Courtney Eldridge has known Iowa basketball coach Fran McCaffery for a very long time.
He was one of McCaffery's best players nearly two decades ago when he served as the head coach at North Carolina-Greensboro and has known McCaffery’s sons, Connor and Patrick, since they were babies.
"I have pictures of me holding them when they were small," Eldridge said while speaking at the Davenport Grid Club’s weekly luncheon on Monday. "To see them now is astonishing."
They’ve grown quite a bit. Patrick is now 6-foot-9, Connor is 6-5. Both will play for the Hawkeyes this season.
And now Fran McCaffery also is giving Eldridge a chance to grow and develop in the coaching profession.
After three years as Iowa’s video coordinator, the 39-year-old Eldridge is transitioning to a new role as the program’s director of recruiting and player development. He started in that job on August 1.
Now, instead of working with assistant coaches to devise game plans, he is assisting them in identifying talent and taking the steps necessary to import more of it into the Iowa program.
"I’m looking forward to bringing in the next set of Hawkeyes," Eldridge said.
Eldridge will not be out on the road recruiting in his new position, but he’ll be working behind the scenes to organize and orchestrate the activities of those who are.
“I’m helping finalize coaches’ recruiting schedules, who they need to see, when they can see them," Eldridge said. "The coaches are out on the road right now. Coach McCaffery flew out this morning, Coach (Billy) Taylor flew out this morning, Coach (Sherm) Dillard has been out on the road since yesterday. Those guys are all over the place. They need me to be their eyes and ears for who they need to see and when."
Eldridge is uncertain exactly how many players Iowa will sign in the 2020 recruiting class. It will have at least three scholarships available for incoming players, and if senior guard Jordan Bohannon ends up playing this season, it would have four. There’s also the chance that other players could transfer or turn pro, opening other vacancies.
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Bohannon underwent hip surgery in May and is pain-free now. He is working out on a treadmill and doing some things in the pool, but Eldridge said he still doesn’t know if Bohannon will play this season.
"All I know is he’s working hard with the physical therapy to try to get back to where he needs to be," Eldridge said. "Pretty much only time will tell."
Bohannon’s status will impact how many players the Hawkeyes sign. They currently have only one commitment for the November early signing period — Chicago area point guard Ahron Ulis.
"We’re not sure if we’ll need three, four or even five," Eldridge said. "We’ll examine that after the season and kind of see what happens. The turnover in college basketball has been kind of hectic the last few seasons with over 800 transfers. If that happens, we need to search the market and see what is the best route for us."
Iowa has not been as active in the transfer market as many other programs. It signed its first graduate transfer ever this summer when Bakari Evelyn came over from Valparaiso to play his final season at Iowa.
Eldridge hinted that we may see more transfers in Iowa City in the future.
"That’s an interesting market and it’s something teams in our league are exploiting," he said. "That’s one of the reasons we kind of need to look into it. There’s some good players out there who could possibly help us."
Eldridge is originally from Boston and played basketball for 12 years in five different countries overseas. He was amazed at the enthusiasm and support he found when he first moved to Iowa a few years ago.
"I’d never seen anything like it," he said.
He admitted he would like to bring in more talent from the East Coast and other areas outside the Midwest. It’s just a matter of educating those players on where Iowa is and what it’s about.
"They think this is Idaho or Ohio or something," he said. "It’s like they know Chicago and then California. They don’t know those states in between. But once they get here they fall in love with the place."