Iowa Hawkeyes Player Previews: Jack Nunge

By Adam Jacobi on October 17, 2017 at 7:00 am
Jack Nunge!
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JACK NUNGE

BIO: FRESHMAN, 6'11" 225 lbs (CASTLE HIGH SCHOOL, NEWBURGH, IN)
LAST SEASON: 22.8 PPG, 11.6 RPG, 3.5 BPG, 60 FG%, 40 3FG% 80 FT% (HIGH SCHOOL)

What We Saw Last Season

Nunge burst onto Hawkeye fans' radar with a stellar senior season and a Teen Rom-Com Villain haircut, and his commitment was a, well, pleasant surprise — we didn't even know that scholarship was open. Still, what's not to like; Nunge has size, range, handle and even some creativity at the rim. Sure, he was playing for something called "Castle High School" (this had better have been in a literal castle, I don't care if that's not a thing in Indiana) but he led them to a 24-4 record and a Class 4A substate appearance, and also made the stellar Indiana All-Stars squad. 

Nunge battled with now-roommate Luka Garza at the PTL and acquitted himself nicely, especially in a defense-optional setting like that. Nunge led the PTL in scoring (32.4) and rebounding (12.4), earning the league's MVP award and leading his Vinton Merchants to the league title over powerhouse Westport Touchless Autowash. 

On the trip to Europe, Nunge wasn't quite the offensive dynamo, but he still averaged 7 points, 5 boards and nearly 2 blocks a game in the four-game stretch. He wasn't the insta-bucket machine Garza was there, but there's a world of potential for him to be a devastating stretch-four — and soon.

What We Need to See This Season

Ordinarily, a freshman coming in with Nunge's frame (6'11" and a wingspan over 7 feet), inside-out game and polish, and the question is "how many minutes can we pencil you in for?"

But Nunge has basically half the scholarship roster in front of him on the depth chart, so what Iowa really needs to see is whether he can keep pace defensively, especially against higher-level opponents. The PTL numbers earlier were great, but that bears as much resemblance to Big Ten play as Rutgers bears to... well, Big Ten play.

The "show stats" will be there for Nunge on defense; with his reach, he'll block shots and he'll get steals. If Iowa's defense is going to be effective as a whole, however, the real question is whether he can do things like prevent dribble drives, handle defensive switches and avoid reaching fouls. That's a matter of consistency and effort — fortunately, Fran McCaffery has a history of getting those things out of his players much more often than not. 

Best Case Scenario

In a perfect world, Nunge's game is too good to keep off the court and he adds enough versatility that there'll be someone on the floor he can exploit. Nunge's able to get his shot off consistently and keep hitting at the elite rate he established in high school, and his length helps reduce the freshman mistakes on defense. Call it 20 minutes a game, wholly subsuming Dom Uhl's role, and a 7-point, 5-board, 1-block average en route to becoming the unholy offspring of Jarrod Uthoff and J.R. Koch that we never knew this program needed.  

Most Likely Scenario

With the borderline comical logjam of big wings, it's hard to see Nunge carving out more than a handful of minutes after (deep breath) Nicholas Baer, Ahmad Wagner, Cordell Pemsl, Dom Uhl and Ryan Kriener all have their say. And if reports are true, we can throw Tyler Cook into that mix as his game continues to expand. So while Nunge's skill set is sufficiently unique and valuable that you probably can't redshirt him, he may just have to chew off minutes where he can get them as a Human Heat Check as a freshman and focus on rounding out his game over the next year or two.

One Request

Could you just, like... say your name out loud? Is it pronounced "nung"? "nunj"? "nun-gee"? "nun-jee"? We're not just going to leave this one up to Gary Dolphin and Bobby Hansen, after all. 

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