IOWA CITY, Ia. — The off-again, on-again status of Iowa forward Cordell Pemsl appears to be … on again.
That was the word from Hawkeyes coach Fran McCaffery on Thursday. He said the 6-foot-8 junior from Dubuque has been practicing in limited fashion this week after surprisingly taking to the court in Iowa’s Dec. 6 win over Iowa State.
Pemsl had been declared out for the season and intending to have surgery on his right knee. That all changed last week when he said the pain subsided and he wanted to suit up against the Cyclones. Pemsl responded with eight points and six rebounds in 16 minutes in that 98-84 win and told the Register the following day that his knee felt fine.
“He's a competitor. He's an experienced guy. He's got some versatility. It's clearly a benefit” to have him available, McCaffery said of Pemsl.
Next up for No. 22 Iowa (7-2) is a game against another in-state rival, Northern Iowa (4-5), at 6 p.m. Saturday at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. The game will be televised on BTN.
McCaffery said it’s now a possibility that Pemsl could forego the surgery and play out the season. Pemsl has said there is no danger of structural damage to the knee, which was surgically repaired while he was in high school. The new surgery, originally scheduled for next week, was to remove a brace and five screws left behind in the previous operation. The hardware had been causing him irritation earlier this season. And then it stopped.
“It's up to him,” McCaffery said of Pemsl’s ability to play. “It really is legitimately day-to-day, how he feels.”
Pemsl could play again Saturday without jeopardizing his medical redshirt, should he still opt for surgery. That still seems like the likeliest course.
His return to the court even took Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon by surprise. The two have been best friends since middle school.
“There’s a lot of things that he’s gone through that people don’t know about. He’s been struggling lately,” Bohannon said of Pemsl.
“He talked about he wanted to come back for Iowa State and see how it felt. But for him to actually do it and make the impact that he did, it just shows the type of person he is.”
Wieskamp's ankle improving
It seems even likelier that Iowa freshman Joe Wieskamp will be able to stay in the starting lineup against Northern Iowa. Wieskamp sprained his ankle Dec. 3 in a loss at Michigan State and didn’t think he was going to heal in time to square off with the Cyclones. But the ankle slowly felt better as the day went on Dec. 6, Wieskamp said, and he played 22 minutes, with seven points, in that game.
McCaffery said Thursday that Wieskamp is showing slow improvement.
“He's still not a hundred percent but he's getting closer,” McCaffery said.
Wieskamp later said he was hoping to be a full participant in Thursday’s practice. He said he wouldn’t have played a week ago if he didn’t feel like his ankle was fully functional.
“I knew that if I was going to play, I didn’t want to be limited. I wanted to be able to do what I could do. And that was a big factor in my decision,” he said.
Cook ready for unorthodox defenses
The Panthers have no one on their active roster who figures to be able to contend one-on-one with Iowa power forward Tyler Cook.
Cook, at 6-9, 250 pounds, has scored 60 points with 34 rebounds in the past three games. He has played 110 of a possible 120 minutes. The junior has been downright unstoppable at times while going against high-major competition.
Northern Iowa will start four guards and 212-pound center Luke McDonnell, a redshirt junior. Panthers sophomore forward Austin Phyfe is out for this game and possibly the season.
Cook said Thursday he was anticipating double- or even triple-teams whenever he touches the ball. He was watching film and preparing for “a couple different looks.”
“I’ll try to use kind of what I did last game (26 points against Iowa State), try to run and beat everybody down the court and not let the double-team get there,” Cook said.
Cook is 14 points away from 1,000 for his Hawkeye career. It would be a major storyline if the undersized Panthers can find a way to keep him from eclipsing that Saturday.