There we two candidates that I wanted to give the number one nod to. I wrestled with it for a few days and finally decided my mind was made up. Both Tyler Cook and Nicholas Baer were deserving of the number one spot in my eyes, so they share the honor.
Cook is the most touted freshman I can remember since Iowa signed Adam Woodbury and Mike Gesell back in 2012. Cook came in at 99th in Scout's top 100 and performed like a top 100 recruit last Friday night. He totaled 15 points, 6 boards, and 3 steals in 26 minutes in Iowa's win over Regis. He looked strong backing down defenders on the low block and looked good driving to the hoop.
He isn't a finished product yet, but he gave Iowa fans a reason to be excited about him last week considering he was as good as advertised.
At 6'9" and 253 pounds his body is ready for the Big Ten grind. It gets awfully rough down on the low block in Big Ten play and Cook should be ready for it.
He chucked up a couple of three pointers, both of which did not fall, but if he can get that to fall and then combine it with his ability to drive and his ability to play on the low block, he's going to be a force in the Big Ten for a few years. His ability to play on the perimeter along with down low could force bigger, slower defenders to come out and guard him, which helps Iowa in a couple different aspects.
It not only pulls a rim protector away from the basket, but it also wears on a defender having to keep up with a guy that athletic. Cook is going to be fantastic for the Hawkeyes this season.
Your other winner, Nicholas Baer, was the surprise of the season last year.
Baer walked on to the Hawkeye program and redshirted in his first season. Last year, he became a key bench piece for the Hawkeyes providing energy and hustle to a team that lacked both from time to time. His hard work and effort earned him a scholarship over the summer and he enters this year as a starter, according to head coach Fran McCaffery.
He averaged five points and three rebounds last year and shot 50% from the floor, including 61% on two pointers, which was good for third best on the team. He played around 15 minutes per game last year, but probably plays 30 minutes, maybe more, per game this year. He played 25 minutes in Iowa's exhibition contest and recorded 9 points, 7 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 2 steals. He was the exact same Nic Baer that we saw play last season.
With extended minutes, Baer should see his numbers jump up drastically. He'll be an important piece for Fran McCaffery this season if the Hawkeyes hope to return to the NCAA Tournament.