IOWA CITY, Ia. — Joe Toussaint wasn’t sure he would be asked to lead the Iowa men’s basketball team just 12 games into his career.
But the freshman point guard said Thursday that he’s ready to make his first start Saturday when the Hawkeyes face Cincinnati at 8 p.m. in Chicago.
“My mindset stays the same. Be aggressive. Get wins for Coach (Fran McCaffery). That’s my main goal,” Toussaint said.
“Staying in the gym, I kept working and the opportunity opened itself up. And now it’s time to take it.”
The Hawkeyes (8-3) found out this week what had been suspected all along: Senior point guard Jordan Bohannon will miss the rest of the season after hip surgery. McCaffery is left with the option of inserting Toussaint into the starting lineup to maintain the four-guard look he’s preferred in recent games, or turning to senior center Ryan Kriener to start alongside Luka Garza in the post.
McCaffery said the team has been practicing with both lineups, and both will be used.
When Toussaint plays, Connor McCaffery will move to the wing and become a “point 4.” It’s a role the coach’s son is used to. When Kriener is in the lineup, McCaffery will move back to the point.
“Sometimes it might be a function of who we’re playing. How big they are. If they go small. If they go big,” Fran McCaffery said.
Toussaint is averaging 6.7 points per game off the bench, averaging 14.8 minutes. Both lead the team for reserve players.
But he won’t be a reserve any longer. The 6-footer from Bronx, New York, will bring his up-tempo style into the starting lineup and see how it goes.
Toussaint has 25 assists and 16 turnovers. He is shooting only 36.5% from the field. He has watched the film of his mistakes. He knows where improvement needs to be made.
“That just goes back to me playing at my own pace, just being under control at all times,” Toussaint said. “I’m usually faster than everybody on the court, so I’ve just got to use my speed to my advantage.”
Bohannon surgery a success; now comes more rehab
Bohannon had surgery on his right hip in May, and returned to average 8.8 points in 10 games before shutting it down and having an operation on his left hip Thursday morning.
“The surgery went well,” Fran McCaffery said about 45 minutes afterward, while Bohannon was still in recovery.
It will take six to nine months for Bohannon to get back to full strength, a timeline that will allow him to get in plenty of conditioning before the next basketball season.
“I think it really depends on him. He’ll be able to do some things probably after five months,” McCaffery said. “We’ll go real slow with him.”
McCaffery doesn’t believe that Bohannon rushed back too soon from the first surgery.
“I think he did exactly what he wanted to do. The other surgery went well, and it felt good. This was obviously discomforting to him. I think he knew at some point it was going to have to be done,” McCaffery said. “The question was: Would it be done now or would it be done later?
“And he clearly made the right decision.”
Fredrick's extra motivation
Iowa shooting guard CJ Fredrick grew up in Cincinnati, not more than 10 minutes from both the UC and Xavier campuses. He loved watching both teams. Xavier offered him a scholarship. Cincinnati did not, even after recruiting. Fredrick never got a reason.
“Any competitor has a little edge when teams recruit you and don’t offer you, but it just is what it is. That’s the game,” Fredrick said.
The redshirt freshman is eager to face the Bearcats. He has played in summertime open gyms with many of their players. He even faced Cincinnati star Jarron Cumberland in a high school game. Cumberland’s team won.
“This is kind of a dream come true almost, playing against a team that you loved to watch as a kid,” said Fredrick, who is averaging 10.5 points on 51.4% 3-point shooting.
The Cincinnati-Xavier rivalry is intense. Tempers often flare. Fredrick used to soak it all in. But he said he had no rooting interest.
“My dad (Chuck) worked for a radio station in Cincinnati that carried both teams,” Fredrick explained. “So I had to root for whoever the home team was because my dad was in business.”
Garza keeps his tooth, adds some hardware
Garza will be sporting a little extra headgear when Iowa tips off Saturday. Not that the Iowa center is thrilled about it.
Garza took an elbow from teammate Joe Wieskamp late in the Hawkeyes’ 84-68 win at Iowa State on Dec. 12. The impact lodged one of Garza’s front teeth up into his gum. It was a bloody mess.
The tooth has been jammed back into place, Garza reported Thursday.
But he will wear a mouthguard, at least for now. It’s something his father, Frank, had urged. Luka resisted because it limits his ability to communicate with his teammates, especially when calling out defensive signals.
“I don‘t like them,” Garza said of the protection for his mouth. “But I’m going to wear them for a little bit.”
Chalk up one victory for dad.
Mark Emmert covers the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Register. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 319-339-7367. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkEmmert.
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