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Rick Brown: McCaffery hot on recruiting trail while Iowa program surges

[ 0 ] February 13, 2014 |

IOWA CITY, Ia. – Fran McCaffery has never been a quick fix kind of guy.

His blueprint for rebuilding basketball programs, which worked in previous stops at Lehigh, North Carolina-Greensboro and Siena, is grounded on long-term results instead of instant gratification. McCaffery’s followed the same path at Iowa, where his teams have seen increasing wins and climbed in the Big Ten standings on an annual basis.

“I just don’t think we’re an institution that would work the other way,” McCaffery said. “Not in this league, not at Iowa.”

After being absent from the polls for seven consecutive seasons, the Hawkeyes have been ranked for the past 12 weeks. Standing at 18-6 overall and 7-4 in the Big Ten heading into Saturday’s game at Penn State, McCaffery’s 16th-ranked team has received a ton of national attention as the season has unfolded.

Iowa coach Fran McCaffery has used this week to hit the recruiting trail. (Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY Sports photo)

Iowa coach Fran McCaffery has used this week to hit the recruiting trail. (Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY Sports photo)

That’s not a bad thing, with two scholarships to give and national media providing a million dollars’ worth of free publicity. Tuesday’s game at Indiana will be Iowa’s fifth on ESPN this season, providing more attention.

“Well, you’re talking to guys on the phone and they’re watching the games,” McCaffery said. “It’s right there. It’s in the conversation.”

Iowa is poised to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006. This team will lose leading scorer Devyn Marble and experienced forwards Melsahn Basabe and Zach McCabe. But McCaffery’s blueprint is rooted in staying power.

“You never want to be satisfied,” McCaffery said. “We feel really good about a lot of things we’ve accomplished this year, but clearly we have a lot of goals left.”

Recruiting is the ultimate key to sustaining success. McCaffery finished second to Kentucky in the recruitment of point guard Tyler Ulis. But he did sign Brady Ellingson, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard from Sussex, Wis., and Dominique Uhl, a 6-9 forward from Point Pleasant Beach, N.J

So where does McCaffery go with his two available rides? He’s said that all options are open, from high school players to junior college players to transfers to fifth-year guys. The junior-college route seems to be the direction he’s heading now.

Iowa players had Wednesday off from practice, but McCaffery was busy. First he headed to Warner, Okla. There, he offered a scholarship to Willie Atwood, a 6-foot-8 power forward at Connors State Community College. Then he headed to Williston, N.D., to watch Trey Dickerson, a point guard at Williston State College. McCaffery called Dickerson Thursday and offered him a scholarship, too. Both players confirmed the offers on Twitter.

Some compare Atwood to Reggie Evans. That is a compliment to Atwood.

Evans came to Iowa from Coffeyville Community College in Kansas, and was a double-double machine for two seasons. Now playing for the Brooklyn Nets in his 12th NBA season, Evans averaged 15.1 points and 11.9 rebounds as a junior at Iowa in 2000-01, and 15.4 points and 11.1 rebounds as a senior.

The scouting report on Atwood is that he brings a degree of toughness to the floor, something the current Hawkeyes team could use. Atwood is considered a better offensive player than Evans, who also brought his two Hawkeye teams some toughness.

Iowa offered guard Trey Dickerson on Thursday. Dickerson, shown playing for Price High School in Los Angeles in March 2012, could fit the Hawkeyes' up-tempo style. (AP file photo)

Iowa offered guard Trey Dickerson, top, on Thursday. Dickerson, shown playing for Price High School in Los Angeles in March 2012, could fit the Hawkeyes’ up-tempo style. (AP file photo)

Atwood, who is from Memphis, Tenn., is averaging 20.3 points and 9.2 rebounds. He’s scored 20 points or more in nine games while shooting 56 percent from the floor and 78.3 percent from the free-throw line. He also has offers from schools such as Wichita State, Florida State, Arizona State, Auburn, and TCU.

Dickerson, a 6-foot point guard and native of Queens, N.Y., is averaging 19.9 points and 5.9 assists while shooting 33.3 percent from 3-point range. Dickerson’s quickness with the ball, which would perfectly fit with Iowa’s fast-break approach, and his passing ability are considered strengths.

Dickerson originally committed to Murray State over Rutgers and Arkansas, but had second thoughts and decommitted. He ended up at Williston State and after going Division I will have three seasons of eligibility remaining. He also has offers from Alabama-Birmingham and Nebraska.

Dickerson and Atwood visited Murray State at the same time, and struck a friendship. Now, the two are talking about signing with the same Division I program. Iowa hopes to have them make their official visits to Iowa City at the same time.

McCaffery logged 2,028 air miles on Wednesday. All for two scholarship offers, and one goal: Making sure his blueprint for success lasts for more than one season.

Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball

About Rick Brown: Rick Brown covers men's basketball for The Des Moines Register and Hawk Central. He's married and the father of two. He also covers golf for the Register. View author profile.

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