Iowa point guard Jordan Bohannon has fought through pain all season. Tuesday, he had 20 points and 10 assists in a win against Minnesota. Chad Leistikow / The Register
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Cordell Pemsl shouted across the interview room following Iowa’s 94-80 win against Minnesota, making sure to get Jordan Bohannon’s attention.
“Are you a point guard or a 2 guard?” Pemsl asked his teammate, who was crowded by reporters.
“Everyone thinks I’m not (a point guard), so I don’t think I am,” he replied with a laugh.
A perceptive guy and active on social media, Bohannon has heard the chatter: He’s not a "true" point guard.
For some reason, he’s been a lightning-rod of sorts in certain pockets of the Iowa fan base. They argue that if Fran McCaffery had a “true” point guard, this team would be better than 12-12 overall and 3-8 in the Big Ten Conference.
All Bohannon did Tuesday night to answer his doubters?
Score 20 points, dish out 10 assists with just two turnovers, pick off three steals and play 38 minutes — three nights after playing all 40 at Nebraska.
Point guard or not, Bohannon is becoming a terrific college basketball player.
If you know anyone who’s been on Bohannon’s case, in any way, tell them to get off it. It's not his fault that he's the only point guard this team has.
“Tyler (Cook) had a good tweet the other day: ‘There’s a lot of experts out there,’” Bohannon said. “Nothing against them. We love our fans, we love how passionate they are. But a lot of them don’t know the position that we’re in, what we’re running offensively, what we’re going through day to day.”
Bohannon’s sixth career double-double in points and assists Tuesday broke B.J. Armstrong’s school record of five. Remember how good Andre Woolridge was in his day? He had three such double-doubles in his three-year career.
Bohannon's 304 career assists is a total nearly halfway to Jeff Horner's school record of 612.
In case you forgot: Bohannon is just a sophomore.
The Minnesota coach speaks after a 94-80 loss at Iowa.
“OK, say he’s not a point guard,” Cook said. “He’s doing a great job of it. It doesn’t matter what people are saying, if he’s a 1 or a 2 guard. He does what we need him to do.”
Without Bohannon, the only point guard Iowa has this year after the transfer of Christian Williams and injuries and illnesses of Connor McCaffery, this team wouldn’t have anything holding it together.
For as good as Bohannon was last year when he made the all-Big Ten freshman team, he’s at a new, better level this season.
After averaging 10.9 points a game last year, he’s at 14.0 now.
He averaged 5.1 assists a game then, 5.4 now — third in the Big Ten.
His 2.9 3-pointers per game this year is the top rate in the Big Ten and better than last year’s pace of 2.6.
And here’s what’s even more remarkable about what Bohannon is doing: He’s been playing through a debilitating injury almost all season.
Bohannon went into detail Tuesday night about something that’s had him in excruciating pain for the better part of a year — plantar fasciitis in his right foot.
Talk to anyone who has had that ailment, they’ll tell you — it creates some of the worst pain they’ve ever felt. Surgery is rarely an option. There's no perfect treatment.
Basically, you have to hope it goes away.
For Bohannon, it started last season, punctuated by a memorable flare-up in an NIT game against South Dakota.
The Iowa coach praises his team and the big shots made by Jordan Bohannon. Mark Emmert / The Register
“At the end of the first half, I came out of the tunnel and I had to go straight to the training room,” Bohannon said. “I was almost crying in pain.”
He took about a month off from basketball after the season. He got an injection into the bottom of his foot with “a large needle.” He saw various specialists over the summer, searching for a way to relieve the pain.
“Weeks and months where it would feel crappy every day," Bohannon said.
He keeps a golf ball beside his bed. He'll get up at night and grind his foot against it, trying to relieve the pain.
What does it feel like?
"Like there’s a metal rod in there, which isn’t fun.”
When he wakes up, Bohannon prays it doesn't hurt again. Some days are better than others. Lately it’s been the best it’s been in a while.
Earlier this season, it was bad. Fran McCaffery was trying to limit his practice and playing time.
But, he didn’t really have a backup point guard.
So, Bohannon pressed forward. He played through the pain for the team.
None of us could’ve known what he was going through. It’s not something you want to share with your opponents. Maybe that's why his defense has suffered at times.
“I try not to show (the pain). I try to act like a tough kid,” he said. “There are moments when it just kills me. Some days it’s just not even there, perfectly fine. I wake up the next day, can’t even move.”
He credits trainer Brad Floy for helping him feel better now than he has all season.
His on-court performance is showing it.
He’s been fantastic in Iowa’s past three games, which include two wins. In that stretch, he’s averaged 19.0 points and 9.3 assists.
Plus: Any time Iowa needs a 3-pointer, he seems to deliver. After Minnesota chopped the Hawkeye lead to 57-53 in Tuesday's second half, Bohannon quick-released a 3-pointer from 27 feet, near Herky's beak just past midcourt.
After the Gophers got back to within 71-66, Bohannon struck from deep again.
He’s been beyond clutch. He’s been a warrior. He’s arguably been Iowa’s MVP.
So why care about whether he’s a so-called true point guard?
Cook delivered a great final thought on this subject, as if the forward were hammering home one of his signature dunks.
“He plays point guard,” Cook said, “and does a damn good job at it.”
Hawkeyes columnist Chad Leistikow has covered sports for 23 years with The Des Moines Register, USA TODAY and Iowa City Press-Citizen. Follow @ChadLeistikow on Twitter.