Fran McCaffery still doesn’t know exactly what Tyler Cook and Isaiah Moss are planning to do.
Here is what he does know: If they opt to return to the University of Iowa basketball program, they will come back as better players than they were before.
Both Cook and Moss have entered their names into the pool for the NBA draft following improved sophomore seasons with the Hawkeyes. However, since neither of them has hired an agent, both can opt to return to college if they decide to do so before the end of the month.
Moss has all but said he will be back in an Iowa uniform. Cook’s status is less clear, but it’s very possible he will be back, too.
"No question, they’ll come back a lot better as a result of this experience," McCaffery said Thursday during Iowa’s annual caravan event at the Waterfront Convention Center. "There’s no question about that. It’s just incredibly valuable feedback that you don’t normally get."
Players going through the draft process get formal evaluations from NBA scouts and also have the opportunity to go through individual workouts with teams.
McCaffery said he did not think Moss had any workouts scheduled, but Cook has been trying to schedule his around this week’s final exams at Iowa. He worked out for the Oklahoma City Thunder last week and was auditioning with the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday. He has four more scheduled, including the dates with the Houston Rockets and Brooklyn Nets.
"You always want to play in the NBA; you want to know what they think of you, and they tell you," McCaffery said. "If you come back, then you know a few things that ‘OK, if I do this a little bit differently I’ll move up.’ If either of them kill a workout, then they might make some money this year."
Neither Cook or Moss was among the 69 players invited to next week’s NBA combine, which is a strong indicator they are not likely to be drafted.
McCaffery said he thinks Cook, in particular, has a chance to be a very high draft choice at some point in the future, but the coach told the gathered fans Thursday during a question-and-answer period that he likes the professional manner with which Cook has approached the process.
"It’s not what we think or what we think he should do …" McCaffery said. "If somebody offers him a million bucks, I wouldn’t stand there and tell him not to take it …
"The good thing is he has really intelligent parents who are going to give him good advice. There is no one in his ear telling him he needs to go."
As for the players he knows he has back, McCaffery said they have spent most of the off-season doing drills to correct the frequent defensive lapses that led to a 14-19 record last season.
"We did a lot of skill development stuff — on-ball defense, rotations, help, help recover, stay in your stance, blockouts," he said. "All those kinds of things are fundamental, but they need to get better so you break it down and then you put it all back together."
He also admitted he is eager to get Muscatine star Joe Wieskamp integrated with the returning players.
"He’s a guy that you can utilize in a lot of different ways," McCaffery said. "You think about him as a 3 or a 2 or an undersized 4 or he can bring it down. As everybody sort of moves to position-less basketball … with him he’s got incredible flexibility. So I’m just really excited to get him on campus, and it will be pretty soon."
Thursday’s event in Bettendorf also included appearances by Iowa women’s basketball coach Lisa Bluder, assistant wrestling coach Terry Brands and football coach Kirk Ferentz, who said it’s important to get out every spring and mingle with the masses.
"Especially in a state like ours and a program like ours where we rely so heavily on grassroots support …" he said. "I think it’s really important to get out and say hello and also say thank you to people who have been so generous."