What Should Iowa Hoops Do With Their Open Scholarships?

By RossWB on March 22, 2018 at 5:15 pm
A Fan, a plan, FRANAMA

© Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

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After Tuesday's departures by Brady Ellingson and Ahmad Wagner, the Iowa basketball program has gone from being full-up when it comes to scholarships for the 2018-19 season to now having two available. So let's talk about what Iowa could (and should) do with those now-open scholarships, because they have several options. 

1) Use a scholarship on a current walk-on. 

The odds of this happening are reasonably high, given that Connor McCaffery is currently a walk-on despite being a highly-regarded recruit and certainly good enough to deserve a scholarship. It's certainly possible that Fran could leave him as a walk-on and continue to pay his tuition himself; that would give him even more flexibility in using these scholarships. That said, as we're seeing right now it's very hard to keep 13 scholarship athletes happy with their roles on the team; that gets even harder when you have scholarship-worthy players as walk-ons too. There's also the question of how a basketball scholarship would impact McCaffery's status in baseball. The two-sport situations does make things a bit muddier. 

2) Use a scholarship on a 2018 recruit.

Iowa could use one or both of the available scholarships on a current high school senior and member of the 2018 recruiting class. The problem with that, of course, is that this late in the recruiting process it's very hard to find difference-makers. Or, rather, it's very hard for a program like Iowa to land a recruit at this stage who can make an immediate difference. Eight of ESPN's Top 100 are currently unsigned, but odds are they're not looking to sign on with an Iowa team that just went 14-19. The type of recruit Iowa probably could realistically sign at this stage is someone like Maishe Dailey, a late-bloomer and developmental project. No offense to Dailey, who made strides this year and is turning into a decent rotational option, but I don't think it makes sense for Iowa to tie up a scholarship in a Class of '18 recruit who's likely to take a few years to be able to contribute in a meaningful way. 

3) Use a scholarship on a non-graduate DI transfer (sit-out transfer). 

Iowa could also use one or both available scholarships on players transferring from other schools. The transfer merry-go-round spins more and more every season and while Iowa hasn't spent much time on that merry-go-round under Fran, they would be wise to consider all possibilities when it comes to improving the quality of this roster. The lowest priority option when it comes to transfers should be players who would have to sit out a year per the NCAA's current transfer policy. Iowa should be focused on getting players who can help immediately and transfers who have to sit out a year don't help that effort. If we're talking about someone like Jarrod Uthoff, sure, make an exception -- a player that good is well worth the cost of not being able to provide immediate help. Beyond a player of that ilk, though, Iowa should probably avoid transfers who need to sit out a year. 

4) Use a scholarship on a JUCO transfer. 

Another transfer possibility would be to look at the JUCO ranks. Iowa has done that sparingly under Fran, with little success to show for it. Bryce Cartwright provided an immediate boost for Iowa in Fran's first two seasons in charge and, honestly, a veteran point guard like that would be an ideal addition to this team. Iowa's other forays into the JUCO market, Trey Dickerson and Dale Jones, didn't fare so well, although in Jones' case it was down to some incredibly poor luck with injuries more than anything else. The state of Iowa has no shortage of JUCO talent, either, thanks to places like Indian Hills, Kirkwood, and DMACC. The Des Moines Register's Matthew Bain assembled a list of the state's top JUCO talent a few weeks ago, which is worth perusing. And, obviously, Iowa can (and should) look at JUCO talent outside of Iowa as well. 

5) Use a scholarship on a graduate transfer. 

The final transfer option is probably the most appealing: adding a player through the graduate transfer option, i.e. a player who has graduated from his previous institution but still has athletic eligibility remaining. Iowa basketball hasn't added any players through that approach, although Iowa football has, with some success (hello, Ron Coluzzi). The advantage of a grad transfer is that you can get an experienced player who can provide an immediate boost to your team and do so without typing up a scholarship for multiple seasons. 

Testudo Times has a lengthy list of graduate transfer options available here and Bain ran down a few of the most enticing options for Iowa in an article for The Des Moines Register this week. Despite Ahmad Wagner's departure, Iowa still has a bevy of options in the front court between Tyler Cook, Luka Garza, Cordell Pemsl, Jack Nunge, Ryan Kriener, and Nicholas Baer, so they probably don't need to look for more help up front for now. (If Cook opts to stay in the NBA Draft, of course, that could change.) While Joe Wieskamp and C.J. Frederick will be coming next fall to give Iowa more options in the back court, help at the guard positions remains Iowa's biggest need for 2018-19, so focusing their efforts on a grad transfer guard seems like the best approach. Fordham's Joseph Cartouny particularly intrigues among the listed options -- he's a 6-3, 205 lb point guard who averaged 12.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 4.6 apg, and 3.3 spg while making the Atlantic 10 All-Defensive Team. A guard with size and legit defensive chops? That's music to our ears. His 37.1% field goal percentage (and 28.4% three-point percentage) isn't, but every option we consider is going to have some flaws. 

6) Sit on the scholarship(s) and use them next year. 

Finally, Iowa could always just... do nothing with the available scholarships. It's hard to find value among '18 recruits at this point and there's no guarantee of success with JUCO or grad transfer players. Iowa could simply bank the scholarships and use them next year on recruits with more upside. This is really only an option if you're considering using one of the available scholarships on a player with eligibility beyond the 2018-19 season, though. Using a scholarship on a graduate transfer player this year, for instance, would still leave that scholarship available for next year -- and you'd get the benefit of that grad transfer playing for you in 2018-19. 

What do you think Iowa should do with their newly available scholarships? Feel free to review the scholarship distribution chart on our site (newly updated!) and hit up the comments to voice your opinion. 

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