Iowa forward Joe Wieskamp has known Northern Iowa's A.J. Green for a long time. Hear what he thinks about Saturday's matchup: Mark Emmert, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jordan Bohannon never got to play basketball in Wells Fargo Arena as a high schooler.
He has A.J. Green to blame for that.
“(There’s) a little bad blood I guess you could say because he hit a game-winner to end my senior campaign to try to get to state, and that’s something I’m always going to remember the rest of my life,” Bohannon said Thursday as his No. 22 Iowa Hawkeyes prepared to tangle with Green’s Northern Iowa Panthers in the Des Moines venue that annually hosts the state basketball tournament.
Bohannon’s career at Linn-Mar High School ended in 2016 when Green’s 17-foot jumper just ahead of the buzzer gave Cedar Falls a 76-74 overtime win. Bohannon had 44 points in that game. Green had the two that mattered most.
All of the interesting subplots surrounding Saturday’s 6 p.m. game (BTN) involve Green. The freshman is the son of Panthers associate head coach Kyle Green. He leads Northern Iowa (4-5) with 15.8 points per game, and is getting used to being a marked man. The Panthers are struggling to find production in their lineup beyond the star rookie.
“He's always played the game with great confidence, and sometimes you see that not translate (to college), but that's not been the case with him. He's kind of playing with the same kind of confidence and aggressiveness that he always has,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said of Green.
The Hawkeyes have a rising star of their own in freshman forward Joe Wieskamp, who grew up in Muscatine while playing on AAU teams alongside Green from the sixth grade on. Iowa was still working out its plans for defending Green on Thursday, but Wieskamp acknowledged he may be called on from time to time to contend with the Panthers’ guard.
“He’s a quiet kid, but he works really hard and It’s good to see him succeed,” said Wieskamp, who is not exactly talkative himself.
“We’re pretty similar in that regard,” Wieskamp conceded.
It will likely be the only time the state’s two biggest basketball recruits in the 2018 class square off. The Hy-Vee Classic is being discontinued after this season. There are no immediate plans for Iowa and Northern Iowa to play again.
Wieskamp said that provides a little extra motivation for this contest. Then he backtracked slightly from that comment.
“It’s just another game for me, though, against a team that I have a lot of respect for. It should be fun,” he said.
McCaffery said the 6-foot-4, 175-pound Green isn’t a player the Hawkeyes can get overly physical with because he’s also a 93-percent free-throw shooter. You foul Green at your peril.
“You better guard him closely. I mean, you'd better pay attention to him. You'd better know where he is,” McCaffery said.
“A.J.'s got the ball most of the time. He's kind of the key to everything. But they are surrounding him with people who can make shots.”
Center Luke McDonnell is Northern Iowa’s next-highest scorer, at 9.1 points per game.
Iowa (7-2) has split its last 14 meetings with Northern Iowa. Ben Jacobson is in his 13th season as Panthers’ head coach.
“They are going to compete. Battle you on the glass. You have to beat them,” McCaffery said of Jacobson-coached teams. “They are not going to mistake their way into a loss.”
Bohannon knows first-hand how dangerous Green is. Bohannon, at 6-1, will have a hand in trying to defend him.
“He’s a really good player, a really good pull-up game. He shoots the ball pretty high up on his shooting form, so it’s hard to contest his shots,” Bohannon said of Green.
One Green shot in particular still stings.
“I don’t think I’ve had a conversation with him after that,” Bohannon said of the Class 4-A playoff game three seasons ago.
“I was just disappointed because that was my chance to get to state and I did everything I could to try to get that team to state. He’s a great player, and he deserved every honor and recognition that he’s gotten so far. And I’m really looking forward to playing against him.”