Jordan Bohannon's return to brash form is welcome sight for Iowa basketball team
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Jordan Bohannon will never tune out the “doubters.”
They’ve been fueling him since he was a precocious sixth-grader pulling up for transition 3-pointers in AAU games, trying to prove that he was every bit as talented as the three taller basketball-playing Bohannons who preceded him.
“When you have three older brothers play Division I basketball, people say, ‘All right, maybe the fourth one’s not going to be as good,’” Bohannon said Wednesday.
This comment came two days after Bohannon won his first Big Ten Player of the Week award (an honor, he would surely point out, that he actually shared with Indiana big man Trayce Jackson-Davis).
Bohannon is in the midst of the best stretch of shooting of his five-year career as Iowa’s point guard. He scored 74 points in the Hawkeyes’ past four games, all of them wins, making 19 of 30 3-pointers in the process. That’s a remarkable 63% success rate.
That stretch came after Bohannon made only 17 3-pointers in Iowa’s first nine games of the season, including an 0-for-5 showing in a loss to top-ranked Gonzaga in which he had more turnovers (four) than points (two).
It was not the Bohannon Hawkeye fans had come to know. Or maybe it was the Bohannon that a certain segment of the fan base had suspected was there all along.
Bohannon knows who you are. It drives him. And that’s what has gotten Iowa’s all-time leader in 3-pointers made (320) back to his big shot-making ways.
“Even when I got to Iowa, there was so many people doubting me. ‘There’s no reason why he should be on the court,’” Bohannon said of his critics. “It’s been an uphill battle ever since from my mindset, just because every time I step on the floor I want to continue to prove myself. And maybe I got away from that a little bit … earlier this season, just trying to get my feet back under me. But I feel like I kind of gathered that mentality again and realized that I still have a lot to prove.
“And I still expect myself to be the best point guard in the country when I step foot out there. And I feel like I am.”
It was a vintage Bohannon answer — starting by acknowledging his detractors and ending with a brash declaration of greatness. There’s always been a sense that he makes such statements simply to force himself to try to live up to them.
Bohannon, who is listed at 6-foot-1 now after apparently growing an inch sometime in his Iowa career, was coming off his second hip surgery when this season began. He said he knew he wouldn’t be at his best at the outset and prepared himself mentally for that.
More:Hawkeye guard Jordan Bohannon ahead of pace in his hip rehab, on pace to graduate
But it was still strange to see so many of his shots fall off the rim early on. Nor was he aggressive about driving into the lane. He attempted only two free throws in Iowa’s first nine games. He is a career 89% marksman from the free-throw line. He has made 9 of 10 in the past four games.
That’s another sign that he is back, much to the relief of Garza.
“I’ve seen Jordan have some unreal moments, and he’s definitely playing at that level, if not better, right now,” Garza said. “We all know that he’s that type of player.”
Bohannon was the last of his family to play at high school powerhouse Linn-Mar. Jason (6-2) was the first, and he went on to play shooting guard at Wisconsin. Zach (6-6) was a forward at Air Force before finishing his career as a Badger as well. Matt (6-4) was a shooting guard at Northern Iowa.
Jordan ended up being the best shooter of them all, but has always insisted on playing point guard. He said he is more proud of his assists (576) than his 3-pointers.
But it was his shooting that got people’s attention. Connor McCaffery, a year younger than Jordan, noticed it right away when they were AAU teammates as children. The Hawkeye power forward/point guard said it’s been a constant during his years playing alongside Bohannon.
“It’s fun to see when he’s hooping like this, and it just creates a whole other level to our offense,” McCaffery said Wednesday. “It’s hard to game-plan against.”
Connor’s father, Fran McCaffery, was one of the few college head coaches to pay attention to Bohannon on the recruiting trail. DePaul and Drake were his other scholarship offers. Wisconsin passed on him, which pained Bohannon, who became a Badgers fan when his brothers played there. He paid them back by nailing a game-winning 3-pointer at the Kohl Center in his freshman season.
More:Iowa's Bohannon grew up learning to play the Badger way. Now, he longs to beat them.
Fran McCaffery was asked Wednesday where he’s seen Bohannon improve the most in his five Hawkeye seasons.
McCaffery said he’s noticed little difference between Bohannon at age 23 and the scrappy child of 11.
“He’s kind of always been the same way. He’s incredibly confident. He plays the game with a keen understanding of what’s necessary. He plays the game with a swag that you need. He’s always been a great shooter,” McCaffery said.
“I think what makes him special is that he’s always been consistent that way.”
Mark Emmert covers the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Register. Reach him at email@example.com or 319-339-7367. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkEmmert.