The Iowa coach says Jordan Bohannon is up to the task
GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands — Jordan Bohannon ranks second in the Big Ten Conference in assist-to-turnover ratio and insists he hasn’t played a good game yet this season.
Iowa’s sophomore point guard isn’t shooting as often, certainly not as accurately, as he’s accustomed to.
He knows that needs to change if the Hawkeyes (3-0) are going to be competitive in the inaugural Cayman Islands Classic, which features three games in three days and starts with an 11 a.m. Monday tipoff against Louisiana (2-1).
“I’m going to set the highest expectations possible for myself,” Bohannon said.
“Knowing what I can do this year as an individual and what I can have this team do … I feel like I need to start stepping up my game.”
Bohannon has 19 assists and only two turnovers, terrific numbers he would love to continue putting up as the competition starts getting better for Iowa.
But he’s made only 6 of 21 field goals (28.6 percent) and has looked oddly uncomfortable for someone who grew up shooting a basketball. In Thursday’s victory over Grambling State, Bohannon sank a 3-pointer for the game’s first points, then proceeded to miss his final six attempts.
Adding to Bohannon’s stress is that he is playing essentially without a backup. Christian Williams announced he was transferring the day before the Hawkeyes’ first exhibition game. Freshman Connor McCaffery is out for three weeks with mononucleosis. There are no other true point guards on Iowa’s roster.
“I already feel like I have a lot of pressure on me to begin with,” Bohannon said of the McCaffery illness. “But at the end of the day, I’ve got to just take care of what I can control and that was something I can’t really control.”
Bohannon will be spelled by shooting guard Brady Ellingson until McCaffery returns. He’ll be tested in the Caymans by some veteran point guards, starting with Louisiana junior Marcus Stroman, a transfer from South Carolina.
On Tuesday, the Hawkeyes will face either South Dakota State or Wyoming. The Jackrabbits start junior Brandon Key; the Cowboys rely on junior Nyaires Redding.
If Iowa gets to Wednesday’s championship game, likely opponents would be either No. 13 Cincinnati (6-foot-5 sophomore guard Jarron Cumberland leads the team with 16.3 points per game) or Alabama-Birmingham (junior Nick Norton enters the tournament averaging 6.0 assists per game).
“You’ve got to do a quick turnaround. We’re going to have some of that this year if you look at our schedule,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said of the value of competing in the Cayman tournament. “You know you’re going to play three good teams. It will really test our depth.”
A matchup with the Bearcats would be the most enticing. It would represent the best team Iowa will face in its nonconference schedule, both playing a third game in three days. Bohannon would need to be on top of his game, as good as he was late last season when he recorded double-doubles in points and assists in the Hawkeyes’ final three games.
Here is a look at the Hawkeyes' 2017-18 hoops opponents.
Back then, Bohannon had no trouble finding the balance between shooting and passing. He made 22 of 40 field goals (55 percent) in that stretch, with 34 assists while playing a remarkable 116 minutes. The Hawkeyes also lost two of those three games.
Bohannon entered this year with a slightly different mindset.
“I was a lot more aggressive last year. With me and (senior shooting guard) Pete (Jok), we were pretty much the only guys in the backcourt trying to look to score,” Bohannon said. “This year we have so many guys that are able to score. And me being the point guard, I’ve got to facilitate that. … There might be games where I don’t score at all, but as long as I have five to 10 assists like I hope to every game, that’s what I’m planning to do.”
It’s a remarkably different approach for the 6-foot sophomore out of Linn-Mar High School who averaged 10.9 points as a Hawkeye freshman while making 89 of 214 3-pointers (41.6 percent).
Bohannon said it’s also a difficult adjustment.
“My entire life I’ve been a scorer,” he said. “I always want to take the shot if it’s open and if there’s a shot towards the end of the game, I always want to be the one to try to shoot it because I always have that confidence.
“But going forward knowing what we have on this team this year, by me being able to facilitate the shots and being able to look to who has the hot hand, it obviously will open my game up later in the season.”
Bohannon should want to open his game up this week as well. Iowa needs him to be a scoring threat as well as a playmaker.
“That’s what winning teams need to do.” Iowa point guard Jordan Bohannon says of the Hawkeyes' chemistry.
ABOUT THE CAYMAN ISLANDS CLASSIC
Site: John Gray Gymnasium (capacity 2,000)
Teams (KenPom rankings as of Friday in parentheses): Alabama-Birmingham (117), Buffalo (155), Cincinnati (10), Iowa (57), Louisiana (111), Richmond (188), South Dakota State (107) and Wyoming (81).
Iowa’s path: Opens vs. Louisiana at 11 a.m. Monday; faces either South Dakota State or Wyoming at 11 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. Tuesday; championship game is 6:30 p.m. Wednesday and would likely be against Cincinnati.
TV: None, live-streaming only for a fee at FloSports.
Radio: Hawkeye Radio Network, Jim Albracht and Bob Hansen.