Fran McCaffery doesn’t like graduate transfers.
In nine years as the head basketball coach at Iowa, he never has taken advantage of the 13-year-old rule that allows players who have graduated from one university with eligibility remaining to transfer to another school without sitting out a season.
He has accepted only one Division I transfer of any kind — Jarrod Uthoff — and that was really a no-brainer. When you get a chance to get a 6-foot-10 kid with All-American potential and three years of eligibility from just 25 miles up the interstate, you jump at it.
But the idea of bringing in a player from some other school for just one season and possibly messing up your team chemistry? McCaffery would prefer not to do it.
Maybe it’s time.
McCaffery clearly has adjusted his stance on transfers a little bit. The Hawkeyes currently are pursuing three players seeking to move on from other schools.
Notre Dame’s D.J. Harvey, a one-time five-star recruit, checked out the Iowa campus last week. And Marquette defectors Sam and Joey Hauser reportedly are considering the Hawkeyes along with Wisconsin, Virginia and Michigan State.
All of those players would need to sit out next season under NCAA transfer rules. The addition of one, if not all, would brighten Iowa’s fortunes for the 2020-21 season.
But the Hawkeyes suddenly look as though they could use a little help for next season. Adding a graduate transfer would be a great way to do it.
The departure of junior guard Isaiah Moss (as a graduate transfer), along with the loss of Tyler Cook and Maishe Dailey, leaves the roster pretty thin.
The Hawkeyes at this point would have only 10 players on scholarship for next season. Three of them have never played in a college game and two others sat out last season as redshirts.
It still has the look of a solid team. Jordan Bohannon, Joe Wieskamp and Luka Garza are very good players and Ryan Kriener, Connor McCaffery and Cordell Pemsl are solid.
We’ve heard that Jack Nunge and freshman C.J. Fredrick made great strides while sitting out last season but you can’t really be sure what you’re getting from them until you see them on the court in a Big Ten game.
Then there are two incoming freshmen. Patrick McCaffery has a high ceiling but may be 30 pounds away from being a fully effective Big Ten player. Joe Toussaint was rated as the 214th best recruit in the country by 247sports.com.
There isn’t much margin there for error. If those freshmen aren’t ready to make big contributions or if you get some injuries and illnesses, there’s not going to be much depth.
Adding a battle-tested veteran guard who can provide some minutes off the bench and throw in an occasional 3-point shot seems like a prudent move. And it might not disrupt the chemistry that much.
The departure of Moss raised a bit of a red flag regarding the Iowa program. Both Moss and Coach McCaffery said all the right things about the move, but you can’t help but wonder what the real story is.
Most of us expected Cook to enter the NBA draft after he flirted with the idea last spring and Dailey’s transfer to Akron in a quest for more playing time is totally understandable, too.
But Moss had started 96 consecutive games and had been nurtured through numerous bouts of inconsistency over the past three seasons. For him to leave now when he’s entering his final season is a bit of a head-scratcher.
The same is true of the departure of Andrew Francis, who was an assistant coach under McCaffery for three years at Siena and for all nine years at Iowa. He left for what seems to be a lesser job at California.
Moss’ transfer adds some intrigue to what the Hawkeyes’ starting lineup might look like next season.
There already figured to be a battle among Pemsl, Nunge and Kriener to see who replaces Cook as the other starting frontcourt player alongside Garza.
Moss’ replacement figures to come from among Fredrick and the McCaffery brothers. There is enough position flexibility with Wieskamp and Bohannon to accommodate almost any combination.
But it would be nice to have one more capable shooter coming off the bench.
If the Hawkeyes are going to pursue a graduate transfer, it’s something they need to do soon. On a recent ESPN list of the top available grad transfers — it was compiled prior to Moss’ announcement — 19 of the top 30 players already have decided on a destination.
If they wait much longer, there won’t be a lot left to choose from.