounds... well...) and offered him last summer, Harding's recruitment was a bit more whirlwind. Iowa offered him last Monday, he visited last Wednesday, and committed last Thursday (although obviously was aware of him before a week ago). Harding certainly doesn't have the recruiting hype or flashy star rating that Koch has, but we've certainly learned to trust Fran McCaffery's judgment when it comes to recruitment -- he has an eye for identifying talent, and has a pretty good track record of further developing that talent when it gets to Iowa City.
So what is Iowa getting in Harding? What he lacks in size and strength (again: 6'0", 155 lbs), he reportedly makes up for in quickness, fearlessness, and bucket-getting ability. Harding is a teammate of fellow Class of 2023 recruit Owen Freeman in both the AAU ranks (Mid-Pro AAU) and, as of this year, the high school ranks too (Moline High School). Their familiarity with one another should be a nice boost for Iowa when they join the program next year.
Harding is a quick, shifty guard with enough athleticism to dunk the ball but some good shot-making chops as well. He also gets high marks for his leadership skills, his relentlessnes, his ball-handling and his vision, as well as his ability to distribute the ball to teammates. He's not an elite three-point shooter, but he's continued to work at that area of his game and steadily improved, which is a good sign. He's capable of making his defender miss and beating his man off the dribble, as well as finishing at the rim, though doing so against AAU opposition is not the same as doing so against Big Ten foes, of course.
Check out Harding in action here:
Given his stature (short), his projected position (point guard), and his status as an almost in-state prospect (Quad Cities), Harding draws some obvious comparisons to a very recent standout Hawkeye: Jordan Bohannon. Bohannon was a better shooter, but Harding looks like a better athlete with some quickness and ability to penetrate that Bohannon lacked. As players, they figure to have fairly different games.
Koch is the buzzy recruit that gets the hype from the recruiting experts, while Harding is the type of under-the-radar recruit that McCaffery has shown a knack for locating and developing into a solid contributor (or more) at Iowa. We're happy to have both suiting up for Iowa in the near future and looking forward to seeing what they're able to do on the court.
Welcome to Iowa, Cooper and Brock.