Jordan Bohannon explains why he's returning to Iowa Hawkeyes for sixth season

Chad Leistikow
Hawk Central

Jordan Bohannon is the Iowa men’s basketball program’s all-time leader in assists (with 639), 3-pointers (364) and games played (143).

Those record numbers, established over five seasons with the Hawkeyes, are now poised to climb even higher.

Because Bohannon is coming back for one more year.

Bohannon has told coach Fran McCaffery he will play a sixth season for the Hawkeyes, he confirmed in an interview with the Des Moines Register. 

Even Bohannon seemed surprised by the turn of events that led to his decision. He told the Register that throughout the 2020-21 season, he intended for it to be his last. The plan was that he, Joe Wieskamp and Luka Garza would make one final run together.

Jordan Bohannon, left, and Luka Garza embrace as the final seconds tick down in Iowa's 95-80 loss to Oregon.

“My original plans were not to come back. I was going to end it there and start playing professionally,” Bohannon told the Register. “I was so sure I wasn’t coming back that I hadn’t opened up a single class until (Tuesday) night.”

What changed his mind?

Bohannon took several weeks to reflect on his situation following a 95-80 loss to Oregon in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, in which he was held scoreless. He thought back to his senior night against Wisconsin at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, where he could only hand his mother a rose across a barrier in the stands; no hugs allowed. He thought back to the near-empty arenas during a highly regulated college season amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Bohannon's three older brothers, who all played Division I basketball, told him that if they could go back to college and experience one more year, they would do it in a heartbeat. Bohannon took that advice seriously. He realized he didn’t want to start his next chapter without experiencing one more season of crowded Big Ten arenas again.

Remember, Bohannon only played 10 games in 2019-20 before having a second hip surgery. He hasn’t played a full season in front of Big Ten fans since his third year at Iowa, which was filled with his late-game heroics and an overtime away from a Sweet 16 appearance. He has always treasured playing for the Hawkeyes, where his father was a quarterback for the 1982 Rose Bowl football team. And now he wants to capitalize on the opportunity afforded by this past season not counting against player eligibility due to COVID-19.

“Not having the opportunity to feel the fire from the crowd in home and away games (was a factor),” Bohannon said. “You know me, I’m the type of guy that feeds off that energy.”

Two things happened this past week that sold Bohannon on his decision, which he called 100% final.

One, CJ Fredrick transferred out of the program in what was a messy exit to say the least. That left the Hawkeyes without a proven 3-point shooter at the guard position.

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Iowa's starting five of CJ Fredrick, Connor McCaffery, Joe Wieskamp, Luka Garza and Jordan Bohannon huddle up after a foul in the game against Wisconsin during the first half of the Big Ten men's basketball tournament.

Two, McCaffery cranked up his recruiting pitch. Bohannon joked that it felt like his days at Linn-Mar High School again, to have McCaffery selling him on the impact he could have for the Hawkeyes.

McCaffery’s pitch this time? That Bohannon — who has spent almost all of his five years at the “1” (point guard) position — would fit well as a “2” (shooting guard) to complement a young group of guards that includes Joe Toussaint, Ahron Ulis and Tony Perkins.

“He talked about the option of me playing the 2 this year and hunting my shot and that Joe (Toussaint) can set me up,” Bohannon said. “That I can be more of a scorer instead of facilitator.”

Bohannon will turn 24 in June. He is 11 3-pointers shy of breaking Jon Diebler’s Big Ten Conference record (374). He is Iowa’s all-time leader in free-throw accuracy (88.7%). He’s also No. 9 on Iowa’s all-time scoring list, with 1,638 points. With just 222 more points, he would pass Aaron White for No. 3 in Hawkeye history.

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Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon poses for a photo with Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery on senior day before a NCAA Big Ten Conference men's basketball game against Wisconsin, Sunday, March 7, 2021, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.

This is an all-time Hawkeye veteran returning to the program for 30-plus more games. It’s a big deal. No longer will Jess Settles be the punch line for an abnormally lengthy college career. Bohannon is about to set the new standard for Hawkeye longevity.

Still, Bohannon realizes there could be backlash to his decision, given that he's not an elite defender and has strong opinions about college athletes' rights to earn outside income off their name, image and likeness. But he was invigorated by McCaffery telling him that players on the current roster wanted him back, and that he could become a focal point in the Hawkeyes’ fast-paced offense — as the final piece to the puzzle after Thursday's commitment by North Dakota big man Filip Rebraca.

Bohannon wasn't asked to score as much the past two seasons, as Garza emerged as a national star. He averaged 10.6 points last season, compared to his high of 13.5 as a sophomore. He's never been Iowa's primary shooting guard, though. Until now, it seems.

“As the 2 guard, I’m going to be able to do a lot more in the half-court offense to get myself going,” he said, “rather than get other people around me going, like I always have.”

Academically, Bohannon must finish the semester strong to be eligible next season. He feels good about that after working hard to catch up on assignments this past week. He played the final months of last season with a torn labrum in his right (shooting) shoulder, something that was confirmed via MRI. He said the shoulder’s doing better now, and he doesn't plan to have surgery.

Bottom line: Bohannon's Iowa legacy isn't done being crafted. The 6-foot-1, 175-pound guard has delivered some lasting memories in his career already — a game-winning shot at Wisconsin as a freshman; an intentionally missed free throw as a sophomore to honor the late Chris Street that brought national praise; thrilling game-clinching 3-pointers as a junior and a ride that nearly reached the Sweet 16; leaving his shoes behind after a blowout win at Hilton Coliseum as a senior before hip surgery and receiving a medical-hardship waiver; and breaking Iowa's assists record as a fifth-year senior. 

And now, an unthinkable sixth year is happening. Bohannon promised he would continue to be active (and an annoyance to NCAA president Mark Emmert) in the #NotNCAAProperty movement. But mostly, he's excited to play one more year in Carver-Hawkeye Arena ... with (hopefully) fans in the stands.

Hawkeyes columnist Chad Leistikow has covered sports for 26 years with The Des Moines Register, USA TODAY and Iowa City Press-Citizen. Follow @ChadLeistikow on Twitter.