Several of Iowa’s basketball players were asked Monday about the uncertainty surrounding the coming season.
NCAA Division I teams are supposed to start playing games a week from Wednesday, but many teams, including the Hawkeyes, still do not even have a schedule. The NCAA did announce Monday that it plans to hold the entire NCAA tournament in Indianapolis.
It seems as though the cart is being placed in front of the horse, but most of the Hawkeyes tiptoed gently around the question during a Zoom session with reporters.
“We’re trying to improve as a basketball team every day so that’s been my focus,’’ senior center Luka Garza said. “We’ll play the games when they arrive.’’
“We’re just preparing to play on Nov. 25,’’ added junior Joe Wieskamp. “We’re just hopeful that opportunity is available.’’
Then there was Jordan Bohannon.
The fifth-year senior guard is fully recovered from two hip surgeries and is understandably eager to have a last hurrah. He’s never been one to pull punches and he didn’t do that Monday when asked about the current uncertainty.
“We don’t even have a regular season schedule yet and that’s really frustrating on our end because it really affects us mentally on how we prepare for the season,’’ Bohannon said. “Right now there’s no plan moving forward and we hope the next couple of days something comes forward for what’s going to happen in the regular season. Right now it’s really frustrating.’’
Does he have faith that the season will come off, as planned?
“I have faith there will be an NCAA tournament because that’s where the money comes from,’’ he said.
Bohannon has had an interesting off-season. In addition to rehabbing from his most recent hip surgery (in December) and getting himself into shape, he began a weekly podcast — The Standpoint — that he admitted was intended to “jab at the NCAA.’’
He also has done plenty of jabbing on social media, including a couple of well-aimed memes on Monday following the NCAA tournament announcement.
He even has attempted to unionize the other players in the Big Ten.
He revealed Monday that he has had conversations with players on every team in the league, mentioning Michigan State senior Joshua Langford specifically as someone who is supportive of his efforts.
“We talk to each other and they went back to their teams and we have our own player representative from each team, and kind of created out own player association,’’ Bohannon said.
“We have a lot more that we want to do,’’ he added, “and we keep talking to each other daily, hoping we can get a lot more accomplished for student-athletes to make sure we have a voice because there aren’t a lot of college athletes out there that realize the power that we have … Having all of us communicating together is going to be huge for college athletes moving forward.’’
Bohannon hopes to have that same sort of leadership role with the Hawkeyes whenever their season gets going.
When he was sidelined last season, he worked closely with young guards CJ Fredrick and Joe Toussaint, who refers to Bohannon as “my big brother.’’
“I think that helped me vocally get better as a teammate,’’ Bohannon said. “It will help me be more of a coach on the floor this year. I saw from the sideline how fast the game is and it kind of slows down from my end now that I’ve had that year off. I think that’s definitely beneficial for me.’’
From a health standpoint, he couldn’t be better.
“I’m in the best shape of my life,’’ he said. “I’ve lost about 15 pounds since last year. My mom doesn’t think I was, but I was kind of fat last year on the court. I didn’t have a lot of rehab time (from the first hip surgery) to get back on the court. This year I had a long time and it hopefully helped.
“I’m almost a year-and-a-half out from my first hip surgery and almost a year from the second one so everything has started to fall into line with where I thought I would be.’’
His role on the team is less clear. After Bohannon was forced to the sidelines 10 games into last season, Toussaint started 20 games at point guard and improved significantly as the season progressed.
Toussaint said he improved even more in the off-season but it’s hard to imagine Bohannon won’t regain his starting spot.
He had started 96 consecutive games going into last season and already is Iowa’s career leader in 3-point field goals with a chance to break the Big Ten record. He also has a good shot at becoming Iowa’s career leader in assists.
“To have someone who can shoot the ball and make plays off the bounce the way he can, we’re just going to be able to spread the floor more and get other guys shots, open up Luka a little more,’’ Fredrick said. “It’s going to be tough to guard all five of us on the court at the same time.’’
Bohannon said he doesn’t really care what his role is. He pointed out that in the few games he played last season, he had one game against Minnesota in which he did not score but had 10 assists. On another night, he scored 21 points in an upset of Texas Tech.
“I see myself kind of being in that same transitioning role game to game depending on what the team needs,’’ he said. “If I don’t need to score and I have 15 assists, then so be it … I’m OK doing that as long as we win.’’
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