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What does Iowa coach Fran McCaffery expect from sophomore star Joe Wieskamp? Listen: Mark Emmert, memmert@gannett.com

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ROSEMONT, Ill. — Joe Wieskamp’s name was on the list of the 10 best men’s basketball players in the Big Ten Conference, made public Wednesday.

Iowa’s sophomore forward, who’s as understated as they come, welcomed the attention. He expects to be among the best players in his league. So does his coach, Fran McCaffery.

Considering what the Hawkeyes lost from last year’s NCAA Tournament team, Wieskamp needs to be a star this year if Iowa is to get back.

“Some guys who didn’t make that list are probably a little upset I’m on it and they’re not,” Wieskamp said at the Big Ten’s basketball media day here. “It just gives me motivation to go out there and prove that I deserve to be on that list.”

The past two seasons, Iowa power forward Tyler Cook was at the top of every opponent’s scouting report. Cook is with the Denver Nuggets organization now.

Wieskamp is left to shoulder the heaviest load.

“I’m just going to be a bigger playmaker this year. I think the ball is going to be in my hand more. I’m going to be coming off screens looking for myself, looking for my teammates, loading them up,” Wieskamp said.

“Last year, I kind of stood in the corner. I’d come off screens. Shoot it. Catch and shoot. Rip and drive. I think more parts of my game will be on display this year.”

Wieskamp was one of the top freshmen in the Big Ten last year after averaging 11.1 points and 4.9 rebounds. The 6-foot-6 Muscatine native showed off an impressive skill set as an immediate starter.

But that team was led by Cook, point guard Jordan Bohannon and its lone senior, Nicholas Baer. Wieskamp could afford to sit back at times.

Not anymore.

Bohannon is out after hip surgery. Starting shooting guard Isaiah Moss decided to spend his final college season at Kansas.

The leadership void is palpable. So is the need for some star power.

Wieskamp is working on the former, trying to be more vocal on the court especially.

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“That’s kind of where I’m more comfortable,” he said. “I can teach guys what they need to do or where they need to be to help us be successful.

“I think the guys respect my work ethic, respect my game.”

They sure do.

“He’s calm, cool, collected. Mr. Quiet,” senior center Ryan Kriener said of Wieskamp. “Just in his game and his aggressiveness offensively, it’s really spoken volumes. … This year, it’s throw it to him on the wing and he goes and gets you a bucket.

“He’s making a big jump.”

Wieskamp demurred when asked if the Hawkeyes are bound to go as far as he can carry them. There are plenty of other players ready to contribute, he pointed out, including Kriener and junior center Luka Garza.

But no one on this Hawkeye team has the skill set that Wieskamp does. He can shoot it from distance (42.4% from the 3-point arc last season) or motor past defenders who are too aggressive about closing out on him. He’s a fantastic offensive rebounder.

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The Hawkeyes had players named first team all-Big Ten in four consecutive seasons earlier this decade: Devyn Marble, Aaron White, Jarrod Uthoff and Peter Jok. It’s not essential that Wieskamp play well enough to earn that honor, but it sure would help. Iowa was picked to finish eighth in a preseason media poll. Expectations, after all the talent that was lost from last year’s team, are muted.

Not for McCaffery.

“He’s versatile. He’ll do more off the dribble, making plays for other people. Making plays for himself. He’s really consistent. With effort, execution, performance. How he lives his life off the court. Zero maintenance guy,” McCaffery said of Wieskamp.

“He’s got a lot of help. But he’s going to be an absolute critical part of it. That’s what I want him to be.”

Wieskamp sought feedback from NBA teams after his rookie season, but did not hire an agent. He found out that he’s viewed as an NBA prospect down the line. Possibly as early as next year. He knows if he shows that he can lead an underdog squad to the NCAA Tournament this year, his stock will rise. If the team wins, he wins.

“If you’re doing good things to help yourself move on and compete at a professional level, that’s what you want to do,” Wieskamp said.

“We have every possibility as any team in the Big Ten to go out there and compete for a title."

Mark Emmert covers the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Register. Reach him at memmert@registermedia.com or 319-339-7367. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkEmmert.

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