Brandon Hutton always liked Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery. Then, the Chicago forward watched him work.
McCaffery displayed his usual fiery sideline demeanor Saturday night when Hutton visited Carver-Hawkeye Arena for the Hawkeyes game against Illinois. Despite Iowa's 66-63 loss, the prospect was sold.
"What made me want to choose Iowa was me seeing Coach McCaffery live; him coaching," Hutton said. "You could just see that he gives all of his players opportunity, freshmen to the seniors. And you can just see the fire within his coaching. It's just like he's out there playing with his players. I can really see myself playing for that man one day."
Hutton verbally committed to McCaffery on Sunday. The 6-foot-6, 210-pound forward played his freshman season at Simeon High before transferring to De La Salle. He's run with the Illinois Stars AAU program.
Hutton also reports scholarship offers from Wisconsin and West Virginia, among others. Illinois, Indiana, Virginia and Xavier also are showing interest.
"I was thinking on (committing) for a while before I went down there (to visit Iowa)," Hutton said. "When I went down there, it was kind of a seal-the-deal."
Hutton recently helped De La Salle upset Mount Carmel, 67-62, in overtime in the Chicago Catholic League Upper Championship game. The Meteors previously knocked off St. Joseph and Fenwick despite entering the CCA playoffs with a .500 record.
"(Hutton) has a 38-inch vertical and he's a lock-down defender," Illinois Stars Coach Mike Cieperski said. "He can guard multiple positions. We put him on some of the best point guards in the country, and he shut then down. He's the best defender in high school basketball."
Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery and his staff have worked hard in recruiting Chicago since they took over the program in 2010. Hutton is the first prospect from the area to pledge to the Hawkeyes. They finished second to Kentucky for point guard Tyler Ulis last year.
"I play with that fire and that's something that me and Coach McCaffery have similar," Hutton said. "I think we both have that fire about the game and just want to win. I think that he and everybody there will accept me. I see that family bond that me and Coach McCaffery has just like with all the players there."
On his previous visit to Iowa back in the fall, Hutton spoke with Hawkeye junior Josh Oglesby. They talked about what it's was like playing at Iowa.
"That was around the time when he was just coming off his injury," Hutton said. "He was just telling me about how he and Coach McCaffery have a close bond. They get along very well and Coach McCaffery is a hard-working coach and he loved playing for him."
McCaffery has built his roster with players that he can plug in at multiple positions. He told Hutton he sees that ability with him.
"He thinks I have a versatile game," Hutton said. "He said he can use me as a guard or a wing player. He said he can put me all over the floor and I can get the job done. I feel like ever time I step on the floor, I will give Coach McCaffery and all the Iowa fans 110 percent of my effort each and every game."
While Hutton carries the tag of defensive stopper, he doesn't want that to imply that he can't contribute on the other end of the floor.
"It's not that my defensive game is ahead of my offensive game, it's just that I'm that good at defense," Hutton said of his reputation. "I'm still coming along with my offensive game but I can give you 20 points. I can give it to you off of the dribble, pulling up or a drive with me being a slasher. I can slash to the hole and put it on someone's head with a dunk. I think I'm a highlight reel."
McCaffery closed the deal with Hutton. Assistant Andrew Francis constructed the foundation during the Hawkeyes' pursuit of the talented forward.
"Coach Francis is an outstanding recruiter," Hutton said. "He was a guy that called me every day to see how I was doing. He would even call me in the morning on my way to school to see if I did my homework. He's an outstanding guy and we built a great relationship. That's another person that played a big part in me coming to Iowa."
Iowa has shown interest in Hutton's Illinois Stars teammates. The Hawkeyes have offered K.J. Santos and are evaluating Christian Romine, among others. They've also extended opportunities to Chicago area players like St. Joseph's Glynn Watson and Jordan Ash as well as Joseph Toye, who visited Iowa again on Saturday.
Hutton and Toye played AAU together before the latter moved on to Meanstreets. Hutton has faced Watson and Ash in the CCA.
"We're not really that close but we are cordial and we do talk a little bit when we see each other," Hutton said of Toye. "He is a great guy. Glynn and Jordan are great guys, too.
"I would just tell those guys just to pay attention to the opportunity Coach McCaffery gives his guys and to just pay attention to how much fire and desire that man has to coach. It stands out like a sore thumb."
Hutton is a guy continuing to rise up the prospect rankings. Other programs likely will check the strength of his Iowa commitment all the way up to signing day in November.
"I feel like this is it," Hutton said. "It's over. It's sealed. You can throw it in the vault. This is the decision. I think it's one of the best decisions I've made in my life. I'm very sure about it."
McCaffery had three scholarships to use in the '15 with the anticipated graduations of Aaron White, Josh Oglesby and Gabe Olaseni next season. He also had two rides left this spring, one of which went to JUCO Point Guard Trey Dickerson, who verbally committed Saturday on his official visit.
So, if McCaffery adds someone else this spring or summer (high school senior, junior college or other transfer), that leaves two scholarships for '15. If Dickerson finishes the '14 class, the program still can sign three in November.
Hop in at about the two-minute mark of this video to check out Hutton: