Iowa's Incredible Disappearing 2015 Hoops Recruiting Class

By RossWB on March 21, 2018 at 2:02 pm
Adios, A-Wags.
© Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

And then there was one. Iowa hoops brought in an enormous six-person recruiting class in 2015; now, three years later, only player from that group remains. 

That class was expected to play a key role in replacing the Gesell-Woodbury-Clemmons-(Uthoff) Class of 2012. That... didn't quite happen. Few of those players found significant minutes at Iowa and, one by one, they've opted to take their talents elsewhere. Let's run down what's happened to that class. 

Brandon Hutton (6-6, 195 lbs, G, Chicago, IL)

Hutton was actually the first member of Iowa's 2015 class to commit; he was also the first to depart. He chose Iowa over a host of local mid-major offers (Loyola, UIC, Illinois State) and Wisconsin and West Virginia. Hutton redshirted in his only season at Iowa so he's the only player on this list who never played any real minutes in a Hawkeye uniform. After the 2015-16 season, he transferred to Indian Hills Community College and eventually landed at Northwestern State (yes, that Northwestern State). He played in 28 minutes and started 15, scoring 4.1 ppg on 34% shooting (25% shooting from 3-point range), 2.6 rpg, 0.8 apg, 1.8 turnovers per game, and 1.1 blocks/steals per game. Hutton's athleticism and defense probably would have been helpful on this Iowa team, but his offensive shortcomings might have made it difficult for him to see the floor (see also: Uhl, Dom and Wagner, Ahmad). 

Andrew Fleming (6-4, 200 lbs, G, Mouth of Wilson, VA)

Fleming was the second member of Iowa's 2015 class to commit, as well as the second to transfer out of the program. (I'm sensing a trend here.) Fleming hailed from Oak Hill Academy, a highly touted prep school, and reportedly chose Iowa over offers from Florida, Auburn, Nebraska, Memphis, and Colorado State. He was expected to provide immediate assistance with his size and shooting ability. Fleming saw action in 12 games in 2015-16, though mostly in the non-conference portion of the season -- he played in just two Big Ten games. He averaged 6.7 minutes per game in his 12 appearances and scored 2.0 ppg on 34.8% shooting (25% from 3-point range), as well as 0.8 rpg and 0.9 apg, although it should be noted that we're looking at some very small sample sizes here. He did make Iowa's final field goal of the 15-16 season, though, making a jumper in garbage time in Iowa's NCAA Tournament second round loss to Villanova.

Fleming transferred to Chattanooga, where he sat out the 2016-17 per NCAA transfer rules. He never actually played at Chattanooga, though, because he transferred to Division Lipscomb before this season. Lipscomb went 23-9 this season and won the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament before losing to North Carolina in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Fleming played in 31 games for the Bisons this season, averaging 8.5 minutes per game while scoring 3.0 ppg on 29.7% shooting (16.7% shooting from long range) and grabbing 1.2 rpg. So far the shooting touch he displayed in high school hasn't manifested itself in college. 

Dale Jones (6-8, 220 lbs, F, Tyler, TX)

Jones was the final member of Iowa's 2015 recruiting class and a rare example of Iowa dipping into the JUCO ranks in the Fran Era, though Jones had local ties -- he played his high school ball at Waterloo West. Jones averaged 16.9 ppg and 8.2 rpg at Tyler Junior College and shot a sizzling 45.4% from 3-point range. He was expected to help fill the void left by Aaron White and serve as a stretch 4 to help Iowa's offensive spacing and outside shooting. Unfortunately, none of that panned out, mainly because Jones could not escape injuries during his time at Iowa. He played in just six games in 2015-16 before a serious injury ended his season. In that time he averaged 13.0 minutes per game and scored 5.5 ppg and 3.0 rpg while shooting 40% from the floor and 45% from 3-point range. Injuries continued to plague him in 2016-17 and he played in just five games for a total of 15 minutes, scoring just eight points. He did get to start on Senior Day and made a 3-pointer to lead things off, which was pretty cool. 

Still, it came as little surprise when Jones opted to transfer out of the program after the season and landed at North Dakota. He had a pretty solid season at North Dakota this year, playing in 30 games and averaging 26.1 minutes per game while finishing second on the team in scoring (11.8 ppg on 43.5% shooting, including 37.6% from deep) and leading the team in rebounding with 6.5 per game. Frontcourt depth wasn't exactly a problem for Iowa this season, so it's hard to say how many minutes Jones would have been able to carve out if he had stayed. It certainly wouldn't have been as many as he got at North Dakota, though, and it's nice to see that he was able to have a healthy and successful season for once. 

Christian Williams (6-5, 190 lbs, G, Decatur, IL)

Until Wagner, Williams was the most recent transfer of the lot -- and arguably the most surprising. Unlike the other transfers, which came in the spring, immediately after the season, Williams opted to depart a day before Iowa's exhibition opener this year. Williams chose Iowa over a host of mid-major offers (including UIC, Bradley, Green Bay, Florida Gulf Coast, and Illinois State) and as a freshman in 2015-16, he played in 19 games, averaging 5.4 minutes per game and scoring 1.4 ppg (on 32.1% shooting, 33.3% from 3-point range) while adding 0.9 rpg and 0.3 apg. Williams began the 2016-17 season as the starter at point guard, but lost that role to Jordan Bohannon after six games and fewer than 20 minutes in all but three games after losing the starting gig. He appeared in 34 games and averaged 12.8 minutes per game, in which he scored 2.4 ppg (on 34.8% shooting, 15.4% from deep), 1.6 rpg, 1.6 apg, and 0.8 spg. 

Williams transferred to Indiana State and sat out this season in accordance with NCAA transfer rules. He left Iowa in pursuit of more playing time after it appeared during training camp that Connor McCaffery had moved ahead of him in the guard rotation during fall practice. Of course, things didn't exactly work for McCaffery during the season, as he endured a never-ending string of illnesses and injuries that forced him to redshirt. That forced Iowa to play Bohannon big minutes (31.8 minutes per game, tops on the team) and scramble to find find a backup for him from Maishe Dailey and Brady Ellingson. Had he stayed Williams certainly would have seen quite a bit of action spelling Bohannon and his length and defense would have been helpful on the perimeter, although his offensive shortcomings may still have put a ceiling on his playing time. 

Ahmad Wagner (6-7, 215 lbs, F, Huber Heights, OH)

That brings to us Wagner, the most recent departure from the class of 2015. Of all the departures, Wagner saw by far the most playing time at Iowa. He played in 32 games as a freshman, 34 games as a sophomore, and 30 games this year. That said, he struggled to carve out a role for himself, especially in Iowa's increasingly crowded frontcourt. Wagner's strengths were his athleticism, rebounding ability, and defense, but he could also be foul-prone and his tweener status could make things difficult on defense as well. And, obviously, his limited offense created spacing and match-up problems for Iowa on that end of the floor. 

Isaiah Moss (6-5, 175 lbs, G, Chicago, IL)

And there was just one: Moss, the only member of Iowa's 2015 recruiting class still expected to be around next season. Like Hutton, Moss redshirted as a freshman, but he's been able to carve out a role for himself over the past two seasons. In 2016-17, Moss served as Peter Jok's understudy and was one of Iowa's first options off the bench. He played in 34 games and averaged 17.1 minutes per game while scoring 6.5 ppg on 41.2% shooting (35.8% from 3-point range), and adding 1.6 rpg and 0.9 apg. He took over as a starter this season and averaged 24.2 minutes per game while scoring 11.1 ppg on 42% shooting (38.6% from deep) and tallying 2.2 rpg and 1.9 apg. The issue with Moss remains consistency: he scored in single digits in 13 of 33 games this year and scored in double figures in back-to-back Big Ten games just twice. In six Big Ten games he scored five points or less. Iowa badly needs him to become a more consistent second presence in games. 

The transfer-heavy Class of 2015 follows up the Class of 2014 which also featured some early departures. That class encompassed Trey Dickerson, a JUCO point guard, as well as Brady Ellingson and Dom Uhl (and you could probably include Nicholas Baer as well, although he obviously started his Iowa career as a walk-on). Of that trio, only Dom Uhl will have used all of his available years of eligibility at Iowa. Dickerson departed after one season and now Ellingson is departing Iowa as a grad transfer to finish up his collegiate career in a bigger role somewhere else.

The struggles Iowa has endured in 2016-17 and this year can be traced, at least in part, back to these recruiting classes. The players in these classes should have been juniors and seniors, which should be the backbone for a program like Iowa's that's so reliant on development and internal improvement. Instead most of those players either departed early or struggled to develop into more than rotational players. That's left Iowa heavily reliant on freshmen and sophomores over the last two season and while there's a lot to like about the players in Iowa's 2016 and 2017 classes, they also have a lot of the flaws and mistakes you expect to see out of freshmen and sophomore players. 

tl;dr summary: Iowa swung -- and missed -- on a lot of recruits in 2015 (and 2014) and they've been paying the price for those recruiting (and retention/development) misses over the past two seasons. Let's the classes of 2016, 2017, and 2018 can help Iowa climb back to more successful heights. 

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