Iowa point guards Williams, Bohannon forge new beginning

Mark Emmert

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Iowa’s point guards have each left the No. 11 behind as they begin a new chapter in their basketball careers.

Christian Williams, the sophomore who is the presumed starter for the Hawkeyes, will be wearing No. 10 this season. That’s the number he wore at St. Teresa High School in Decatur, Ill., where he holds the all-time scoring mark with 1,587 points.

“It feels like it kind of puts me close to my high school back home,” Williams said of the switch, which also comes with a new mindset.

Christian Williams will be wearing No. 10 for the Iowa Hawkeyes this year, and the sophomore is also likely to be the starting point guard.

“I’ll probably be more aggressive than I was last year.”

Jordan Bohannon is the incoming freshman who is battling Williams for playing time on a retooled Hawkeye roster. The sharp-shooter wore No. 11 while earning Mr. Basketball honors at Linn-Mar High School. That’s the number his father, Gordy, wore while playing quarterback at Iowa 35 years ago.

Jordan Bohannon will be No. 3 when Iowa’s season tips off Nov. 11 against Kennesaw State.

“I was debating between 11 and 3,” Bohannon said. “New team, new number. Why not?”

Roster breakdown: Analyzing Iowa 2016-17 rotation

Williams, a lanky 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds, played in 20 games as a freshman, averaging 3.2 points. His playing time was limited behind a pair of seniors in Mike Gesell (who had his No. 10) and Anthony Clemmons.

Bohannon stands a scant 6 feet, although he has bulked up to 182 pounds this summer. His forte is his range. He averaged 25.2 points on 43-percent 3-point shooting as a high school senior. Both last winter and in Prime Time League play this summer, he was regularly stepping out to 30 feet or more to bury his shots.

There are no other true point guards on Iowa’s roster, so Williams and Bohannon have been competing against each other in practices this month. But Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said fans may see No. 10 and No. 3 on the court together at times this winter.

“Christian is a really good defensive player, so we might need him to go shut down a 2, especially if Pete (Jok) is in foul trouble. I'd like to play him with Pete kind of like we did last year with three guards," McCaffrey said. "Christian is a really good offensive rebounder, so we could turn him loose because you don't send your point guard to the glass."

“So I think Christian and Jordan together would be really good, especially with the way that Jordan shoots the 3.”

Bohannon, eager for playing time, would welcome that scenario.

“He’s really unselfish. He doesn’t make a lot of mistakes,” Bohannon said of Williams. “It’s nice having a player like that that can find you whenever, especially me being a shooter. He can drive the lane and find whoever’s open.”

McCaffery expects some bumpy times as his young point guards gain experience. Jok, a preseason all-Big Ten Conference pick at shooting guard, is the team’s lone proven star after graduating four starters from a year ago. Beyond that is a lot of tantalizing depth but also a feeling of wait-and-see.

“We're going to have to be a little bit patient because they're young, but they're smart, tough and versatile,” McCaffery said of Williams and Bohannon. “They're intelligent, so they'll understand our offense thoroughly, and if we're changing defenses, they'll be fine there. They'll communicate what's necessary to the rest of the team. I'm excited about both of them.”

McCaffery will also green-light other players on the team to bring the ball upcourt, especially off of a defensive rebound. Jok will have the ball in his hands frequently, particularly in crucial situations.

But he’s also excited by what he sees from Williams and Bohannon. Jok said Williams started to deliver late last season on the potential that had always been there.

As for the freshman?

“Bohannon’s kind of like a pit bull. He’s just got that dog in him,” Jok said. “Even though he’s small, he doesn’t give up. He plays hard.

“I think he’s the best Bohannon that I’ve seen.”

That last reference was to Bohannon’s three older brothers — Jason, Zach and Matt — all of whom played Division I basketball for Hawkeye rivals. Jason and Zach were Wisconsin Badgers; Matt just finished his Panther career at Northern Iowa.

None of that matters now, though, Jordan said. All of them have Iowa black-and-gold gear and will be at his games rooting him on.

“They were really happy for me,” Jordan Bohannon said of his decision to call Carver-Hawkeye Arena home. “They just want to see me in a position where I was able to thrive the most.”

McCaffery is hoping to see a sequel to what he had with Gesell and Clemmons.

“Those guys were leaders, they were workers. They came in essentially in competition with one another and ended up playing together and ended up being the best of friends,” McCaffery said.

Williams and Bohannon are in competition now and soon will be playing together, wearing their new numbers.

Up ahead will lie some hardship, for sure. But that may forge the truest of friendships.

Peter Jok's extraordinary past prepared him for this season