November 9, 2011

Big day for Iowa Basketball

Fran McCaffery knew when he took the head coaching position at the University of Iowa that it might take a year to get his feet on the ground.

He knew that it would take hiring the right people and more importantly, McCaffery knew he would have to build relationships and trust among the prospects, their parents, and their high school and AAU coaches.

McCaffery did just that and on Wednesday morning the fax machine will be humming in Carver-Hawkeye arena as he receives the signed letters of intent from five prospects that he hopes will become cornerstones of his program in the future.

With three top 2012 prospects playing on the All Iowa Attack/Martin Brothers AAU team, McCaffery knew that Marcus Paige, Mike Gesell, and Adam Woodbury would be top priorities. He knew there would be competition for all three prospects and McCaffery also knew that he would have to outwork the competition on the recruiting trail.

The Hawkeye head coach didn't end up with a perfect batting average with the trio, as Paige, who is 41st ranked prospect in the Class of 2012, will sign with North Carolina on Wednesday. But, the number of AAU games play by this trio during the July evaluation period can be counted on one hand and that made a difference as Adam Woodbury, ranked #42 in the Class of 2012, and Mike Gesell, ranked #96 in this class, will officially become Hawkeyes on Wednesday morning.

Landing Woodbury, a 7 footer from Sioux City East High School, and Gesell, a 6-foot guard who hails from just across the Missouri River in South Sioux City, NE, makes a strong statement for McCaffery on the recruiting trail.

"Anybody who wants to be able to rebuild a program wants to be able to recruit the state, region and local summer power's best players," said basketball recruiting analyst Eric Bossi. "While the Hawkeyes couldn't close on the area's top player, Marcus Paige, they were able to get the next two players and neither is a slouch. It's a big development and certainly keeps Iowa very relevant with local talent."

The duo who have spent countless hours on bus rides all across the country, plan to spend the afternoon with each other. Woodbury will travel to South Sioux City High School in the middle of the afternoon for a press conference at Gesell's school. Then they will head to Sioux City East, where Woodbury will have his signing day ceremony. Then the duo, along with their parents, will head out for a celebratory dinner.

"I'm just so excited for this day to finally be here," Woodbury said. "I really enjoyed the recruiting process and getting the opportunity to meet so many great coaches, but being a Hawkeye is a dream come true for me."

For Gesell, signing day will be extra special as he celebrates his 18th birthday.

"It's my birthday, so that makes this day extra special," Gesell said. "I've been dreaming about this day for a long time. I was thinking about it today, back in elementary school I was dreaming about getting the opportunity to win state championships and then playing college basketball and now it's finally here."

Joining Woodbury and Gesell in this class are Kyle Meyer, a 6-foot-10 forward from Georgia, Patrick Ingram, a 6-foot-2 guard from Indiana, and Anthony Clemons, a 6-foot-1 point guard from Michigan. currently has Iowa's class ranked #25 in the country and Bossi says Iowa fills their needs with their five signees.

"I think that it covers pretty much everything they needed to get. They've got size, skill, toughness and some doses of athleticism. Whenever you solidify both your backcourt and frontcourt, it's tough to be anything but happy about your results," Bossi said.

In terms of Big Ten schools, Iowa currently ranks fourth behind Indiana (#2 in the country), Michigan (#4 in the country), and Michigan State (15th in the country).

"A lot can change depending on announcements over the next couple of days, but Iowa's class is probably in the top 25-30 range," Bossi said. "Looking at the Big Ten, Indiana and Michigan both have top five classes nationally at the moment. Then Michigan State has a solid class -- that could really improve if they land Gary Harris -- and there's Iowa."

In Woodbury, Iowa is getting a legit 7-footer who isn't afraid to mix it up in the post. While he's not a high riser, he plays a physical brand of basketball and the natural lefty can finish with either hand around the hoop.

Gesell is a scoring point guard who plays with maximum effort whenever he is on the court. With the graduation of Bryce Cartwright following this season, Coach McCaffery will hand the point guard keys to Gesell once he arrives on campus next fall. Gesell is a very good shooter from the outside with a deadly mid-range game and above average passing skills.

Meyer is a classic face up four man in McCaffery's offense. He has the size to shoot over defenders and will be effective in pick and pop situations on offense.

Ingram brings toughness to the table from the guard position. He plays with the junk yard dog type mentality on the floor and will get after opponents on defense. While he hasn't been asked to be a primary scorer in his career, he's more than capable of putting points on the board.

Lastly, Clemons gives Iowa added depth in the backcourt from a ball handling perspective and is a classic lead guard that will get after you defensively and is an underrated shooter and scorer.

Gesell and Woodbury are already excited about this year's Iowa team having watched them go through practice and workouts this fall. They see a team that is building from Coach McCaffery's first year at Iowa and the duo is very excited to be part of the future of Hawkeye Basketball.

"This year's team is going to surprise some people," Woodbury said. "Our class is going to help to continue to build the program and I'm excited to be part of it. Our goal will be win a lot of games and make a run in the NCAA Tournament during my time at Iowa."

'We will come in with a great group of players already there and our class will just add to that," Gesell said. "We are both excited to be part of what I hope will be a very special time for Iowa Basketball."

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