Leistikow: At NBA Combine, Iowa's Joe Wieskamp proves he's ready for the next level
All week long at the NBA Draft Combine, Iowa junior Joe Wieskamp looked like he was ready to take the next step in his career. Afterward, he said as much.
The revelation of Wieskamp’s envious body-fat percentage (4.1%) and eye-popping max vertical jump (42 inches) started his time in Chicago. And in both of his five-on-five games, Wieskamp proved he’s ready to be a pro.
Technically, the Muscatine native has until July 7 at 11:59 p.m. to withdraw from the NBA Draft if he wanted to return for a fourth year of college. And he hasn’t announced a final decision, saying Friday that he would know more in about a week. But Wieskamp said he was prepared to hire an agent and that he has known for a long time that now would be his time to become a pro.
“I feel like I'm ready for this next step. I feel like I've proved that I can compete and excel in this league,” Wieskamp said Friday afternoon from Chicago. “At the same time, I’m going to continue to gain information and feedback.”
The Muscatine native was probably his team’s best player this week. He was solid Thursday, with eight points and two blocked shots in 22 minutes. He was sensational Friday, with 26 points on 6-of-7 accuracy from 3-point range with 10 rebounds in 26 minutes.
Both days, Wieskamp was in the starting five and scored the game’s first points — Thursday on a 19-footer after he pump-faked, took one dribble and elevated into a jumper; Friday on a top-of-the-key 3-pointer just 41 seconds in, a catch-and-fire deep shot with a defender flashing in his face. Swish.
Wieskamp has been training in Las Vegas, pretty much since Iowa’s NCAA Tournament run ended in the second round in late March. He was excited and ready for this week. Wieskamp said Tuesday's max-vertical jump (which involves a short running start) was the highest mark of his life; the 42 inches tied for fourth among all players there (and was three inches higher than Illinois' Ayo Dosunmu, for what it's worth). Yeah, the kid from the Quad Cities has some hops.
Wieskamp: NBA Combine 'showed that I'm more athletic than people think'
Even Wieskamp, notoriously humble, agreed that he had a good week.
“In the testing, I put up numbers right at the top of leaderboard. Showed that I’m more athletic than people think. Came out here and just competed,” Wieskamp said. “I feel like I’m the best shooter here.”
Wieskamp was a chiseled 6-foot-7¼ in shoes and weighed 204.3 pounds in Chicago. He has the length to defend, elite athleticism (his lane agility time of 10.7 seconds was the fourth-best out of 55 testers at the Combine), a beautifully pure 3-point stroke — plus that jumping ability that allowed him to average 6.6 rebounds per game last season despite sharing them with national player of the year Luka Garza, who was also at the Combine but did not play in games due to a groin injury.
ESPN’s announcers raved about Wieskamp both days, usually a signal they’re hearing the same from scouts. Jay Bilas said simply, “He’s a player. I really like him.”
Added LaPhonso Ellis: “Just a smart, high-IQ guy. Moves really well without the ball. He always catches it ready to shoot. … The way he catches it, his hip level is nice and low, allowing him to be able to explode into that shot. One of the most beautiful releases in all of college basketball last year.”
One thing Wieskamp wanted to prove this week was that he can play a physical brand of basketball. As Hawkeye fans may recall, he slumped toward the end of his sophomore season as Big Ten defenses (like Purdue's) roughed him up at times. Wieskamp was aggressive on both ends of the floor in Chicago, as he was throughout his junior year at Iowa while earning second-team all-Big Ten honors.
““That's something coach (Fran) McCaffrey really worked on, from my sophomore year to my junior year, is guys were up into CJ (Fredrick’s) and my space,” Wieskamp said. “I let it kind of get to me my sophomore year, but this past year you saw, I was putting my hands on them. I was throwing them off me like, ‘I can be physical, too.’”
What's next for Wieskamp in the 2021 NBA Draft process?
Wieskamp has already done individual workouts with four NBA teams: the Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Milwaukee Bucks and San Antonio Spurs. He said he has a few more visits coming up. Here’s guessing he opened even more doors this week in Chicago. Coming into this week, he was considered a potential second-round pick in the July 29, two-round draft. His stock certainly didn't drop.
At Iowa, Wieskamp was known as a quiet and serious worker. He certainly deserves to celebrate a strong week in Chicago, but knowing him, he’s going to get right back to the basketball grind. Wieskamp said he wants to work on more curl-and-shoot 3-pointers, instead of catch-and-shoot.
He knows he needs to be on the move to get open in the NBA. That's his only goal and his next step.
“I know that I'm going to be identified as a shooter in the league, so guys are going to be up into my space, not giving me open 3s,” Wieskamp said. “So, I’m really going to have to work for it."
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.