Leistikow: How would 2019-20 Hawkeyes look if Jordan Bohannon redshirts?

Chad Leistikow
Hawk Central

Where does Fran McCaffery’s Iowa basketball team go from here?

Its latest offseason blow is the biggest one yet.

There’s a good chance the three-year starting point guard and the most prolific 3-point shooter in program history will elect to redshirt for the 2019-20 season.

While detailing the pain he’s played through the past two seasons, Jordan Bohannon told me he expects to be out five to nine months while recovering from hip surgery he has scheduled for Wednesday. If he’s not ready to go once the season begins, he’ll elect to take his redshirt season. Do the math, and it’s easy to see that at best, he’ll be cutting it close.

Jordan Bohannon is helped off the floor during Iowa's Feb. 19 game against Maryland. Bohannon told the Register he endured more hits to his injured right hip as the season progressed.

Before we get to the potential outlook of the 2019-20 Hawkeyes without Bohannon, let’s take a moment to understand where Bohannon is coming from.

Here’s a life-long Hawkeye fan who played through painful plantar fasciitis as a sophomore, then pain in his hip from Game 1 through Game 35 as a junior.

Even though he’s been a dynamic scorer at times — already No. 1 in Hawkeye history with 264 3-pointers; No. 7 in assists; and No. 22 in points — Bohannon doesn’t feel like he’s been putting his best self on the floor.

“I felt like I could have played better in some games, maybe,” Bohannon said, “but at the end of the day, I tried to make the most of what I had.”

McCaffery sounded more optimistic about Bohannon's recovery in a university-released statement. Of course, the last thing a head coach wants to do is publicly rule out a return.

"This is an unfortunate setback for Jordan, but he will work hard during his rehab and is expected to make a full recovery,” the statement said. "He has the support of his teammates and coaches, and we look forward to having a healthy Jordan back when he is given clearance from our medical staff."

It was clear in our conversation, Bohannon craves to be healthy for a full season. That's his goal. Maybe he’ll be back on the court in four months and be in game shape by early November. Maybe.

But maybe he won’t be until sometime after the 2019-20 season begins. Anyone who's had a hip operation will tell you that the recovery is often tricky and unpredictable. If the rehab has any hiccups, Bohannon will be ready to take a redshirt.

If that scenario unfolds, how does next season shape up?

The graduation of Nicholas Baer, the NBA departure of Tyler Cook and the transfers of Maishe Dailey and Isaiah Moss … those losses already left a mark. But there were pretty obvious replacement plans in place for each.

Losing Bohannon? There is no warranty, no good backup plan on one of the most clutch players in Hawkeye history. 

According to the UI, Bohannon was among the nation's leaders with 85 points last season in the last two minutes of regulation and of overtime periods. He shot 19 of 35 (54.2%) in those moments and was 41-for-47 (87.2%) from the foul line.

If you're looking for good news today: Certainly, Bohannon’s revelation is happening early enough that it should send out beacons across the country to any potential graduate-transfer point guards. There is a potential major vacancy in Iowa City, and — in case you missed it — the Hawkeyes have two open scholarships.

There’s room at the inn.

McCaffery, in a recent interview with the Register, said he was still open to taking on an immediately-eligible transfer. He surely knew then what we know now — that there could be a gaping backcourt need. He had a large packet of transfer-portal names handy as we spoke, and more will be added to the list as summer graduations approach.

If the Hawkeyes don’t bring in a one-year stopgap, then … welcome to the white-hot spotlight, Connor McCaffery. And true freshman Joe Toussaint.

They would no longer be point guards of the future; they’d be Iowa’s point guards of the present. And with Connor planning to play summer-league baseball in New York, Toussaint has even more of an opening to shine upon his arrival.

Redshirting forwards Jack Nunge and Cordell Pemsl figure to backfill Cook’s vast production, and active big man Ryan Kriener (who, without Bohannon, would be the lone senior player) should see an increased role in a frontcourt needing Baer-like grit.

Center Luka Garza’s minutes should rise from 23.6 to about 30.6. He and sophomore Joe Wieskamp (assuming he returns as expected after getting NBA feedback) will share the team's featured scoring roles, and both are ready for that spotlight.

CJ Fredrick was going to unseat some of Moss’ shooting-guard minutes, anyway, so he’ll be on the fast track to a robust redshirt freshman year. I think he'll be a good one. He could also play some point guard, if needed.

A Bohannon-less starting five might look like this: McCaffery at the 1, Fredrick at the 2, Wieskamp at the 3, Kriener/Pemsl/Nunge (take your pick) at the 4, Garza at the 5. 

“They have a lot of guys that are willing to step up, no matter what happens," Bohannon said. "CJ. Joe stepping in. Connor. There are a lot of pieces that will fit together."

The schedule is daunting, one that the head coach called maybe the toughest in program history. Without four of last year's top six (Bohannon, Moss, Baer, Cook), the Hawkeyes would be hard-pressed to make the NIT, let alone the NCAAs.

Maybe all this attrition answers the Patrick McCaffery quandary, too. The talented incoming freshman forward needs time to bulk up, and maybe this settles it — that he would benefit from a redshirt year while the Hawkeyes build for another run (perhaps with a healthier Bohannon) in 2020-21. 

Hawkeyes columnist Chad Leistikow has covered sports for 24 years with The Des Moines Register, USA TODAY and Iowa City Press-Citizen. Follow @ChadLeistikow on Twitter.