Atwood would have been coup for Hawkeyes

Power forward was an offensive force in junior college

Published: April 24 2014 | 2:53 pm - Updated: 24 April 2014 | 3:48 pm in Sports, Sports Rotator, The Hlog by Mike Hlas,

Willie Atwood made 33 free throws in a game last season.

I kid you not. The 6-foot-8 power forward was 33-of-37 from the line last Nov. 13 in Connors State College’s 90-87 loss at Independence Community College. <URL destination="http://connorsathletics.com/2013/11/13/wood-scores-49-but-cowboys-fall-to-independence-90-87/">He had a school-record 49 points.

</URL>But that was just one game, right? Well, the 6-foot-8 power forward shot 19 or more free throws in four other games. He had 349 foul shots over 30 games, an average of 11.7 tries per outing.

No, it wasn’t some Hack-a-Shaq deal because the guy couldn’t shoot straight. He made 270, for 77.4 percent.

That, as much as Atwood’s season-averages of 20.8 points and 9.0 rebounds, should provide the most enthusiasm at Arizona State about the player’s commitment there. Iowa was one of his three final choices.

But how you gonna keep ‘em down on the farm after they’ve seen Tempe?

Even though “junior college player” still comes with a stigma in many fans’ minds, Iowa would have done very well to land this third-team National Junior College Athletic Association All-American from the school in tiny Warner, Okla.

Touted high school basketball recruits come with a lot of fanfare. Junior college recruits tend to slip in unnoticed.

But you never know when you’ve struck gold with a juco. Forward Dustin Hogue was a revelation for Iowa State last season, and former juco Jameel McKay is expected to be a prominent Cyclone next winter. Minnesota won the NIT with a juco transfer, DeAndre Matthieu, starting at point guard.

The only former Iowa Hawkeye in the NBA, Reggie Evans, arrived from a Kansas junior college, and left Iowa City a professional-to-be who struck fear into all sorts of Big Ten players in two seasons.

Now, playing against Northeastern Oklahoma A&M and Carl Albert State isn’t the same as competing against Michigan State and Wisconsin. But if you’re a team that needs a pounder to help you right away next season, you’re a lot more likely to get help from a juco with Atwood’s credentials than a freshman.

Junior college transfers are as much a part of college basketball history as fans blaming officials for losses. But they’ve been sort of taboo in the Big Ten for the most part.

Iowa is bringing in juco point guard Trey Dickerson. Minnesota and Penn State have added juco guards to their 2014 recruiting classes. That’s all. It’s the Big Ten.

Iowa, however, has a history of some great success stories with juco imports dating back to Fred Brown and John Johnson from the Hawkeyes’ last outright Big Ten champions, in 1970.

Kevin Gamble, a cog on Iowa’s 30-win team in 1987, was a juco. So were Val Barnes, Jacob Jaacks, Doug Thomas, Justin Johnson and Bryce Cartwright, to name a few. And Evans.

Now Dickerson joins the list. If he had convinced Atwood to join him, what a coup that might have been. So the Hawkeyes look elsewhere.

Maybe “elsewhere” is a player who could start helping them in 2015-16, Cole Huff. The 6-8 forward is transferring from Nevada after two seasons. He is looking at Iowa, Creighton, Dayton and Michigan.

Huff averaged 12.2 points, 5.4 rebounds and 32 minutes per game for the Wolf Pack last season, and totalled 39 points in his final two games with Nevada.


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