IOWA CITY, Ia. — Peter Jok is getting the “star” treatment, even from his own teammates these days.
And Iowa’s senior guard wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I just try to tell whoever is guarding me in practice to play just as hard as they can, to try and be aggressive with me,” Jok said Wednesday before practice.
He’ll need to get used to the extra attention once the Hawkeyes’ season tips off Nov. 11. Jok is the lone returning starter for Iowa, a preseason all-Big Ten Conference pick after averaging 16.1 points per game a year ago.
The 6-foot-6, 205-pound graduate of West Des Moines Valley has long had to deal with hands in his face, elbows to his ribs and tugs on his shirt-tail. It’s the price of being one of the country’s top shooting guards.
Basketball coach Fran McCaffery talks about how difficult it is to pick a starting lineup.
And that price will only rise this season, even when practicing with his teammates.
“You just stay after him. You can’t relax and let him get anything easy, whether it be in transition or in half-court,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said of the attention he’s asking his players to give Jok in practice. “So we’ll face-guard him, we’ll switch on him, we’ll bang him a little bit on cuts.”
Jok played 27.7 minutes per game last season on a veteran team that finished 22-11. He figures to see at least 34 minutes most games this season as the lone proven scorer on a younger team. He’s been preparing for the workload all summer.
“Just taking care of your body, sleeping, eating right,” said Jok, who gave up fast-food a couple of years back to improve his conditioning.
Could he log 35 minutes right now? Jok was asked.
“I could give you 40,” he immediately shot back.
Three things figure to help Jok this season.
First, he’s looking to diversify his offensive game. He was seen working with assistant coach Kirk Speraw on his post moves before Wednesday’s practice.
“Everybody is going to try to face-guard me and try to play hard on me,” Jok said of the grueling road ahead. “I’ve got to score other ways than just shooting. Post-up’s one of the ways I’ve got to score this year.”
Second, the Hawkeyes figure to have more post players capable of inside scoring this year to force opponents to pay attention elsewhere. Iowa is hoping to rely on sophomore Ahmad Wagner and freshmen Tyler Cook, Ryan Kriener and Cordell Pemsl for points in the paint.
“We probably have more low-post options than we’ve ever had since I’ve been here,” said McCaffery, in his seventh year at Iowa. “That’s a game-changer when you have a jump-shooter. It’s different now. You want to chase people around on the perimeter? We’re going to be hammering that sucker inside and you’re going to have to defend those guys in there.”
Third, the NCAA has instructed officials to limit the banging that offensive players absorb when cutting off the ball. That contact will be a foul now. Jok is an 85.2 percent free-throw shooter in his college career.
“I actually like it when they play physical,” Jok said. “With all these new rules, I don’t think they’re going to be able to do that anymore. If they play physical this year, I’m just going to try to get to the free-throw line as much as I can.”
The senior enters his final Iowa hoops season with maturity.
Other notes from Iowa basketball:
- McCaffery said the race to be Iowa’s starting point guard is even. Sophomore Christian Williams and freshman Jordan Bohannon are expected to share time at that position this season. “I don’t think either one is ahead of the other right now,” McCaffery said. “What’s interesting about it, they have been at times.”
- McCaffery said that it’s “a safe bet” that he will redshirt one of his five true freshmen. “I’m not there yet with anybody,” he said. “And that may not happen as a result, because we’ve got a lot of guys playing well. We have to see who, especially on the perimeter, steps up and grabs the available playing time and who’s the odd man out, at least in the short run.” That would seem to indicate that freshman guard Maishe Dailey is the redshirt candidate.
- Kriener, at 6-9, has been impressive in practice, particularly on the boards, McCaffery said. “He’s been our leading rebounder from Day 1 in practice over a three-week period of time. So that’s a long, random sample of data that you have to go on. So every time that ball comes off the rim, he’s going to get it and you’ve got to respect that about him.” McCaffery said Pemsl was slowed by tonsillectomy surgery but is healthy now.
- Junior forward Dale Jones, battling back after knee surgery, also has missed practice time with ankle and hamstring injuries, McCaffery said. “He’s been going at his pace anyway, so it’s not the end of the world,” McCaffery said, speaking of Jones’ rehab process. “When he has played, he’s made shots, he’s made plays. He’s going to be a factor.”
- Charlie Rose has returned to the team as a walk-on. The 6-4 junior forward from Elmhurst, Ill., played in eight games two years ago but didn’t go out for the team last season.