Hawkeye forward Cordell Pemsl talks about a scary injury, a viral moment and his prognosis for playing Saturday. Mark Emmert/HawkCentral
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Don’t expect to see Iowa forward Cordell Pemsl playing Saturday at Wells Fargo Arena.
The sophomore is still in pain, still taking antibiotics and not able to practice yet after tangling with a chair at Hilton Coliseum on Thursday and coming away with a large portion of skin missing from his right shin.
How deep was the cut?
“It looked like just a hole all the way to my tibia,” Pemsl said Tuesday before a Hawkeye practice that he was going to spend riding a stationary bicycle and running the Carver-Hawkeye Arena stairs.
The good news for Pemsl: The bone he could see where his skin used to be wasn’t broken. He said he got three layers of stitches, the bottom two of which were dissolvable. The top layer will be removed in about 10 days.
Pemsl missed Sunday’s Iowa win over Southern. His coach, Fran McCaffery, described him as “iffy” to play Saturday when the Hawkeyes (5-6, 0-2 Big Ten Conference) face Drake (5-5) in the opening game of the Hy-Vee Classic in Des Moines. The 1 p.m. contest will be televised on BTN.
Pemsl said he wants to play and will know more after seeing how his leg feels Thursday.
“If I don’t think I’m ready, I won’t push it,” he said. “We’re more worried about me getting kicked again or (that I) hit it again and open up the stitches.”
Pemsl’s injury occurred in the late stages of Thursday’s loss at Iowa State. He was chasing a rebound with the Cyclones’ Hans Brase, and the two sprawled into the seats behind the baseline. Pemsl speculated that one of the chairs had a protruding screw that gashed his leg.
A brief video clip of the incident that made the rounds Friday appeared to show a Cyclone fan shoving Pemsl while he was down in pain. Pemsl saw it, but doesn’t remember it happening in the moment. He was more concerned at the time with whether his leg was fractured.
“I got some feedback from Iowa State fans, and some were hoping for a fast recovery and some were definitely defending him,” Pemsl said. “People have their own opinions. Whether he pushed me or not, it’s not that big of a deal.”
Pemsl is averaging 5.8 points and 5.7 rebounds.
A redshirt for Connor?
Freshman Connor McCaffery played in his first game Sunday, logging 17 minutes and contributing five points, four assists and a steadying presence at backup point guard that Iowa sorely needs.
So it was a little surprising Tuesday to hear his father and coach suggest a redshirt season remains a possibility.
Connor is recovering from mononucleosis and appeared physically worn out at times. But that’s to be expected after an illness that drains people of energy.
“It's not my call, your call or anybody else's call. It's what the doctors deem. They're monitoring his physical process that he's going through,” Fran McCaffery said when asked about a redshirt.
“He's not anywhere near physically where he needs to be. We'll see if he can get that done over the next couple of weeks or not.”
Fran McCaffery said his son would still be eligible for a redshirt season as long as he plays in no more than 10 games in the first half of Iowa’s season. But he also fills a void that this year’s team desperately needs. As long as he’s making steady progress in his recovery from mono, it would seem likely that Connor will play the rest of the winter.
Hawkeye sophomore Jordan Bohannon answers the question of who is the more true point guard: Himself or Connor McCaffery?
Bohannon is a beneficiary
Iowa’s sophomore starting point guard, Jordan Bohannon, would definitely welcome Connor McCaffery’s help. The two are familiar with each other after playing on AAU teams growing up in eastern Iowa. When they’re on the court together, Bohannon can slide to a shooting guard slot, where his long-range accuracy is a huge asset.
“I can have the ball and I can initiate the offense, and he can come off screens and he can run around, and I can throw him the ball and he can hit jumpers,” Connor McCaffery explained after Sunday’s win. “Because that’s what he needs to do. He needs to get shots up.”
Bohannon scored only four points Sunday, but had five assists without a turnover. That was significant progress after he committed 12 turnovers in Iowa’s previous three games, all losses.
“I think a lot of that was me trying to do too much and trying to get myself going,” Bohannon said Tuesday.
As for getting Connor McCaffery back:
“Anytime you have one of those players that understands the offense as a freshman, he’s going to help us,” Bohannon said.
“When he comes in, I’m able to move off the ball a little bit and try to hunt for my shots. So that’s always a plus for me, because obviously I love shooting.”
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery says Drake is a veteran team that will be a big challenge.
Cook learning to handle attention
Sophomore forward Tyler Cook is leading Iowa with 12.8 points per game. But he’s been facing a variety of defenses in recent games as opponents try to either get the ball out of his hands or force him to make quick decisions in the post.
Cook had five assists in the first half at Iowa State, making smart reads and finding open teammates. But he didn’t have any in the second half and finished the game with just two points.
On Sunday, Cook scored eight points with no assists in 17 minutes against Southern.
Fran McCaffery said Cook is getting a crash course in the sophistication of college gameplans.
“They're coming at him, doubling him from the opposite post. So it's big to big; it comes early, it comes late, off the passer,” McCaffery said of the defenses being thrown at Cook.
“In a 20-minute half, you'll see all of those defensive concepts coming at him. And he's an unselfish guy, he's trying to read the double-team, make a play for somebody else. … But it also limits his scoring when he's only thinking about passing. So you want him to be able to make a quick move and score, make the read, make a really nice pass to somebody for a basket. That takes time to feel that, and he's really worked at it.”
Dailey-Dillard a stylish combo
Backup guard Maishe Dailey is getting much more playing time in his sophomore season. He is averaging 5.2 points in 14.8 minutes per game after seeing action in only 12 contests as a freshman.
Dailey said his motto is: “Don’t be content; keep working hard.”
“I don’t feel like I’ve been playing that great,” he explained. “I feel I’m getting better every game just because it’s like my first go-around.”
Dailey was recruited out of Ohio by longtime Iowa assistant Sherman Dillard, who remains an important mentor. The joke among his teammates is that the two are father and son because they look so much alike.
Dailey finds that talk amusing. But he also takes time away from basketball to pick Dillard’s brain on another topic: fashion.
“Just ask him, ‘Does this look good?’ And he always tells me the truth. Like, ‘No it doesn’t’ or “Yes it does,’” Dailey said. “He’s the best-dressed coach in the country.”