NORTH LIBERTY – Muscatine native Joe Wieskamp is probably too young to be called a marked man, considering he just finished his freshman year of high school.
But he is certainly treated that way on the basketball court, and deservedly so.
The 6-foot-5 Wieskamp already has made a verbal commitment to play basketball at Iowa, having done so on June 9. He is the first player from the 2018 senior class to commit to Iowa and one of the earliest commitments in program history.
Wieskamp is also ranked by ESPN as the 18th best player nationally in his class.
Opposing players now consider it a challenge to face Wieskamp and an opportunity to prove something.
That’s how Iowa City West senior-to-be Wali Parks treated Saturday’s individual matchup against Wieskamp in the Corridor Classic. Wieskamp scored 16 points, but the outcome never was in doubt as West rolled to a 73-38 victory over Muscatine in the second of three games for both teams at the North Liberty Community Center.
Wieskamp had to work hard for all of his points against the 6-5 Parks and against 6-7 Tanner Lohaus, who also took turns guarding their AAU teammate.
“I know that he’s a good kid and we play for the Barnstormers together, so I know what he does,” Parks said. “I know that he’s ranked in the country now, so I tried to go at him.
"I kind of take pride in my defense. I don’t want people to score on me."
Wieskamp was in a difficult position on Saturday. In addition to being hounded by Parks and Lohaus, he also had to play in the post for a team that only had eight players, all of whom were shorter than Wieskamp.
That’s different than AAU where Wieskamp plays mostly on the perimeter as a shooting guard. He is also expected to play shooting guard or perhaps small forward at Iowa.
“With Tanner and Wali guarding me in that second game it was pretty tough because I’m our (center) and it’s tough for me to score from there because usually I play a wing guard for my AAU team,” Wieskamp said. “So I just tried to take it to them and get to the rack.”
Four of West’s five starters have at least one Division I scholarship offer for basketball. Lohaus, who is the son of former Iowa basketball player Brad Lohaus, recently committed to Northern Iowa, while Parks has offers from Indiana State and Western Illinois and interest from Wisconsin, Butler and Illinois State among others.
Parks did not mention Iowa as a school that was recruiting him.
“Recruiting is kind of tough, but I’m just try to be patient with it,” Parks said.
Wieskamp doesn’t have to be patient with the recruiting process now behind him, although, he does have three more years of high school before becoming a Hawkeye.
“I knew that’s where I wanted to go, so I just figured why wait and go be a part of something special,” Wieskamp said of why he committed to Iowa so early.
With three more years of high school, Wieskamp still has time to develop his slender frame. His lack of strength hurt him at times against Lohaus and Parks on Saturday.
“Yeah, it is (tough) because I’m not very big or strong,” Wieskamp said. “I’m working on that. But right now, those guys are a lot bigger than me. So I have to work really hard defensively and try to get position and then take it to them on the offensive end.”
Iowa’s future backcourt might have been on display during the game between West and Muscatine. West junior-to-be point guard Connor McCaffery, who is the oldest son of Iowa coach Fran McCaffery, is also committed to Iowa, along with Dubuque Wahlert senior-to-be forward Cordell Pemsl.
Connor’s younger brother Patrick McCaffery, a 6-7 freshman-to-be at West, also is believed to be committed to Iowa, but hasn’t gone public with it yet.
Patrick McCaffery scored nine points off the bench for West in the victory over Muscatine.
“We text a lot and just talk about when we get up to Iowa and how we’ll fit in,” Wieskamp said of Connor McCaffery. “And hopefully, Patrick will come and Cordell, and all those freshmen in there right now, how we’ll jell and stuff like that.”
Saturday’s game marked the first time that West coach Steve Bergman has seen Wieskamp play. Bergman was impressed with what he saw.
“We did a good job on him for a while, but then he got away from us some in the second half,” Bergman said of Wieskamp, who averaged 18.6 points per game as a freshman last season. “But he’s really talented. He can shoot the three. He’s really good around the basket. He’s a great finisher in traffic. He’s a nice player.”
Bergman always demands a lot from his players on defense, even during a summer tournament. He praised Parks and Lohaus for rising to the occasion against Wieskamp.
“I thought we defended pretty well right there," Bergman said. "So I think they were ready to guard him.”
West and Muscatine are among 24 high schools teams from Iowa that are competing in the Corridor Classic, which will conclude on Sunday. All the teams played three games on Saturday and will play two on Sunday.
West won all three of its games on Saturday, including a hotly contested 62-49 victory over rival Iowa City High. City. The Little Hawks, who won two games on Saturday, led by eight points in the first half before West rallied to take a one-point lead at halftime.
Saturday’s game was similar to how the regular-season games between City and West unfolded. The Little Hawks kept it close again, but still came up short.
“Way too much like it, really," Bergman said. "They want to grind it, but we don’t want to grind it. And sometimes you have to grind out a game. We did better with it. We played pretty well."