November 14, 2012
McCaffery talks about Peter Jok
There was a time when Peter Jok was mentioned among the top prospects in the country in the Class of 2013 prospects. Then the injuries hit, but Fran McCaffery kept watching and stayed patient. That paid off today when Iowa signed Jok to a letter of intent. McCaffery goes in-depth about signing Jok and the evaluation process as he returned from a serious injury.
Q: Peter Jok was one of the best athletes in the state of Iowa a few years ago before his injury. What did you do to keep those lines of communication open with him and how did it all come down this fall.
McCAFFERY: it was sort of on-going. When I got here, he was one of the first people that I reached out to and we were fortunate enough to get him on campus and build the relationship that way. We had him up for some football and basketball games and then we got to see him play at various tournaments and we would go up to school and see him. We saw him at both high schools that he attended. I remember watching in a game where he was clearly struggling as a sophomore. He was not himself. He struggled through because he had thinking surgery and he has some sort of rehab. Then he had the surgery and the rehab didn't go as he had hoped. It was at that point when he wasn't playing much that a lot of people lost track of him a little bit and they weren't sure what he was doing. We just kept talking to him and going to see him. I remember going to see him and he didn't play well, but I had seen him play prior to that, so I knew how good he was.
Then as he started getting healthy again, you saw the real Peter Jok. You are evaluating a lot of different things when you are recruiting and athletic ability is one of them. I am a basketball coach and I need to recruit good basketball players. He can pass it. He can handle it. He can really shoot it. He understands how to play in the pick and roll. He can play fast or in the half court. He can post up and he can rebound. He really has a complete skill set and as we have seen his athletic ability come back in the last six months, now you are talking about somebody who has a chance to be really special.
Q: You always talked about banking this scholarship for this year. At one point did you specifically zero in on Peter Jok?
McCAFFERY: It was as the summer went on. We watched him in a couple of different situations and it was pretty clear that not only was he back physically, but he had his swagger back. That went away for a while. He was so dominant and then he couldn't make the kind of moves he wanted to make and he was frustrated. I have really been impressed with how mature he handled his situation. We just kept watching him because we believed in him. I thought he played really well this summer. Then we went up and watch him again when school started and every time either myself or Coach Speraw, or Coach Francis, or Coach Dillard saw him, he was better than the last time.
We did our due diligence with regard to his injury in fairness to the program and this institution and without question he has done everything he needs to do. His surgery is behind him and we are absolutely ecstatic that he will be joining the Hawkeye family.
Q: Peter used to play with Gesell and Woodbury a little bit with the All Iowa Attack. Is that part of your recruiting philosophy to get guys that have played together before and does that put those player a step ahead?
McCAFFERY: I think when we first started going after Mike and Adam and of course we were recruiting Marcus (Paige) on that team. We looked at other guys on that team. We were recruiting Mading Thok for a while. We felt like we needed to analyze thoroughly who we wanted on our team and we were thrilled to get Adam and Mike. As you go to the next class, it is nice that they played together and that they have familiarity with each other and that they really enjoy each other's company. They like playing together, so that's a positive. In regards to making a decision, especially in a year when we only had one scholarship, it is a lot more than that. He had to pass the test in our minds that this is a Big Ten player that will help us win a championship. In fairness to him, if we felt anything other than that, then we shouldn't recruit him and he should go somewhere else. I think throughout the process he appreciated it. He knew what we were doing and he just kept plugging away. The relationship was strong between us and his family and we are happy the way it ended.
Q: How much of a log jam does it create at the 3 or 4 spot for you?
McCAFFERY: I don't look at it as a log jam. Every school has 13 scholarships and they have 13 guys who expect to play. That is what we have. I don't view it as a log jam. He can play four positions, so I don't worry about him.
Q: As far as how he fits in, do you see him as a Devyn Marble type player? Athletic shooter who can help you and he can fill that role.
McCAFFERY: His game is a little bit different than Devyn. I think it would be great if they could play together at times or they could play one behind the other. The thing about Peter is he is a really good three point shooter. He might not be as much off the dribble as Devyn, because he is really good at getting to the rim, although Peter is pretty good. Peter is a really good passer and can play the point, like Devyn can. So, you put two guys out there that are 6-6 and can pretty much do everything. I could see him being the guy who ultimately replaces Devyn and hopefully they will play together for a little bit.
Q: How good has it been for you that in each of your recruiting classes, you have been able to get one of the top players in the state of Iowa?
McCAFFERY: I think it is imperative that we thoroughly analyze the state and make decisions. The unfortunate thing is that there are a lot of good players in the state that we can't take. There are a number of good players out there that would have been good players for us. We try to make the best assessment and the best decision. If you look at our team now with Josh, Jarrod, Eric May, and Zach McCabe and then go on down the line with Peter and Adam. Even though Mike is from Nebraska, he was on the Iowa AAU team. We have Iowa walk-on's, so there is clearly and Iowa presence as there should be on our team. At the same time, it is important that we assess the players and make decisions on guys that are going to be big time Big Ten players.
Q: When you said you did your due diligence on his injury, what goes into that from a coaching perspective?
McCAFFERY: I think it comes down to a real open dialogue with Peter and his family. It starts there. He came down and brought all his information. We had x-rays and MRI's and we had our doctors review it. There was no hesitation whatsoever, which is what we expected. Before they look at that stuff there were phone conversations, so we were fairly certain what we were going to see, but we wanted to be sure. He had the same surgery that Tim McCormick had. He played in the NBA and played at Michigan. Tim was great. He had talked to Peter at the NBA Players Camp about it and said it's a long process. It is longer than an ACL. You start thinking that ACL is the worst you can go through, but this is just different. Probably not worse, but a longer rehab process and I think that was probably frustrating for him because when you are in high school and then all the sudden your career is disrupted for 15-18 months, that is a long time. We were able to gather the information and have an open dialogue. I remember the last time that I saw him, he ran a guy down from the back and pinned a shot above the square and landed funny. He popped right back up and ran right down the floor like nothing happened. It was good to see him go through that experience.
Q: When you went to the open gym back in September and saw him. He mentioned that you had already liked his skill set, but it was about seeing it in person again. Was that how you saw it as well?
McCAFFERY: We felt like he was right where we wanted him to get. We were there before that. We had gone there the previous week and sat down with him. We set up the visit. I think what they were trying to figure out was, exactly where are you? We had been recruiting him and offered him when he was still a freshman. I think there was still some wondering if everything was still a go. We of course said yes. There seems to be some feeling that when we went up that night that it was some sort of official confirmation. We had gotten to that point long before then. He had his visit scheduled and he came. At that point he made it official that he was coming. When we had only one scholarship, I think there was a lot of concern about do they really want him? Are they really going to take him with one scholarship, especially after Jarrod came and he took the other one. We have loved this kid from Day One. Anytime you only have one there is going to be a little more trepidation on who you offer and we just kept coming back to Peter Jok on this one.
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