Iowa men’s basketball freshman Riley Mulvey adjusts to life in Big Ten

The Rotterdam, New York, native graduated from high school a year early to join the Hawkeyes in 2021-22.


Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Cit

Iowa center Riley Mulvey speaks to reporters during a Hawkeyes men’s basketball summer media availability, Thursday, July 15, 2021, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.

Chloe Peterson, Summer Sports Editor

Riley Mulvey’s decision to pick the Hawkeyes was easy. Choosing to forego his senior year of high school on the east coast to enter the Iowa men’s basketball program a year earlier was a far tougher choice.

Originally a 2022 commit, Mulvey chose Iowa over offers from Syracuse, Yale, and Penn State, and committed to the Hawkeyes on March 15.

But with the departures of Hawkeye centers Luka Garza — now pursuing a professional basketball career — and Jack Nunge, who transferred to Xavier, the Hawkeyes saw an immediate need for Mulvey in the frontcourt.

So, Mulvey reclassified to 2021, graduated high school early, and joined fellow Hawkeye freshman Peyton Sandfort for the 2021-22 season.

“My decision to come to Iowa was pretty easy to make,” Mulvey said. “But then the decision on top of that to come early was definitely the hardest part for me.”

The Rotterdam, New York, native spent his junior season of high school at St. Thomas More in Connecticut, a collegiate preparatory school for high-level basketball players on the east coast.

St. Thomas More is part of the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council (NEPSAC) League, an organization that functions similar to the NCAA.

While Mulvey played at the preparatory school in his junior year, many players — like Hawkeye teammates Keegan and Kris Murray at DME Sports Academy in Florida — utilize the schools for an extra year of prep after graduating from high school.

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“Playing in the NEPSAC League in the northeast is similar to college because of the fact that all the rules are college rules,” Mulvey said. “So, I’ve been used to playing 20-minute halves, playing with the 3-point line the way it is now, and the physicality of people who are older than high school seniors, they’re a year up, and I’m used to playing against that already.”

But nothing could prepare the incoming freshman for the physicality of Big Ten men’s basketball.

“The first day, the first day I was here, Josh Ogundele just hit me, and I went backwards, and I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh,’” Mulvey said. “It was definitely one of the ‘Hi, we’re in the Big Ten now.’ … I’ve honestly just had a ton of fun being here already. Playing every day has honestly been a dream come true. It’s been so fun playing against people who are really good here.”

But as Mulvey gets adjusted to the pace and play of the Big Ten, his Hawkeye teammates have been around to help him out — even in just getting to practice.

Mulvey said many of his teammates, including seniors Jordan Bohannon and Austin Ash, have been giving him rides to practice almost every day. Sophomore forward Patrick McCaffery, an Iowa City native, also helped him figure out the bus system.

“He’s still trying to get adjusted to everything, because not only is he a freshman but he should be a senior [in high school],” McCaffery said. “It’s a hard enough curve for the freshmen to pick up on, but he should still be in high school, so that’s something we’re all trying to work with him toward. But he’s somebody that I love his attitude, he comes in every day ready to play, ready to work, so that’s something that you have to admire about him.

“He’s someone you’ll see glimpses of this year, but down the road he’ll really turn some heads.”