Jordan Bohannon, on verge of setting Iowa assists record, has even surprised himself

Mark Emmert
Hawk Central

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Jordan Bohannon’s college basketball career was 30 minutes old when he led an Iowa fast break and spotted Peter Jok open on the wing for a 3-pointer. Assist No. 1 was in the books.

Three minutes later, Bohannon fed Jok again for a jump shot. Those two assists were perhaps the only lasting moments from that 91-74 victory over Kennesaw State.

A look at Jordan Bohannon's 610 assists in his Hawkeye career.

That’s because, 608 assists later, Bohannon has come to the realization that every one of them tells its own story. And what began that November evening in 2016 will soon culminate with Bohannon — the hot-shot, chip-on-his-shoulder kid out of Marion — having set up more Hawkeye baskets than any player in history.

Who would have thought that possible? Not even Bohannon himself.

“I didn’t really see myself as a point guard as a kid. I was just a great shooter,” Bohannon said Tuesday, as he sat three assists away from breaking the school record of 612 set by his childhood hero Jeff Horner.

Iowa vs. Michigan:

Bohannon moved to point guard once he got to Linn-Mar, where he continued a basketball tradition of excellence set by three older brothers. But even then, he admitted that the idea only excited him because he figured: “If I always have the ball, I can get a lot of points.”

Still, Bohannon’s ball-handling improved and, if he wasn’t considered a big-time college prospect, he at least got the attention of Iowa coach Fran McCaffery.

Bohannon arrived at Iowa still carrying that shooter’s mentality, but wasn’t in the starting lineup, or really even at the front of mind of Hawkeye fans, when his freshman year began. Christian Williams was starting at point guard. Bohannon was trying to find some niche off of the bench.

Bohannon did make two 3-pointers in his Hawkeye debut, but also had those two assists. Soon, he discovered that those two aspects of his game could coexist, and even carry him into the starting lineup. Which is what happened in Iowa’s seventh game of that season, at Notre Dame. Bohannon made seven 3-pointers and had seven assists.

On Bohannon's breakout game:New starters shine in Hawkeye loss

Iowa point guard Jordan Bohannon has a reputation for making long-range shots. But he takes more pride in his passing, as he demonstrates here against Michigan State's Rocket Watts. Bohannon has 610 career assists, three away from becoming the all-time leader in Hawkeye men's basketball history. He'll get his chance to set that mark Thursday at Michigan.

The Hawkeyes lost the game, but Bohannon won a job he has held onto through four seasons and two hip surgeries. He already holds the Hawkeye record for career 3-pointers at 340. On Thursday, when No. 12 Iowa (17-6, 11-5 Big Ten Conference) travels to face No. 3 Michigan (16-1, 11-1) at 6 p.m. on ESPN, Bohannon should become the top assist-maker in program history.

Bohannon, who seemingly memorizes and internalizes every insult ever uttered about him, is now proud to call himself a point guard. He bristles when it is suggested that he is anything else.

“I’ve always prided myself in being a really great leader on the floor, trying to be as vocal as possible and getting the guys in the right spots,” Bohannon said.

Earlier:Hawkeye guard Jordan Bohannon ahead of pace in his hip rehab, on pace to graduate

Horner, a Mason City native who is now the men’s basketball coach at Truman State in Missouri, sees parallels in Bohannon’s journey and his own. Horner was also a terrific shooter, putting up 1,502 points on 37% 3-point shooting from 2002-06.

“Just because you’re a good shooter, people think you can’t play point guard. And everyone thinks that if you play point guard you should be in the middle of the lane making plays for other people,” Horner said. “But sometimes your point guard needs to run the team and get guys to where they need to be. Jordan has Luka Garza posting up. Your job is to try to get the ball in to him and put guys in places where that can happen.”

Garza became Iowa’s all-time scoring leader Sunday, passing the late Roy Marble with 2,126. Bohannon had the assist on Garza’s record-breaking basket, a pass he said will always be among his favorite stories.

Garza would love to get the basket that puts Bohannon atop the record book.

“It’s been a pleasure to have him at the helm, at the point guard spot,” said Garza, who has scored 109 baskets on Bohannon assists, more than anyone else.

Horner can remember the assist he had to Erek Hansen for a jump shot that put him ahead of Andre Woolridge in Hawkeye history.

“The assist record meant a lot because it meant that my teammates were the ones who benefited from it,” Horner said.

But it’s also a record he is happy to relinquish. Horner has already sent Bohannon a message saying he’s cheering for him. He said he will reach out again once Bohannon gets assist No. 613. He admires the toughness Bohannon has displayed while carving out his place in Hawkeye history.

“It’s good to see an Iowa kid that bleeds black and gold get that record,” Horner said.

For Horner, it’s easy to be magnanimous about it after his bout with testicular cancer in 2019. He had successful surgery, but still needs scans every six months to be sure that the disease is at bay.

So seeing his name move down one slot to second in Hawkeye assist history is no cause for hard feelings.

“In the end, what society in my opinion lacks nowadays is just happiness for other people,” Horner said.

Iowa men's basketball top five assist leaders

  1.  Jeff Horner  612
  2.  Jordan Bohannon  610
  3. Andre Woolridge  575
  4. Dean Oliver  561
  5. Mike Gesell  557

How Jordan Bohannon has distributed his 610 assists

  • Luka Garza  109
  • Tyler Cook  100
  • Isaiah Moss  92
  • Joe Wieskamp  56
  • Cordell Pemsl  43
  • Nicholas Baer  40
  • Peter Jok  38
  • Ryan Kriener  35
  • Jack Nunge  18
  • Ahmad Wagner  17
  • CJ Fredrick  15
  • Maishe Dailey  13
  • Connor McCaffery  11
  • Brady Ellingson  9
  • Keegan Murray  4
  • Dom Uhl  3
  • Joe Toussaint  2
  • Patrick McCaffery  2
  • Christian Williams  1
  • Charlie Rose  1
  • Bakari Evelyn  1

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.