IOWA HAWKEYE BASKETBALL PLAYER PREVIEWS: Jack Nunge

By Patrick Vint on November 24, 2020 at 5:00 am
Nunge, reachin'
© Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen, Iowa City Press-Citizen via Imagn Content Services, LLC
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JACK NUNGE

VITALS
Height: 6'11"
Weight: 245
Class: Sophomore (RS) (somehow)
High School: Castle
Hometown: Newburgh, Ind.
GIA Nickname That Won't Catch On Anywhere: Jack Grungy

THE PAST
YEAR MIN PTS AST REB BLK TO OFF EFF eFG
2019-20 7.1% 6.0 1.8 4.6 0.0 1.2 94.6 40.9
2018-19 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
2017-18 38.9% 5.7 1.0 2.8 0.8 1.0 107.8 50.7

It's been a really, really strange three years for Nunge in Iowa City.  Consider this: Nunge was in Luka Garza's recruiting class.  He was the Kenpom MVP in his third game in black and gold, a 17/7/2 performance off the bench against Grambling State.  He started seven Big Ten games that year.  Seven!

He hasn't played in one since.  Nunge redshirted the following season, stuck in a logjam of forwards.  Last year, he returned as a starter, posted double-digits in scoring twice in the season's first five games -- and then suffered a torn ACL, ending his season.

So that's it.  Three years on campus, embedded in the program, but Nunge arguably hasn't played in a meaningful game since March 1, 2018.

THE FUTURE

So, is Nunge a starter now?

It depends a little on where he is as a player, and a lot on where Iowa is as a team.  There's certainly some room for Nunge right now.  Ryan Kriener didn't quite have the inside-out game of Nunge, but had a similar frame and got plenty of minutes last year.  He's gone, as is Cordell Pemsl.  Freshman Josh Ogundele comes in at 6'10", but looks initially like a project.  That role is available.

That role also was not a starting spot for most of last year.  Iowa shifted to a three-guard setup, with Joe Wieskamp ostensibly as a power forward.  Where Nunge redshirted due to a glut of frontcourt players, now it's a logjam in the backcourt on Iowa's roster.  If the Iowa frontcourt rotation is only for two spots, those are taken.  Wieskamp and Garza have to play, obviously, and Garza's dominance in the interior lends itself to running the offense through him and positioning shooters around the outside. 

Nunge could well be one of those -- he's always been touted as the "stretch four" that Fran McCaffery needs -- if his shot is consistent enough.  Having another interior defender who can also contribute from the outside or grab a rebound would help.  But there's also the question of whether Nunge is that guy on this team.  Patrick McCaffery is a national top 50 recruit who spent last year getting stronger, and who essentially plays the same position.  

I think you'll see Iowa take advantage of the surplus of talent and mix-and-match the lineup.  It's not McCaffery's usual move -- the starters are usually the starters, unless injured -- but he can go big when needed against the teeth of the conference.  That could mean spot starts for Nunge, or a pure sixth-man bench role with ample minutes backing up Garza and Wieskamp both.  Regardless of how the depth chart works out, let's just hope Jack stays healthy and gets to play out the season.  He's more than earned the chance.

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