Iowa hoops takeaways: On Wieskamp as immediate starter, Fredrick playing PG, Baer's return

Mark Emmert
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Joe Wieskamp is good enough to compete for a starting role on next year’s Iowa basketball team, coach Fran McCaffery said Thursday in his first public comments about the coveted recruit from Muscatine.

McCaffery has been watching Wieskamp since he was a fifth-grader on the same team as McCaffery’s son, Patrick, and estimated he’s seen him play 50 times.

“I've never seen a guy get 25 (points) on fewer shots as often as he has,” McCaffery said. “That's what's beautiful about his game. He'll go 10-for-12 a lot.”

Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery greets Joe Wieskamp and his son, Patrick (left), during practice at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017.

Wieskamp, the 40th-ranked player in the country by Rivals, officially signed to join the Hawkeyes on Wednesday after giving a verbal commitment two years ago. The 6-foot-7 wing player averaged 30.4 points as a junior at Muscatine High School last year despite being the focal point of every opposing defense.

He has a polished game and plays even bigger than his listed height, McCaffery said.

“He's got really long arms, and he can jump,” McCaffery said. “If he rips and drives baseline, he's dunking the ball. His stroke is pure; if it's a catch-and-shoot situation you feel like it's going in. But he puts it on the deck and he gives it up easy. He does not hunt shots.”

McCaffery said it was obvious the first time he saw Wieskamp that he was a skilled player. But he was a little heavier-set in those days. McCaffery saw him mature and hone his game, realizing when Wieskamp was in eighth grade that he was good enough to play Big Ten Conference basketball for his homestate school. The coach offered a scholarship the next year.

Wieskamp accepted, then saw his recruiting profile skyrocket as a member of the Adidas U.S. Select team and participant in the National Basketball Players Association top-100 tournament.

“I'm sure he fielded a lot of phone calls. I'm sure his high school coach did. I know his AAU coach did. And he never wavered,” McCaffery said.

“He wants to win, but he wants to do it here, and we're thrilled.”

Fredrick more than a shooter

Iowa’s other 2018 recruit, 6-4 guard C.J. Fredrick of Covington Catholic in Kentucky, shot 40.4 percent from 3-point range last season. That’s the number that got everyone’s attention.

McCaffery said there’s more range to Fredrick’s game than that, though.

“I think this year he's going to play a lot more point for his high school team than he did last year,” McCaffery said. “He sort of has that reputation for being a great shooter, and that's what everybody thinks he is. He just makes shots and he does, but he's really good off the dribble. He's a terrific rebounder, so he goes in and rebounds. He can play. You can play three guards with him.”

Fredrick’s uncle, Joe, played at Notre Dame when McCaffery was an assistant coach there in the 1980s. McCaffery has known Fredrick’s father, Chuck, for years. Those relationships helped steer Fredrick toward the Hawkeyes even though there was initially no scholarship available for him next season.

Fredrick will get one now that Christian Williams is transferring.

“It's never happened in my career,” McCaffery said of a player turning down scholarship offers elsewhere (Nebraska and Penn State were among Fredrick’s suitors) in order to walk-on. “Normally we'd say we'd just walk away. But I have a lot of respect for his father, because … his father just said to him, ‘Where do you want to go? Forget about everything else.’ He said, ‘I want to go to Iowa.’ And he said, ‘Well, then, that's where you're going to go. If I have to pay for a year, I'll pay for it. Hopefully I won't, but doesn't matter. I want you to go where you want to go.’”

Baer eyes late November

Hawkeye forward Nicholas Baer broke his left pinky in a practice Sunday and is hoping to be back in action when Iowa visits Virginia Tech on Nov. 28. That begins a vital stretch for Iowa, which hosts Penn State in its Big Ten opener Dec. 2, then travels to Indiana and Iowa State the next week.

The prognosis for Baer, the team’s sparkplug of a sixth man, was 3-4 weeks.

“Those Big Ten games are crucial so I think it’s realistic to be back by those dates,” Baer said Thursday.

Baer suffered the injury going for a loose ball, which will surprise no one who’s ever watched him play. He finished the practice, thinking he just jammed the finger. An x-ray confirmed the fracture.

“I’m focusing more on my body now, just trying to get in better shape, work on some deficiencies in my game defensively,” the Bettendorf native said of the first injury of his career.

“I’ve just been pounding calcium, so hopefully that helps a little bit. The doctor said it doesn’t help, but maybe a little magic will happen.”

McCaffery said the Hawkeyes will primarily miss Baer’s leadership. The junior is one of the few upperclassmen on the roster.

“He's a shot-maker. He's a savvy guy. He's a versatile player,” McCaffery said.

“So that's a big loss. But I do think we have others that can step in.”

Moss back in lineup

Shooting guard Isaiah Moss will be ready to play in Friday’s season opener vs. Chicago State, McCaffery said. The sophomore sat out most of Iowa’s two exhibition games after suffering an injury to his right foot and ankle.

Moss averaged 6.5 points per game last year, but McCaffery said he’s counting on much more production this year after the graduation loss of Peter Jok.

“He's been really aggressive. I've given him the green light. We talk about that a lot,” McCaffery said. “But the key with that is you've got to let him miss. You can't give the green light only when he's making. You've got to let him go and tell him to attack and mix it up.

“The thing about him is he's really good off the dribble, getting to the rim, especially in transition. But he's also a terrific jump shooter. So he can still get 20 even if his 3-ball's not going, and that's what we need him to do.”

More zone for Iowa?

Defense has been an emphasis for the Hawkeyes after they allowed 78 points per game while going 19-15 a year ago.

McCaffery said his plan is to mix man-to-man and zone defenses this season.

“That's not a solution,” he said, “because when you play other defenses, you have to have the same qualities. You have to be connected, you have to play with energy and you have to play with a sense of urgency.

“(Zone) could be a good solution for our team with our length and our size and our depth. I've always been primarily a man-to-man team. I thought we should have a man-to-man team and then mix in some of the others. So hopefully we'll get better than we've been.”

Junior Ahmad Wagner, Iowa’s best defender and starting small forward, said he’s learning to play a mixture of defenses.

“I like taking on that challenge of guarding the other team’s best player. So when I’m in man-to-man it’s easy to sit there and line up against somebody and take that challenge,” Wagner said. “But what I’m really trying to focus on more is when I’m off the ball, going through screens and guarding guards.”