Good news, friends! Iowa's big man crisis is slightly less crisis-y tonight. Transfer target Filip Rebraca confirmed that he's headed to Iowa for the 2021-22 season.
Rebraca, listed at 6'9", 222 lbs, comes to Iowa from Serbia, by way of a three-year stint at North Dakota. He made an instant impact with the Fighting Hawks and started 74 of 87 games during his three years in Grand Forks. For his career, Rebraca averaged 13 ppg and 7.5 rpg, while converting 54% of his attempts from the floor and 33% of his attempts from 3-point range. This season, Rebraca averaged 16.8 ppg and 7.6 rpb, while 51% of his shot attempts and 37% of his 3-point tries.
Rebraca has been billed as something of a stretch four, able to play both down low and hit shots from the perimeter, but we may want to pump the brakes on that, at least for the moment. He attempted a grand total of 78 shots from beyond the arc at UND, highlighted by 41 tries this season. By way of comparison, Luka Garza attempted 327 three-pointers in his four seasons at Iowa. Jack Nunge hoisted 118 long-range efforts in 60 games over three seasons. Rebraca certainly has some long-range shooting aptitude -- 36% from deep as a freshman and a junior is notable, even if the sample sizes (28 and 41 tries, respectively) are small -- and perhaps being part of Iowa's motion offense will unlock more deep-shooting volume from him. He'll certainly be encouraged to attempt more than the roughly one three-pointer per game average he posted at North Dakota.
Several major conference schools were vying for Rebraca when he entered the transfer portal, including Minnesota, South Carolina, Stanford, Virginia Tech, Maryland, and Utah. His choice came down to two Big Ten squads, Iowa and Minnesota. He opted for the Hawkeyes over the Gophers due to the stability and culture in Iowa City, as he told The Des Moines Register:
“There were a lot of schools that I could have seen myself at, but the top two were Iowa and Minnesota,” Rebraca said. “The reason I chose Iowa is because of the combination of culture, coaches and the team. They do things the right way and I want to be a part of that. Not saying Minnesota doesn’t, but I think (Iowa) is a better overall fit.”
In addition to his scoring ability on offense, Rebraca could help Iowa on the defensive end as well. He had 76 blocks at North Dakota and should help at least a little bit with Iowa's rim protection efforts on defense. And if (when) he gets called for some bullshit fouls because, well, Big Ten refs gonna Big Ten ref, at least he has a clever way to avoid getting a technical foul when he complains to the refs, as The Des Moines Register noted:
Rebraca told the Jamestown Sun that he keeps his roots close, as when he feels the need to argue with an official over a call, he does so in Serbian.
“I just don’t want them to hear me complain in English,” Rebraca told the Jamestown Sun. “They can’t call (a technical) if they don’t understand what I’m saying.”
Look, there are certainly some question marks about this move. The jump from the Summit League to the Big Ten is not an insignificant one; how much of Rebraca's production at the former level will translate to the latter? TBD. Likewise, at 6'9", 222 lbs, no one is going is to be mistaking Rebraca for Luka Garza in the paint. But Rebraca is an experienced, productive player who understands the rigors of Division I basketball. Iowa desperately needed big men with Garza and Nunge departing and Rebraca can certainly help fill that void. His presence should also keep Iowa from having to rely too heavily on freshmen big men Josh Ogundele and Riley Mulvey, which is a positive. He also has two years of eligibility remaining, so he could help Iowa in both the 2021-22 and 2022-23 seasons.
Welcome to Iowa, Filip. We're looking forward to seeing what you can do in black and gold next winter.