By now, I’d guess Hawkeye fans from around the state get the heebie-jeebies when Iowa is in a recruiting contest with other schools for someone from Cedar Rapids-Marion.
Cedar Rapids Washington basketball guard Wes Washpun had no scholarship offers from major-conference schools other than Iowa until Cuonzo Martin moved from Missouri State to Tennessee. Washpun was an Iowa fan. Yet, without ever having stepped foot in Knoxville, Washpun accepted Martin’s invitation to join him at a Tennessee program that could be infested by NCAA sanctions before long through no fault of Martin’s.
There’s something to be said for getting in on a player early. By the way, Washpun can play.
Forward Jarrod Uthoff of Cedar Rapids Jefferson chose Wisconsin over Iowa. He moved to Cedar Rapids from Marengo a few years ago, so he has small-town Iowa roots. Small-town Iowa roots almost never leave the state if an in-state school comes calling. Uthoff chose the program that goes to the NCAA tournament every year instead of not once in the last five years. If he does as well as Jason Bohannon of Linn-Mar in Marion, who took Wisconsin over Iowa, he’ll have had a satisfying college experience.
Another Linn-Mar player, current junior Marcus Paige, was too good for Iowa right now. Just like Harrison Barnes of Ames was too good for Iowa State last year. Just like Kiah Stokes of Linn-Mar was too good for Iowa in women’s basketball.
What that means is, when North Carolina men’s basketball or Connecticut women’s hoops want you, as the first two did with Paige and Barnes and the latter did with Stokes, playing for national-titles and having some amazing experiences like UNC-Duke and UConn-Tennessee games clearly dwarfs trying to help prop teams back into the NCAAs. Whether you agree with that or not doesn’t matter. Those kids feel that way.
Now, Josh Oglesby of Cedar Rapids Washington did stay close to home and signed with Iowa in basketball. So it isn’t impossible to keep the homeys home right now. But Oglesby is optimistic he won’t suffer the same fate as Iowa City’s Matt Gatens, who has been on three straight losing teams entering his senior season at Iowa.
Even in football, Cedar Rapids kids sometimes escape the clutches of Kirk Ferentz. That almost never happens with Iowan players that Ferentz’s staff really want. First, wide receiver Adrian Arrington of Washington went to Michigan. This winter, Christian French of Cedar Rapids Kennedy declared for Oregon. Iowa did well to reel in receiver Keenan Davis two years ago while Davis was getting offers from all sorts of other schools in BCS conferences including Oklahoma and Nebraska.
Why are the Iowa borders so much easier to walk through for Cedar Rapids-area kids than those from elsewhere in the state? Is it a hardscrabble town where “escape” is on every teen’s mind? Not really, though I will tell you I live in C.R. and often pine for Santa Barbara or La Jolla.
I simply think Cedar Rapids has had a phenomenal run of high school athletic talent the last few years. When has UConn worked Iowa for female basketball players in the past? When has North Carolina cared about Iowa boys’ basketball players before the last few years? When has a team sitting at or near the top of the college football ranking like Oregon tried to pull a player out of Eastern Iowa?
Here’s the reality, basketball-wise: If Iowa’s men’s and women’s teams were perennial Top Ten/Final Four threats, it’s hard to imagine a big-time recruit from Iowa ever getting away. Heck, if they were perennial Top 25/Sweet 16 threats, it’s hard to imagine it.
Adding to this: I neglected to mention Jaime Printy of Linn-Mar and Jade Rogers of Cedar Rapids Kennedy are vital cogs of the Iowa women’s team. Duly noted.