Register reporters Chad Leistikow and Chris Cuellar look at basketball and wrestling heading into the conference tournaments.
MADISON, Wis. — Jordan Bohannon was a gym rat here once upon a time — tagging along with his older brothers, a Bucky Badger gleam in his eyes.
He returns Thursday as the baby-faced enemy, hoping to lead his Iowa Hawkeyes to another road victory while silencing a crowd in which he was once embedded. Tipoff is 8 p.m. on ESPN.
“I pretty much grew up around Wisconsin basketball. I’ve been a fan my entire life,” Bohannon said Tuesday. “And now I’m stepping on the floor in a different jersey against them. It will be a lot of fun. I just can’t get too caught up in the atmosphere.”
Before Bohannon was Iowa’s precocious freshman point guard, the kid who stretched Maryland until it broke Saturday with eight 3-pointers, he was Jason and Zach’s little brother. Jason averaged 8.7 points a game for the Badgers from 2006-10, nailing 212-of-559 3-pointers (37.9 percent). Zach arrived in Madison in 2012 after transferring from Air Force and scored 29 points in 31 appearances.
For six years, Jordan traveled northeast from the family’s home in Marion to attend almost all Badger basketball games, as well as summer camps, fall workouts and more. Jordan would stick around and get shots up in the Kohl Center and the team’s practice gyms. The only thing unfamiliar for him Thursday will be the visiting locker room.
“It’s almost like my second home, just because I’ve been there so many times,” Jordan said.
Wisconsin didn’t offer the youngest Bohannon a scholarship, so he settled on Iowa, where his father, Gordy, once played quarterback on the football team. The decision has benefited both the university and the athlete.
Bohannon is averaging 9.7 points and a team-leading 4.5 assists in his Hawkeye debut. He is 68-for-172 from the 3-point arc, already matching the best year Jason ever had. Thus far, it's culminated with that 8-for-10 performance at Maryland, in which Bohannon set a freshman record for 3-pointers made by a Hawkeye.
Iowa canned 16 3-pointers in an 83-69 win.
Iowa (16-13, 8-8 Big Ten Conference) made 16 of 26 3-pointers overall against the Terrapins, the best showing in a league game in program history. Coach Fran McCaffery said Tuesday that all of the 3-point attempts were open shots. But for the 6-foot Bohannon, that’s true only because he frequently launches from five feet beyond the arc. It’s an open look for him, but not advisable for most other players.
“That’s kind of been my mentality my entire life. I was always the smaller guy, so I needed to extend my range out,” Bohannon said. “That was true in high school (at Linn-Mar), too. Coaches kind of got mad at me at times because I could have driven to the basket instead of shooting a 30-foot shot. That’s something I’m working on now, to use that to my advantage because they’re going to start ‘D’-ing me up a lot farther to the half-court line, so I can start driving to the lane and get guys open that way.”
The attention Bohannon received certainly helped open things in the paint for freshman forward Tyler Cook, and vice versa. Cook responded with 21 points and 10 rebounds at Maryland to give fans a close look at a potentially tantalizing one-two punch for future seasons.
“I was running the floor, getting to my spots, hitting my shots, and so was Jordan,” Cook said. “That makes us really hard to guard. So it kind of put them in a tough spot.”
A repeat performance Thursday would go a long way for a Hawkeye team looking to start a March run with a road stunner. No. 22 Wisconsin (22-7, 11-5) is 14-1 in the Kohl Center, a venue where Iowa has tasted defeat in 12 of its past 13 appearances.
As Big Ten teams have done throughout the season, the Badgers — with senior guards Bronson Koenig and Zak Showalter — figure to get physical with Bohannon. He’s an easy target, but has proven difficult to knock off balance.
“He’s seen that before, so the challenge is knowing that you’re going to see it on a regular basis, can you consistently perform at the level he has?” McCaffery said of Bohannon. “And so far, he’s been outstanding.”
Jason and Zach will be there to watch their little brother. Jordan joked that he hoped they would be wearing Hawkeye black instead of Badger red.
As for his trove of Wisconsin gear, Jordan said that has been locked away.
“The Badgers stuff probably won’t be put on for a long, long time,” Bohannon said with a smile.
“I’m a Hawkeye at heart now.”