Leistikow: Hawkeye hoops commit Joe Wieskamp is Iowa nice
As I thought about how to start this column, I looked at Twitter and noticed Lavar Ball was trending.
The father of a probable top-two pick in the upcoming NBA Draft had delivered yet another cringe-worthy rant of self-promotion while simultaneously managing to demean a female journalist.
After seeing that, I knew exactly what to write.
Joe Wieskamp is the antithesis of Lavar Ball.
Does a lot of good things.
Does them in an admirable way.
And says very little about them — or himself.
Yet the incoming Iowa basketball recruit deserves headlines — yes, for his accomplishments. This is the sports section, after all.
But this story is more about Wieskamp’s character.
The Muscatine High School junior was handed a trophy Tuesday as Iowa’s Gatorade Player of the Year in boys’ basketball. He deserved it after becoming the first Class 4-A player in 15 years to average more than 30 points per game.
But what Wieskamp did with his $1,000 prize was more notable.
He gave the money to the Muscatine YMCA, where he’s spent hours upon hours building his game on the way to becoming one of the nation’s top high school players.
Gatorade stipulated that award winners could donate the money to any non-profit organization that encourages youth sports.
“I wanted to do something local — something that’s benefited me and a lot of other people in the Muscatine community,” Wieskamp, 17, said. “They have a lot of activities and programs for the youth … helping kids stay active.”
Muscatine YMCA executive director Bret Olson confirmed a joking inquiry about whether Wieskamp’s offering was the first four-figure donation from a teenager he’s gotten in the campaign to fund $7 million in renovations.
Olson and Wieskamp’s father, Steve, starred for an excellent Muscatine basketball team in 1990.
“One of the best players Muscatine has ever had,” Olson said of Steve. “But he’s not anything in comparison to Joe.”
That’s not a dig at his high school classmate. It underscores that Joe is that good.
It’s no fluke that ESPN.com and Rivals.com rate Wieskamp as a top-50 national recruit in the Class of 2018.
Over the years, Olson has seen Wieskamp come through his YMCA doors almost daily — even on Christmas.
Yes, Olson recalls that Wieskamp was antsy because he missed a Dec. 24 workout while his family traveled. Olson got a call from Steve, wondering if he could let Joe into the Y the next day.
Absolutely, Olson responded.
“Joe came over and shot for two hours, and I rebounded for him,” Olson said. “He put in a full workout. … He didn’t want to go two days without shooting.
“I was tired from rebounding, because he was working so hard.”
It’s that kind of work ethic that has helped Wieskamp — now 6-foot-6, 195 pounds — become the state’s highest-rated prospect since Linn-Mar’s Marcus Paige in 2012. He's equally adept at elevating for a swished 3-pointer as driving to the hoop for a one-handed dunk.
“I always tell people that don’t know him, 'Here’s the best way I can sum it up: He’s a better kid than he is a basketball player,'” Olson said. “They kind of look at me funny, but I think that sums it up. He’s a phenomenal basketball player, right? But he’s a better person.
“He’s gracious with little kids. He spends time with them. I’ve never heard him talking about any of his accomplishments, which you’ve probably figured out interviewing him.”
If you want to hear a lot from Wieskamp on Twitter, you’ll be disappointed.
“He’s got a real good balance in life,” Muskies high school coach Gary Belger said.
Wieskamp credits his parents, Steve and Dana, and older brother Matt for keeping him grounded.
“After every game, after every accomplishment, every accolade, (Matt) texts me and reminds me to keep a level head,” Wieskamp said, “and stay humble through the whole process.”
It would be easy for Wieskamp to get a big head. With 1,573 career points and at last year’s clip of 30.4 a game (on 56 percent shooting), he’ll surpass Jeff Horner’s all-time 4-A mark of 2,194 points.
Up next for Wieskamp: summer camps in June, AAU travels with the Iowa Barnstormers in July and signing with the Hawkeyes in November.
He is firmly committed. Calls from other programs have stopped. They know he’s all-in at Iowa. Coaches have told Wieskamp he'll be a combo guard in college.
And judging by his personality, he’ll be a tremendous fit with nose-to-the-grindstone Iowans Nicholas Baer, Jordan Bohannon and Cordell Pemsl, who are trying to put Hawkeye hoops on the national map.
“They’ve got a lot of good kids that are trying to do the same thing I’m doing,” Wieskamp said, “just work hard and accomplish all their goals.”
In a culture that swarms to the latest tweets or anything said by Lavar Ball, that isn't the kind of quote that grabs headlines.
But, especially today, it certainly sounds refreshing.
Hawkeyes columnist Chad Leistikow has covered sports for 22 years with The Des Moines Register, USA TODAY and Iowa City Press-Citizen. Follow @ChadLeistikow on Twitter.