The 2018 Iowa commit looks especially good on defense in these clips.
Long before Gary Belger took over Muscatine’s boys’ basketball this year, he was an assistant boys’ basketball coach at Palmer High in Palmer, a northwestern Iowa hamlet of about 160 people.
The tiny town’s tinier high school sported a monster basketball team. It won 103 straight games in the late 1980s and won three consecutive state titles from 1986 to 1988.
Belger was there in 1979. That year, Palmer legend Bob Beneke scored 49 points in a substate final against North Kossuth. It was the greatest high school performance Belger had ever seen.
Then he waited for somebody to top it. He waited 10 years. Twenty years. Thirty years. He moved from job to job, state to state, Iowa to Illinois to Minnesota to Florida, coaching against about 10 guys who would wind up in the NBA, Belger said.
Nothing topped Beneke's magnum opus.
Until Tuesday night. That's when 2018 Iowa recruit Joe Wieskamp, of Muscatine, scored 50 points in an 84-44 win against Burlington.
“But Joe did this in three quarters,” Belger said. “And with a running clock in the second half. So put that in perspective.”
How’s this for perspective: With those 50 points, Wieskamp set Muscatine records for points in a game and points in a career (1,068). He’s also the fifth player in the large-school class to score 50 in a game since 2000. Mason City’s Jeff Horner was the last to do it against Ames in 2002.
“It might have been the most fun game I’ve been in in my life,” Wieskamp said. “Just when you get in that zone and you know every shot you take is going in. It’s a great feeling.”
Wieskamp is a 6-foot-6 guard/forward combo. He’s been good, well-known in Iowa hoops, for a while now. He led Muscatine in scoring as a freshman and sophomore. He committed to Iowa last June before leading his summer league club, the Barnstormers, with 16.4 points per game on the circuit.
But his dominance this year is different. He tops the state with 32.6 points per game on 66.7 percent shooting — the best mark of anyone with more than 50 shots. He’s also shooting 48.3 percent (14-for-29) on 3-pointers, better than as a freshman (40 percent) or sophomore (31.7 percent).
And let’s remember, Wieskamp’s progression was supposed to be halted this summer by a sprained ankle and mononucleosis, which drained him of about 12 pounds, he said.
So what’s the deal?
“He got a little stronger and his outside shooting has, I think, improved,” said Craig Wurdinger, head coach of Davenport Central, which beat Muscatine Dec. 9. “And I know he played for the Barnstormers during the summer and I think he went against some really good talent in the summer, which I think has improved his total game. His ball-handling skills, and I think the main thing is he’s gotten stronger and his outside shooting has gotten better.”
Added Wieskamp: “The biggest thing I worked on this summer was creating my own shot. A lot of the times, like in AAU, my teammates would drive and then kick to me on the corner and I would shoot. Obviously that’s not going to happen as much playing high school, getting face-guarded.”
On a different level
247Sports gives Wieskamp four stars and ranks him 42nd among all 2018 prospects — No. 1 in Iowa.
Here are his stats from Muscatine’s first five games, plus reactions/opinions from opposing coaches.
Muscatine 70, City High 46
Wieskamp: 27 points, 10-for-16 from the field, nine rebounds, five steals
“What he’s really good at is he’s so strong with the basketball,” City coach Derek Roberts said. “Extremely quick with his first step and very strong at bullying his way into the paint and getting his way.”
Cedar Rapids Prairie 84, Muscatine 69
Wieskamp: 33 points, 10-for-15, nine rebounds, two assists
“The thing that’s impressive about him is he has to do a little bit of everything for his team this year,” Prairie coach Jeremy Rickersten said. “Obviously he can score, but they kind of lean on him to handle the ball, rebound, play defense, so he’s got to do it all. Which, honestly in our game, I think was to our advantage because I think he kind of got a little tired. But he’s just got a good, solid all-around game.
“I was impressed with how he maintained his composure as he was trying to do everything. The night we played him, we shot the ball really well, but he didn’t get flustered and stuck with his teammates.”
Muscatine 60, Washington 33
Wieskamp: 24 points, 7-for-14, 10 rebounds, two assists
“The main thing that I like about him is that he stays in the offense,” Washington coach Colin Stark said. “He doesn’t feel like he needs to really hog the basketball. He still passes the basketball around, but his teammates look for him.”
Stark was also a fan of Wieskamp’s shooting motion — he starts high and finishes high.
“So it’s never going to get blocked even when he gets into Big Ten play,” Stark said. “With him being a 6-7, 6-8 guard and the way he finishes that, I don’t see where it’s ever going to be a problem, to be blocked.”
Davenport Central 58, Muscatine 55
Wieskamp: 29 points, 11-for-16, 10 rebounds, three blocks
“He’s just so versatile,” Wurdinger said. “He’s got good post moves inside, he can shoot the ball outside, he handles the ball, high IQ for the game, just a real tough matchup for a lot of high school teams.
“We held him to four in the first half and then he came out and scored 25 in the second half. So it’s just a matter of time with him, as far as when he’s going to explode. He usually does during a game at some point.”
Muscatine 84, Burlington 44
Wieskamp: 50 points, 16-for-20, 9-for-11 from long range
“I’ve never seen anything like that,” Burlington coach Christopher Chavers said. “We lost him a few times out there and every time we lost him, he made us pay. He was pretty much nailing anything. That kid’s a good player.
“He pretty much does everything well. He can shoot the basketball and he can drive the ball to the hole, so he’s kind of a tough cover. If you play up close on him, he can go by you off the dribble. And then if you lay off of him, he has the ability to shoot the three. He has the ability to draw defenders and find teammates. And he plays some pretty good defense, as well, so he’s the best all-around player I’ve seen so far this year.”
Matthew Bain covers preps, recruiting and the Hawkeyes for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Des Moines Register and HawkCentral. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.