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Outspoken Hawkeye guard Jordan Bohannon eager for new role as old man of team

Mark Emmert
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Jordan Bohannon is no longer fat, but he’s still sassy.

The Iowa point guard is eager to get started on a fifth season after he played in only 10 games a year ago before opting to have hip surgery. But Bohannon made it clear in a Monday interview that he is frustrated that the Hawkeyes don’t even know their schedule yet, with games supposedly set to begin Nov. 25.

Bohannon, who has always enjoyed tweaking NCAA leadership, was asked if he had faith that the 2020-21 college basketball season would be able to reach a satisfactory conclusion during a global pandemic.

“I have faith there will be an NCAA Tournament,” he quickly responded, “because that’s where the money comes from.”

Earlier:Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon pokes fun at NCAA over souvenir rug, and it goes viral

Bohannon said this with a big smile. He knows the NCAA doesn’t want to cancel its most lucrative event two years in a row. He also has strong reason to believe that his Hawkeyes will be contending for a title whenever and wherever that tournament is contested next spring.

Bohannon is one reason why. The Hawkeyes finished a 20-11 season without him last winter, as center Luka Garza emerged as one of the sport’s biggest stars.

Bohannon’s return to the lineup is probably being overlooked. But it shouldn’t be. He’s already the school’s all-time leader in 3-pointers made with 284. He also has 482 assists.

Bohannon said he’s prepared this year, with so much experience and talent around him, to alter his role from game to game in order to give the Hawkeyes precisely what they need on a given night.

Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon drives during a scrimmage Saturday. The senior is returning from hip surgery, 15 pounds lighter, and says he's willing to score points or set up teammates, depending on the needs of the moment.

For example, there was a game against Minnesota last season in which he didn’t score a single point, but ended up with 10 assists against no turnovers. Against Syracuse, he knocked down five 3-pointers in 37 gritty minutes on a bum hip and carrying some extra weight. At Iowa State, his shot was off but he got to the free-throw line six times and made them all.

Iowa has CJ Fredrick and Joe Wieskamp on the wing, two talented long-range shooters in their own right. Coach Fran McCaffery can insert the speedy Joe Toussaint or the steady Connor McCaffery at point guard. That is what gives Bohannon the luxury of deciding when to be a shooter and when to be a facilitator, confident in his ability to do both and not worrying about his statistics on a team ranked No. 6 in the nation.

Bohannon has dropped 15 pounds off his 6-foot-1 frame, down to 175, and said, as he always does, that he’s in the best shape of his life.

“I was kind of fat last year on the court,” he said with a smile, “but I didn’t have a lot of rehab time to get back on the floor in condition.”

That was after his first hip surgery. It’s been nearly a year since his second one. Bohannon is ready to embrace any role, including this one: union organizer.

Bohannon said he is spending some of his time these days trying to create a players’ association of sorts among Big Ten Conference basketball teams. He said each of the 14 teams has a player representative and that they talk daily. Michigan State’s Joshua Langford is also heavily involved, he said.

“Hopefully we can get more accomplished for student-athletes to kind of have a voice, because there’s not a lot of college athletes out there that realize the power they have,” Bohannon said.

Bohannon has been outspoken on social media and a new podcast he has started. He wants others to join him as college athletes start getting the opportunity to brand themselves and earn money.

So Hawkeye fans can expect to see, and hear, a lot of Bohannon this winter, regardless of how many basketball games actually get played.

Bohannon's return will also have a domino effect on the rest of the Hawkeye lineup. Here's how:

Bohannon's return will help wing sharpshooters like CJ Fredrick

Fredrick, for one, is thrilled to have Bohannon back on the court. Bohannon has been Fredrick’s mentor through his first two seasons, including a redshirt freshman year that saw him connect on 46.1% of his 3-pointers on the way to a spot on the Big Ten’s all-rookie team.

Bohannon’s presence will open things up even more for Fredrick and Wieskamp.

Iowa guard CJ Fredrick (5) makes a basket as Illinois' Trent Frazier, left, defends during a NCAA Big Ten Conference men's basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 2, 2020, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.

“It’s going to be tough to guard all five of us on the court,” Fredrick said.

More:The decade-old encounter that helped steer CJ Fredrick to Fran McCaffery and Iowa basketball

Fredrick said he’s working on his ball-handling skills, preparing to make more plays for his teammates after averaging 2.8 assists per game a year ago. He also wants to improve his shot off the dribble.

But mainly he wants to enjoy every moment that he gets to compete in a college basketball environment after last season was cut short when tournament play was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s a reminder to always give it your best every time you step on the court, every practice every game,” Fredrick said.

Joe Wieskamp is tired of getting pushed around, so he added muscle

Wieskamp spent his coronavirus quarantine building muscle, thanks to a set of weights he has at his Muscatine home. The 6-6, 212-pound junior was stymied at times last season when opponents got physical with him. He wants to be able to finish more drives to the basket this year. Wieskamp also said he spent his offseason looking at film in order to find better ways to come off screens and get separation from defenders.

“Looking back, there’s things that I could have done differently that could have created more opportunities,” Wieskamp said after a season in which he averaged 14 points a game, but shot only 34.7% from the 3-point arc, a subpar number for him.

Wieskamp, too, is excited to be reunited with Bohannon on the court.

Iowa guard Joe Wieskamp (10) looks to an official after getting fouled during a NCAA Big Ten Conference men's basketball game against Purdue, Tuesday, March 3, 2020, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.

“His range is just going to allow more opportunities for all of us,” Wieskamp said. “Obviously, Joe Toussaint is a really great player. But I don’t think teams necessarily respected his 3-point shot. So having Jordan out there is going to create a new dimension for our team and I think allow for just more spacing for all of us.”

Heavier Patrick McCaffery practices his defense by chasing Wieskamp around

Wieskamp has been a good measuring stick for Iowa forward Patrick McCaffery, who is trying to make strides as a defensive player in his second season of college basketball. Coach Fran McCaffery’s middle son missed all but two games last year after suffering a health setback related to the cancer he overcame as a teenager.

More:Iowa recruit Patrick McCaffery hones his elite offensive skills as he prepares to join his dad

In the meantime, Patrick McCaffery gained 25 pounds to get to 205, which should help the 6-9 graduate of Iowa City West contend with Big Ten wing players. And that is why Wieskamp has been so instrumental in McCaffery’s development. McCaffery, a gifted scorer, said he’s been guarding Wieskamp in practice every day for two years and can see that he’s getting better on that end of the court.

“That’s obviously very difficult chasing him around everywhere,” McCaffery said. “I’ve gotten a lot better of kind of navigating my way because he’s really good at moving off the ball. And if you’re not there right away, he’s going to make the shot. So you have to do what you can to beat him to spots.

“When I got here, I didn’t really know what I was doing in that regard. I was kind of just chasing him around and hope that I got there.”

McCaffery will be a backup small forward this season, providing his defense is up to par. There’s never been a question that he’ll score points, particularly in transition, where he excels. There were times last year when Toussaint, his roommate, outweighed McCaffery, even though he’s nine inches shorter. Toussaint is listed at 190 pounds.

“I feel like my extra weight has maybe helped me a little bit in my on-ball defense, to where I can actually use my chest and I don’t have to rely as much on my hands,” McCaffery explained.

Connor McCaffery bulks up to tangle with opposing power forwards

One final note on weight. Connor McCaffery, Fran’s oldest son, has added a little bit as well. That is because, even though he’s a 6-5 point guard by trade, Connor spent much of his time at power forward last season while Toussaint took over at the 1.

McCaffery is versatile enough to do this. But is he big enough? He’s at 220 pounds now, McCaffery said, a decision he made after Iowa lost forwards Ryan Kriener (graduation) and Cordell Pemsl (transfer to Virginia Tech) from last year’s squad.

Jack Nunge is back from knee surgery, but there still seems to be a greater need for McCaffery at the 4 than the 1. Last year, he typically started at power forward before assuming point-guard duties in the closing minutes of games.

“I think you’re going to see me again moving around depending on the lineup,” McCaffery said.

“I’m trying to bulk up a little bit so I’ll be able to match up with some of the bigger people in the league.”

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.