Leistikow: 5 Iowa basketball topics with Fran McCaffery, including Jordan Bohannon's return to practice
Jordan Bohannon was expected to practice fully as Iowa kicked off its summer basketball program Thursday, 11 days after suffering what the university called a “serious head injury” in a bar altercation in Iowa City.
“He’s recovered,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said Thursday afternoon in a Zoom call with Iowa media.
Bohannon has not spoken publicly since the incident, which video footage showed escalated outside DC’s on Dubuque Street and included Bohannon being knocked to the ground. McCaffery on Thursday did not elaborate on whether Bohannon would press charges, saying it was a family matter.
But it was good news to hear that Bohannon, who told the Register on April 26 that he would be returning to Iowa for a sixth season, was not sidelined for an extended period after what looked like a scary situation.
“He’s in a really good place,” McCaffery said. “Obviously, it was an unfortunate situation that he had to deal with. But I think he’s (dealt with) it really well … and is anxious to get out on the floor.”
McCaffery hadn't spoken to the Iowa media since mid-April, before CJ Fredrick entered the transfer portal and landed at Kentucky; before Bohannon and North Dakota transfer Filip Rebraca made plans to join the Hawkeyes’ 2021-22 roster; before New York big man Riley Mulvey signed early. So, there was a lot to discuss.
Let’s buzz through some of the highlights …
Bohannon might have to play point guard in the first few practices. Here's why.
McCaffery revealed Thursday that returning point guards Joe Toussaint and Ahron Ulis had offseason surgeries. The good news is that both are “really close” to returning to the court. Toussaint had ankle surgery; Ulis had wrist surgery.
Connor McCaffery, another option at the point, is ahead of schedule after two hip surgeries but won't be fully ready to practice until at least September.
Bohannon, who turns 24 later this month, is No. 2 all-time in the Big Ten Conference in 3-pointers (with 364) and Iowa’s all-time leader in assists (with 639) after 4½ seasons of running the point. When Fredrick went into the transfer portal, McCaffery lobbied for Bohannon to use his “free” COVID-19 year of eligibility to return to the Hawkeyes as a shooting guard.
"J-Bo is a guy that if you play a full complement of games, he’s going to make 90 3s,” Fran McCaffery said. “My thought process is to get him as many shots as we can. Will he never play the point? He’ll play some there, I would think, over the course of the season.
“But really, we felt like somebody who was an elite shooter would really help this team. And I think he saw the same things that we saw and wants to help in any way he can.”
Bohannon was a reliable replacement plan for what Fredrick (a 46.6% career 3-point shooter with 52 starts) was expected to offer the Hawkeyes next season.
From the outset of Thursday’s press conference, Iowa spokesman Matt Weitzel said McCaffery would only address current Hawkeyes. McCaffery’s only public acknowledgment of Fredrick’s departure has been a one-sentence statement that Fredrick, in fact, was entering the transfer portal.
It was a frosty situation at the time, and the Hawkeyes’ 12th-year head coach would rather say nothing publicly about Fredrick than something he might regret.
3 Hawkeye sophomores are (likely) headed to Switzerland in August.
And all three — Patrick McCaffery, Keegan Murray and Kris Murray — are arguably the program’s three most exciting, rising stars.
This was supposed to be a year that Iowa made a foreign trip; Fran McCaffery said that would instead happen next year, given the COVID-19 protocols. But it’s fortunate that the Murray twins and his middle son will get to play on three East Coast all-star teams representing the U.S. Most likely, they’ll each be on their own team — one will be coached by Syracuse's Jim Boeheim, one by longtime coach Larry Brown, one by South Carolina's Frank Martin. If the Swiss itinerary falls through due to COVID-19, the tour will go to England instead.
That is an excellent developmental opportunity for the trio. Patrick McCaffery is the most likely candidate to take over Iowa’s “3” spot if Joe Wieskamp indeed turns pro; Keegan Murray is being discussed as a possible 2022 first-round NBA Draft pick; and Kris … well, he’s still a mystery at this point. A common question I get from fans is, “Is he as good as his brother?”
Well, Fran McCaffery certainly thinks Kris — who had three baskets in 41 minutes last season — could be a major factor on next year’s team, including at the center spot previously held by national player of the year Luka Garza. Kris learned the 3, 4 and 5 spots last season while backing up Garza, Jack Nunge, Wieskamp and his brother.
McCaffery said Kris would be “really integral” to the 2021-22 team and beyond.
“He’s a very good 3-point shooter, which is something our team needs,” McCaffery said. “I think physically, he’s in a really good place in terms of his strength and conditioning.
“He’ll come back (from Switzerland) I think in a position to be not only a factor for our team, but in our league.”
What’s the latest with Joe Wieskamp?
Wieskamp told the Register recently he has nothing new to report on his stay-or-go NBA decision. He’s been in Las Vegas training, with the expectation that he’ll be invited to the NBA Scouting Combine and individual workouts with teams.
“He’s working hard to fulfill his dream. We want to support him in any way we can,” McCaffery said.
McCaffery’s answers throughout the Zoom call indicated that Wieskamp was not a part of the 2021-22 plans, but of course the Hawkeyes would welcome him back if he chose to return (the deadline is July 19).
McCaffery said Filip Rebraca “fits in perfectly” with his offense.
“He’s a really skilled 6-9 guy that can rebound it, can handle it, can shoot it, can drive it. He can pass. He gives us a lot of versatility,” McCaffery said.
Rebraca arrived in Iowa City this week, with two years’ eligibility remaining though it's not clear if he'll use both. While Iowa’s biggest need is the “5” position after Garza’s senior year and Nunge’s transfer to Xavier, McCaffery said Rebraca might play other positions, too, in his five-out motion offense.
Riley Mulvey is “somebody we can count on this year.”
Those are McCaffery’s words about Mulvey, who reclassified to the Class of 2021. The Albany, New York, product (whose family has a longtime relationship with McCaffery) graduated high school a year early. He looks like a skilled 6-foot-11 post but needs to add some bulk.
When a big-man need arose, McCaffery said he floated the option to Mulvey about reclassifying and he was receptive. Mulvey also had offers from Syracuse, Virginia Tech and Penn State. His presence will certainly help push second-year big man Josh Ogundele, who used last season to get into better shape.
“He feels like getting here now … would really benefit him with our lifting program, our skill-development program and our practice sessions,” McCaffery said. “He’s excited to be here. We’re excited to have him.”
Hawkeyes columnist Chad Leistikow has covered sports for 26 years with The Des Moines Register, USA TODAY and Iowa City Press-Citizen. Follow @ChadLeistikow on Twitter.