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What Iowa basketball is getting in new recruits Brock Harding and Cooper Koch


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Iowa men’s basketball added two key pieces to its future rosters, and just hours before former Hawkeye Keegan Murray was drafted No. 4 overall in the NBA Draft.

While the program lost one player to the pros, the addition of Brock Harding in the 2023 class and Cooper Koch in 2024 gave Iowa basketball fans a glimpse into the future.

And, based on these two players alone, it could be bright.

And fun.

Let’s break down what each new recruit figures to bring to Iowa City, and how both players were already connected to Iowa basketball before they committed.

Brock Harding

2023 | Point Guard | Moline Senior (Illinois)

Less than a week passed between when Iowa offered Harding and when the 6-foot, 155-pound guard committed to the Hawkeyes.

New assistant coach Matt Gatens may have had something to do with that. Harding told HawkCentral that Gatens was the main person recruiting him at Drake and then at Iowa, after Iowa assistant coach Kirk Speraw's retirement. Clearly, Gatens and the Hawkeyes saw something in Harding because they offered him officially this week.

Harding holds over a dozen offers from other programs. But Gavin Sullivan, founder and coach for MidPro Academy, commented that Harding flew under that radar.

Sullivan shared on Twitter that he’d heard scouts, colleges and fans say that Harding was too small to play in the Big Ten. 

At 6-foot, Harding is undersized for a high-major lead guard. But plenty of players his size have found success if they have instinct and vision. Despite the concerns of his size and shooting, Harding has found a way to convince at least one D-I program that he’s worth a scholarship offer.

Let’s take a look at what Iowa is getting in its second 2023 commit.

Watching his film, Harding has definitely gotten more confident in his shooting abilities between freshman year and now. He’s solid from the arc, his jump shot is tough to disrupt and Harding has enough athleticism to dunk even at his height.

He’s a shifty player, which makes guarding Harding difficult. When he goes after the ball, he’s relentless. And that mentality seems to translate to every aspect of his game. Harding needs to mature physically, but his game skills are undeniable.

What was most impressive in Harding’s game was his ability to set up his teammates. That will come in handy, as both of the Hawkeyes recruits in the 2023 class play on the same team.

Cooper Koch

2024 | Power forward | Peoria Notre Dame (Illinois)

The 6-7, 205-pound forward is the first commit in Iowa’s 2024 class, and he might be the biggest recruiting win for Iowa basketball since Joe Wieskamp.

For starters, Koch is the No. 51 player in his class, according to 247Sports Composite. He has two years of high school basketball left, so that ranking is bound to fluctuate. But the point here is that he’s good. Good enough that half the Big Ten was chasing his commitment despite him being likely to Iowa the whole time. 

So, Iowa gets the recruiting win. But, why did Koch pick now to commit?

Speraw's retirement, effective next Thursday, had something to do with it.

“Coach Speraw was my main recruiter,” Koch told the Des Moines Register. “I just felt like it was the right time to do it. I’ve been leaning that way for a while, and it felt like a little retirement present for him.” 

Speraw wasn’t the only coach that made an impression on Koch. He expressed what he liked in Fran McCaffery’s coaching style: How he doesn’t immediately pull players after a mistake, how he lets big guys get the ball off the rim and push it, how he allows everybody to be their own playmaker and be free on the court.

Koch likes the coaching staff at Iowa and sees himself fitting in McCaffery’s system.

Koch is solid attacking the basket. His height gives him an advantage under the net, but don’t think he can’t hit shots from deep. He gets his shots off quickly.

Based on his film, he was a key playmaker for Peoria Notre Dame, a long-respected program in Illinois, even as a freshman and sophomore. Koch is all over the court, finishing shots from every angle.

That’s based on his film.

How does one of the Hawkeyes' newest commits describe himself?

“They’re getting a very versatile wing player that can bring the ball up, get the rebound, shoot the threes, post up if (I) get a small on (me), and help create for my teammates and myself.”

Harding, Koch’s connections to Iowa men’s basketball

While both players’ commitments came seemingly out of the blue on NBA Draft day, Harding and Koch have been connected to the Hawkeyes long before they announced their decisions on Thursday.

Let’s start with Harding.

Iowa men’s basketball secured its first commitment in the 2023 class when Owen Freeman chose the Hawkeyes over programs like Wisconsin, Illinois and Purdue in October 2021. Freeman, a 6-10 power forward, moved during high school and will play in Moline.

The short of it all?

Iowa went across the border and now has three commitments in 2023 and 2024, all from Illinois.

But the more important part is that Harding and Freeman are coming in with an already established chemistry. The pair hasn’t played high school basketball together; Freeman transferred to Moline for his senior year. But they have played AAU basketball together through MidPro Academy, so there’s little question that the pair can transition that success to the high school game.

It can’t hurt to have a class built around a power forward and a point guard who play for the same team. The two feed off each other well, and each seems to improve the other’s game. Harding and Freeman are an intriguing duo, and it’ll be fun to see how to two connect at Moline and in Iowa City.

Now, onto Koch.

His last name alone should be a little familiar to Hawkeyes basketball fans, but let’s give you a refresher.

J.R. Koch played for Iowa men’s basketball from 1995-99, before he was drafted by the New York Knicks. He played his freshman season alongside Kenyon Murray, father of Keegan and Kris Murray. J.R. Koch’s senior season was his standout year in a Hawkeye uniform, averaging 10.4 points and 4.2 rebounds per game.

Oh, and J.R. Koch is Cooper’s father.

“With the recruiting process, he really didn’t care where I went, at least that’s what he would say to me,” Koch said. “When he knew I had said yes, he was really excited. It came full circle for him when somebody told him, ‘Now, you’re going to be like your parents, sitting in the stands, watching someone play at Iowa.’”

With Koch’s commitment, Iowa men’s basketball picked up yet another legacy player. Sure, that shows how the Hawkeyes leverage relationships to secure high-level recruits.

Legacy or not, Koch is a top-60, four-star prospect, one of Iowa’s top-ranked recruits in a decade. He had offers from Bradley; Illinois; Indiana; Purdue; Wake Forest; Western Illinois and Wisconsin, and he could’ve picked any one of those programs.

Koch chose Iowa.

The important takeaway there is that Iowa has created a program that athletes want to play for, even decades after their family member tore up the court in Iowa City.

Alyssa Hertel is the college sports recruiting reporter for the Des Moines Register. Contact Alyssa at ahertel@dmreg.com or on Twitter @AlyssaHertel.