Brady Ellingson isn't the only member of Iowa's 2017-18 team who's departing the program -- today Iowa also announced that Ahmad Wagner was granted a release from the Iowa basketball program to "explore college football opportunities." Really:
Ahmad has been a tremendous teammate and an absolute joy to coach the past three seasons. I have no doubt that he will be successful in his pursuit of playing football." Fran McCaffery pic.twitter.com/X7KA1KPsxD
— Iowa Basketball (@IowaHoops) March 20, 2018
Basketball players leaving to play football is not the most typical change, but in Wagner's case it does make some sense. He was a prospect in basketball and football coming out of high school, but wanted to play basketball. But he had an offer from Kentucky to play football and reportedly Ohio State was interested in him late in the process as well. And as anyone who's watched him play basketball over the last three years can attest, he certainly has a body-type that suggests he could be an effective football player.
Thankful for all of the wonderful experiences I had here! The relationships I built will last a lifetime pic.twitter.com/JPRp8sSjFP
— Ahmad Wagner (@Ahmad_Wagner) March 20, 2018
As for where that will be... TBD. Wagner plans to finish this semester at Iowa and weigh his options about where to play football. Per The Des Moines Register's Chad Leistikow, Wagner could have two years of eligibility to play football if he stays at Iowa (because the NCAA would treat his situation like he's redshirted once in football and used two years of eligibility, giving him two years remaining) or goes to an FCS program. If he transfers to another FBS program, he would have to redshirt and have one year of eligibility remaining. That said, changes are afoot for the NCAA's transfer policies for student-athletes, possibly as soon as this summer, so that could impact Wagner's plans as well.
Like Ellingson, Wagner found his role diminished in 2017-18. After averaging 16 minutes per game in 2016-17, Wagner's numbers dipped to 9.1 minutes per game this year. The addition of Luka Garza and Jack Nunge to an already-crowded frontcourt created a real playing time crunch and Wagner was one of the main players who was on the losing end of those minutes battles. After averaging 4.8 ppg, 3.4 rpg, and 1.4 apg per game last year, Wagner averaged 1.7 ppg, 1.7 rpg, and 0.6 apg this year in his very limited minutes. Wagner shot 50% from the field, down from 51.2% last year and 68.1% as a freshman. Of course, Wagner's main value was never as a scorer but as a rebounder an defender. This year's Iowa team certainly needed all the help it could get on defense, but Wagner was also asked to play on the wing more, which probably wasn't the best use of him. We'll always have the beautiful dunks to remember him by, though:
Even this one that didn't actually count (but should've just for being so awesome):
The departures of Ellingson and Wagner give Iowa two additional scholarships to work with for next season (which could rise to three if Tyler Cook opts to stay in the NBA Draft), which creates a host of options for Iowa basketball. Connor McCaffery, currently a walk-on, could get one of them, although as Pat noted earlier, that could have some scholarship headaches for Iowa basketball and baseball. Still, even if McCaffery takes one of the now-open scholarships, Iowa will have one to offer to players not currently in the program, which means Iowa should be players for late-blooming recruits, JUCO prospects, and (more intriguingly) graduate transfers. This is hot stove season for college basketball and it certainly doesn't look like Iowa will be sitting this one out.
Best of luck to Wagner in finding a new program (and sport!) to call home; we hope he has great success wherever that ends up being.