With the departure of Hawkeye basketball all-time great Luka Garza to the professional ranks and Jack Nunge to the transfer ranks (good luck at Xavier, Jack!), Iowa men's basketball remains on the hunt for help in the big man department. Depending on how you feel about Keegan Murray (and Kris Murray?) as a "big," Iowa's only returning big next year is set to be freshman Josh Ogundele. Or at least that was the case until last weekend. Now we know there will be at least one more big man option for Fran to call upon next season: incoming freshman Riley Mulvey.
Mulvey verbally committed to Iowa about a month ago and back then he was intending to be a Class of 2022 recruit, meaning that he wouldn't join Iowa for another year-and-a-half. About that...
As he indicates in his tweet, Mulvey has reclassified to the Class of 2021. That makes him a high school senior now and means he can join the Iowa team this year (this summer, to be precise). Mulvey is a 6'11" prospect who's played at St. Thomas More, a prep school in Connecticut, and Albany Academy in New York in recent years. He averaged 12 ppg, 12.4 rpg, and 6.0 bpg for Albany. That last stat -- six blocks per game -- is perhaps the most eye-popping. Corrie Whalen, Mulvey's AAU coach, had high praise for the defensive side of his game, in comments to 247Sports:
“Riley is the consummate quarterback on the basketball team," Mulvey's AAU coach Corrie Whalen previously told 247Sports. "Anytime that we didn’t have Riley, from eighth grade to now, you could see how big of an effect he has on the game on the defensive end. Talking, his presence in the lane, he’s the middle linebacker on the football team. He gets kids in the right spot, talks constantly, and he cleans up everyone’s mistakes. He is that defensive presence that if a college basketball team has, they’re immediately in the conversation as the top program.”
Adding a low-post presence who can provide a boost to Iowa on the defensive end is certainly exciting, given Iowa's problems on that side of the ball in recent years. That said, expectations for Mulvey should probably be tempered at this point, especially when it comes to 2021-22. A month ago he was expecting to be playing out his senior year of high school next winter; now he might be banging with the Big Ten's low-post bruisers.
With Mulvey's decision, Iowa will have at least two bigs to call upon in 2021-22: Muvley, a true freshman, and Ogundele, a freshman who played in eight games this past season, but played just 17 total minutes. That said, Mulvey and Ogundele alone aren't the answers to Iowa's looming big man hole next season. Given their age and inexperience, they're almost certainly going to need some time to develop before they can be relied upon as significant contributors in Iowa's lineups.
To that end, Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery indicated that he intends to get further big man aid for next year's Iowa team via the transfer portal. As Chad Leistikow wrote for The Des Moines Register:
“Right now, (we’re) focused on the guys that are here and then also, trying to see what post players are going to enroll,” McCaffery said.
Note that he used the plural there, players. When asked to clarify, McCaffery said it would “be determined” whether Iowa takes one or two big men from the portal.
Iowa's top transfer target was former Minnesota (and former Drake) big man Liam Robbins. Alas, Robbins is headed to Vanderbilt next season. Iowa is also heavily pursuing North Dakota transfer Filip Rebraca, who averaged 16.8 ppg and 7.6. rpg and shot almost 37% from 3-point range. Links to any transfer targets beyond Robbins and Rebraca haven't been made public at this point. Hopefully Fran can find at least one plug-and-play option in the post for next season. In the meantime, Mulvey continues to represent one of the key future pieces for Iowa's big man rotation -- but now that future will be happening a bit sooner than expected. Welcome to Iowa, Riley.