IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Iowa has a leadership void to fill after forward Tyler Cook left for the NBA, point guard Jordan Bohannon had hip surgery and guard Isaiah Moss bolted for Kansas. All three were lined up to play their senior years for the Hawkeyes this winter.
Iowa is left with an interesting blend of potential and experience, and the Hawkeyes could find themselves back in the NCAA Tournament if their revamped roster can jell.
Iowa (23-12 in 2019-20) figured Cook might make the jump to the pros after he averaged 14.5 points and 7.6 rebounds last season. But Moss unexpectedly elected to go the graduate transfer route, and Bohannon finally had surgery in late May after playing through pain last season. Bohannon's timeline for a return is 6-9 months, and his status is the team's biggest question mark.
Still, returning starters Joe Wieskamp and Luka Garza headline a roster that is deep at every position.
"What you'll see is a team that plays like a veteran team, that's not a turnover team, that's not a mistake team," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. "We're going to push the ball. We're going to get good shot opportunities. We're going to defend."
Bohannon, the school's all-time leader with 264 3s, could try and play a few games in November and see how his hip responds without burning a medical redshirt. Bohannon's numbers were down last season, as he shot 38.3% on 3s after hitting 43% of them as a sophomore. He averaged just 11.6 points a game after scoring 13.5 points two years ago. Though Bohannon said he's itching to play, expect him to be smart about this season.
"It's hard for me to gauge when my body will be ready," Bohannon said. "I'm trying to take it day by day because it was such a long process."
Iowa hopes of returning to the NCAA Tournament, where it came within a few possessions of the program's first Sweet 16 in 20 years in March, might hinge on how much Wieskamp improves as a sophomore. The two-time Iowa Gatorade Player of the Year was one of the biggest recruits in school history, and he responded with 11.1 points and 4.9 rebounds a game. Wieskamp was often used as a spot-up shooter a year ago, but the soft-spoken star will be asked to expand his game for a team in desperate need of a perimeter threat who can also attack the rim.
"He's always led by example with his work ethic and his productivity, but he has to understand that he has a voice that in the locker room, at crunch time, people are going to listen," McCaffery said.
With Wieskamp locked in at shooting guard and Bohannon's status unknown, Iowa will look to graduate transfer Bakari Evelyn, sophomore Connor McCaffery and freshman Joe Toussaint to emerge at the point. Evelyn provides a veteran presence and versatility, and McCaffery is a leader who knows his father's system inside and out. Toussaint, the rare New Yorker to play for the Hawkeyes, might just have the speed and quickness Iowa is looking for to head up its up-tempo attack though.
The 6-foot-11 Garza (13.1 points, 4.5 rebounds in 2018-19) is a throwback big who can bury open 3s. Fellow post player Jack Nunge, a Mr. Basketball finalist in Indiana in 2017, is back after a redshirt season and could start the season at power forward. Veterans Ryan Kriener and Cordell Pemsl should provide toughness off the bench — but watch out for McCaffery's other son, Patrick. He's spindly at 6-foot-9 and just 190 pounds, but he is a strong outside shooter with the versatility to beat opponents off the dribble and the length to harass smaller guys defensively 20 feet from the basket.
Iowa opens its 10th season under McCaffery on Nov. 8 against SIUE. Iowa has quite an up-and-down non-conference slate. The Hawkeyes play Texas Tech, Syracuse, Iowa State, DePaul and Cincinnati, but they've also got a fair share of cupcakes like Cal Poly, Oral Roberts and Kennesaw State. Iowa will need to beat a few high majors before the start of the year — or the selection committee could ding the Hawks for putting too many guaranteed wins on the schedule.
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