The future is always in the back of Brennan Cougill’s mind, but for now, his life is all about dealing with the present.
What he does today and tomorrow and a week from now will determine what Cougill does a year from now.
Cougill hopes to stage his own comeback as a Division I basketball player, but the only way it’ll happen is if the former Iowa Hawkeye takes care of business at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids.
Cougill lost his opportunity to play for Iowa last summer when he was dismissed from the team after his freshman season because of academic deficiencies.
He now is at Kirkwood trying to fix things academically and playing basketball this season under veteran Kirkwood coach Doug Wagemester.
“I think his eyes have been opened,” Wagemester said. “He’s got work to do, and he knows that.”
Wagemester described the first semester as a feeling out process for Cougill and himself. Wagemester had to learn more about Cougill before he could devise a plan for success.
“I didn’t recruit Brennan, so it’s kind of a process of getting to know each other, too, how he handles his business and things like that,” Wagemester said. “And I think the first semester was a lot about that as well.
“We’ve settled down a little bit in a lot of ways. We’ve got a plan of attack here with his academics. And I think he’s going to be able to do it.”
Cougill is averaging almost a double-double in points and rebounds with per-game marks of 14.0 and 9.5, respectively.
Kirkwood is 14-4 overall and had won 10 games in a row before losing to Iowa Central Community College 73-62 on Wednesday at home.
“Things are going good,” said Cougill, a 6-foot-9, 260-pound native of Sioux City. “We’re finding out what we are as a team.
“I can be scoring more and grabbing more rebounds and playing better defense. That’s just going to come when I get into a rhythm and get comfortable with what we’re doing.”
Cougill appreciates the opportunity he has at Kirkwood, but he also misses what he had as a University of Iowa student-athlete.
He achieved a dream by earning a scholarship to Iowa, but then let it slip away by not keeping up with his academics.
“It was eye-opening, and you never want it to happen again,” Cougill said. “So yes, I think I’ve learned from my mistakes.”
Cougill was recruited out of Sioux City Bishop Heelan by former Iowa coach Todd Lickliter. He played in 31 games under Lickliter as a freshman last season and averaged 4.0 points and 3.0 rebounds per game.
But then Lickliter was fired shortly after last season and replaced by Fran McCaffery in late March.
Iowa is 7-9 overall and 0-4 in the Big Ten in McCaffery’s first season and will face Minnesota on Sunday in Minneapolis.
Cougill was just getting acquainted with the new coaching staff when he was declared academically ineligible in June.
He stays in touch with the Iowa coaches now, but it’s uncertain if McCaffery will offer Cougill a scholarship in the spring.
“I’d say it’s a wait-and-see deal,” Wagemester said.
Cougill knows that he has to prove himself to McCaffery, and to all the other four-year coaches, for that matter. He has to show that he deserves a scholarship again and that he is ready to meet the demands in all phases of his life.
“I just have to give them enough proof that my academics won’t struggle like that again and that I’ve got everything back where it needs to be,” Cougill said.
Cougill described his recruitment as being wide open, but he also seems determined to make it back to the University of Iowa.
“It’s just sort of like doing the recruiting process all over again,” Cougill said. “Yeah, it’d be fun to be back at Iowa and just kind of build on the stuff I did my freshman year. Just showing everybody how I can play and my full game.”
Cougill is trying to expand his game by working on his post moves. He showed at Iowa that he can shoot from the perimeter by converting 18-of-50 3-point attempts as a freshman last season.
He now wants to add an inside game.
“On offense, I’m playing more down on the post, which is what I want to do, just incorporate a few different things here and there,” Cougill said. “That’s one part I’m trying to work on.”
Wagemester agrees with Cougill that his inside game has room for improvement.
“I think that’s accurate, and we’re really working on that,” Wagemester said. “And the nice thing is he has a low-post game.
“He can score with his back to the basket. He passes well out of the post. He can draw fouls in there. So that balance can’t hurt anybody.”
Wagemester already has helped restore the career of one former Iowa post player when he coached Erek Hansen for one season at Kirkwood nearly a decade ago.
Hansen also had academic issues when he arrived at Kirkwood, but he took care of his responsibilities and still had a scholarship waiting for him at Iowa under former coach Steve Alford.
Hansen returned to Iowa and became a defensive force for three seasons from 2003-06.
Cougill’s situation is similar in many ways to what Hansen went through. But what’s different is that Cougill doesn’t have a scholarship waiting for him at Iowa.
“That whole scenario was done and sealed immediately,” Wagemester said of Hansen’s arrangement. “When we got that situated, it was, ‘He’s coming to you. He’s going to graduate. And he’s coming back.’”
Wagemester said there is a long list of schools that are monitoring Cougill’s progress, and he thinks that being a center could help Cougill draw more attention.
His main concern is that Cougill finds the right fit on and off the court.
“I always feel like big kids, and in particular big kids that are skilled, and point guards, there aren’t enough of them,” Wagemester said. “It seems like guys are banging down the doors to get them.”
Cougill’s considerable girth has caused some to question his conditioning, although Wagemester said it would be virtually impossible for Cougill to be out of shape at this stage of the season.
“We’re playing him 30 minutes (a game),” Wagemester said. “We don’t rotate him out much in practice. I just don’t know how he can’t be in shape.
“The whole thing is, are we getting everything we can get out of Brennan? Is he giving us all he’s got? We’re trying to get him to push through a little more and dig in a little more. But I think he’s all right.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball