Bohannon expects to start for Iowa, but backup McCaffery may provide added dimension

Mark Emmert
Hawk Central


IOWA CITY, Ia. — Jordan Bohannon expects to start at point guard Thursday when the Iowa men’s basketball team tips off its season with a 7 p.m. home game against Missouri-Kansas City.

That was never in doubt in his mind, even though the junior missed both Hawkeye exhibition games with a bruised hip.

“I could always play,” Bohannon said with a mischievous smile Wednesday when asked about his health. “I think, in the long run, it probably wasn’t worth it (to suit up in two games that don’t count). The amount of minutes I’m probably going to play this season, it wasn’t smart for me to risk anything.”

Iowa freshman Connor McCaffery runs the offense during an exhibition game Sunday. The son of coach Fran McCaffery is the team's backup point guard, a pass-first facilitator who might open up some new options for the Hawkeye offense when the season starts Thursday vs. Missouri-Kansas City.

Bohannon has practiced this week and said he’s not limited in his movements. That’s the good news for an Iowa team that rode Bohannon to the tune of 34 minutes per game in Big Ten Conference play a year ago.

But this might be better news: Bohannon said he’s been practicing at times as the shooting guard alongside Connor McCaffery, who is technically his backup. That was the plan last season, but it was put on hold after McCaffery missed all but four games with injuries and illnesses.

McCaffery, the freshman son of head coach Fran McCaffery, started at point guard in Bohannon’s place during the exhibitions and showed that he’s a pass-first player all the way. Maybe too much so.

“He's going to have to score at times,” Fran McCaffery said after his son missed all three of his 3-point attempts Sunday in a 103-46 victory over Division III Guilford College. “He's got to attack the rim and shoot his open 3s and keep everybody honest.”

The Bohannon-McCaffery dynamic figures to be the most interesting thing for Hawkeye fans to observe in the season’s early going. Bohannon made 96 3-pointers a year ago while also handling the bulk of Iowa’s ball-handling. Freeing him up to launch without worry about tiring him out with traditional point-guard duties could greatly benefit an Iowa offense that features low-post scorers like Tyler Cook and Luka Garza.

“I think he’s going to be real good for us because I’m going to be able to move off the ball in some scenarios and look for my shot more. And he’s mostly just a facilitator, so he’s not going to look for his shot much,” Bohannon said of McCaffery. “He’s a really smart, high-IQ player, and he knows where to put guys, where to put the ball when we need it.”

McCaffery finished with seven points but also four turnovers in the final exhibition game. The Iowa City West graduate scored eight points, also with four turnovers, all of last season, when he played just 53 minutes.

McCaffery said Wednesday that fans never got to see the full range of his game because mononucleosis robbed him of strength, weight and confidence. He’s at 205 pounds now, on a 6-foot-5 frame, and ready to show his teammates and the paying ticket-holders what he can really do.

“I think there are times when I do need to be aggressive, but there are times when I need to get other people involved, and I think I’m pretty good about recognizing that. You need to know when to go and when to reel it back a little,” McCaffery said.

It helps that he grew up watching his father coach teams at North Carolina-Greensboro, Siena and now Iowa. Connor knows what Fran wants from his point guard. He’s seen a long line of them.

“We’re trying to pound it inside from the beginning, but obviously, we have the perimeter shooters,” Connor McCaffery said.

“I knew, coming in, what (Fran McCaffery) expects from the point guard. I’ve watched them all. I’ve seen the different styles.”

And now fans can finally see his.