When Iowa signed three players for the 2023 recruiting class last week, word was that Fran & Co. were still looking to sign at least one more player, too -- preferably a big. It seemed like they might end up holding on to that scholarship until after the season, either to see if any high school 'croots (or junior college guys) popped, or perhaps to go fishing in the transfer pool. Well, the wait lasted all of a week, because Iowa got their (big) man today:
BREAKING: Newark (NJ) St. Benedict three-star power foward Ladji Dembele has committed to #Iowa basketball and has signed with the #Hawkeyes, his coach tells @247Sports. Dembele is the fourth member of Fran McCaffery's 2023 class. Story: https://t.co/X7yuCW25J7 — Sean Bock (@SBock247) November 16, 2022
Ladji Dembele, a Class of 2023 recruit, measures 6'8", 230 lbs and hails from St. Benedict's High School in Newark, NJ. Conveniently, Iowa happened to be playing a game in Newark, NJ, tonight, at the Prudential Center -- and Dembele was in attendance to see his future teammates in action.
How will Dembele being celebrating his decision? He'll be at the Prudential Center tonight to watch #Iowa take on Seton Hall. https://t.co/2y3KCe7CYf — Sean Bock (@SBock247) November 16, 2022
We're guessing he liked what he saw from the Hawkeyes.
Dembele is ranked a 4* prospect by Rivals and a 3* prospect by 247 Sports. He chose Iowa over offers from Rutgers, Pitt, Xavier, Wake Forest, DePaul, and -- yes -- Seton Hall. Two losses to Iowa in one day. Tough one for the ol' Pirates. They'll be cursing Iowa in their grog tonight for sure.
Dembele is a bit of a late-bloomer as a recruit, but he had 12 double-doubles as a junior last year, including an 18-point, 15-rebound game against prep powerhouse Blair Academy. He also had 15 or more rebounds in six straight games last season, which is an impressive stat. So yes -- rebounding is definitely one of his major skill sets. That's definitely an area Iowa will need help in, especially with Kris Murray and Filip Rebraca likely gone next season.
But he's not just a rebounder, either. 247Sports' Adam Finklestein provided this scouting report of Dembele's skills:
Scouting Report: "Dembele was another big draw. He has more of a power body, but with an inside-out skill-set as he can knock down open threes from the top of the key and is beginning to assert himself more inside and utilize his strong frame to score with both hands around the rim."
Seems promising! That aligns with what Demeble told 247Sports when asked why he chose Iowa:
“Before coming to the United States, I watched a lot of college basketball, and Iowa was one of my favorite teams because of the style that they played and the way they used their big men. They let their bigs bring up the ball and that’s basically what I was looking for. Once I went there, I saw most of the guys and how I would be living next year, and also the senior class, I knew I could play there.”
“Last year, I liked watching Keegan Murray and his brother Kris. Keegan got a chance to go to the draft so I watched a lot of him and Luka Garza as well.”
I mean -- yeah. If you're a forward that wants to play inside-outside and you want to thrive... Iowa is the place to be. After what Luka Garza did in his final two seasons at Iowa, what Keegan Murray did last year, and what Kris Murray seems poised to do this year, it's not hard to see why that would be appealing to prospects. It's great that Iowa is able to turn those dynamic performances by Garza and the Murrays into some wins on the recruiting trail -- here's hoping for more to come.
Check out some highlights of Dembele in action below:
Ladji Dembele- Class of 2023 (Preseason 21-22) from HoopChannel on Vimeo.
Welcome to Iowa, Ladji. We're excited to see what you can do in the black and gold.