By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Though it's just practice, incoming freshman Joe Wieskamp already has noticed one significant change on the court in college compared to high school: he no longer gets double and triple-teamed on offense.
"Obviously, they're going to be a lot stronger and more athletic (in college), but it'll be nice," Wieskamp said when asked about having to face only one defender in college.
The 6-foot-6 Wieskamp was among six members of the Iowa men's basketball team who met with the media before practice on Thursday. The former Muscatine star used to face double- and triple-teams on a regular basis in high school, but still averaged more than 30 points per game as a senior.
Wieskamp is expected to make a significant contribution as a freshman, but he won't have to carry the load on offense as he did in high school. And he won't have to face constant double- and triple-teams in college because Iowa returns all five starters from last season, including forward Tyler Cook and point guard Jordan Bohannon.
"I'm super excited," Wieskamp said. "I'll just have to adapt. It'll be a little bit different mindset going into the games. I'm going to do whatever I can to help the team win. I'm going to have to start doing some smaller stuff, locking in on defense, rebounds and just pushing and running.
"Obviously, I'm not going to have that load on me of knowing that I have to score that much. So I can just go out there and have fun."
Wieskamp wasn't sure when asked the last time he faced just a single defender in a high school game.
"Probably, my freshman year of high school, I don't know," he said.
Cook and Bohannon also met with the media on Thursday, along with shooting guard Isaiah Moss and forwards Nicholas Baer and Cordell Pemsl.
The players are working hard this summer to get stronger and to improve on defense in the wake of last season when Iowa finished 14-19 overall and just 4-14 in the Big Ten.
"Obviously, it's been an ongoing thing," Wieskamp said of his effort to get stronger. "It's been kind of a little bit of a struggle for me. Moving forward, it's going to take a lot of time and a lot of effort in the weight room. But I think it's slowly going to happen.
"And being in the weight room four times a week is definitely helping."
Wieskamp is one of the most highly decorated players to sign with Iowa under head coach Fran McCaffery. He is the all-time leading scorer in Class 4A in Iowa with over 2,000 points and was named the Gatorade Player of the Year in Iowa as a junior and senior.
"Obviously, I know the pressure is there," Wieskamp said. "But I just try to zone it out and not worry about it and just know that if I go in and do what I know I can do, then I'll be just fine."
Wieskamp's new teammates are impressed with what they've seen from him in practice so far this summer. He shows no fear on the court and is gifted scorer.
He also can dunk with authority as Tyler Cook apparently learned right away.
"Tyler probably won't be happy I said it, but the first open gym, actually, Joe came down and dunked right on Tyler, and I was like, `woah, this kid might be for real,'" Bohannon said of Wieskamp.
Nicholas Baer also raved about Wieskamp's ability, including his understanding of the game.
"Very impressive," Baer said. "You know obviously, a lot of people talk about his skill set amd how versatile he is, he can shoot and score it, he can do everything.
"But something I've been impressed with is his mental aspect of the game, just on how he's able to pick up on a lot of our concepts so quickly, which I think is really important for him, because with his skill level, the sky's the limit. So I could not be more thrilled that he's a part of our program, and he'll be a great addition for us."
Wieskamp is one of two incoming freshmen for Iowa, along 6-4 shooting guard and Kentucky native C.J. Fredrick.
"Those are two super-smart guys," Tyler Cook said of Wieskamp and Fredrick. "We've only been working out with them for a month and they've picked everything up. Two very smart guys and two very smart players, so their transition has been pretty much seemless."
A slimmer Pemsl: Judging from the shape of his body, Cordell Pemsl is determined to expand his game.
The 6-8 junior forward said Thursday that he weighs 226 pounds, which is nearly 30 pounds less than his freshman season.
"I really wanted to be able to guard more than just a center," Pemsl said. "I'm a lot quicker on my feet."
Pemsl has tested himself this summer by playing defense in practice against Iowa shooting guards Maishe Dailey and Isaiah Moss.
"I'm working on guarding guys like Maishe and Isaiah coming off ball screens and being able to contain that," Pemsl said. "Honestly, just defensively being able to stay in front of guys and being quicker and more explosive."
Pemsl's weight loss means that Jordan Bohannon might have to think of a new nickname for his teammate and close friend.
"I think he needs to add a little more weight," Bohannon said. "We were joking about it; last season I was calling him "fat boy," but I think he kind of took that to heart. But he looks really good. He's happy with where he's at and he's playing really well." He's shooting the crap out of the ball."
Full-steam ahead: If Tyler Cook had his way, he'd be preparing for a career in the NBA rather than for his junior season at Iowa.
The 6-foot-9 Cook worked out for several NBA teams this spring, but withdrew his name from the 2018 Draft after testing the draft process as a sophomore. He is now focused soley on being a student-athlete for at least one more year.
"Once I made my decision, I was happy with it," Cook said. "I was all eyes set on what I had to do here. So it didn't take time for me to kind of get back into a groove. I was ready to go as soon as I got back."
Isaiah Moss also spoke about his experience with testing the NBA Draft process as a sophomore. The 6-5 Moss didn't work out for any NBA teams, but he gained some valuable insight.
"I feel good about it," Moss said. "I got a lot of feedback from different sources on what to work on."
Moss said he was told to work on his ball handling, his body and his 3-point shooting.
"I expected most of the things they told me, pretty much all of it," Moss said.
Moss has shown flashes at Iowa, including scoring 19 points in slightly more than 90 seconds against Minnesota last season. The Chicago native now has to show consistency on both ends of the court.
"There's a mindset, that aggressive mindset going into every game, that's pretty much it," Moss said when asked what he needs to become more consistent.
Life without the Prime Time League: This summer marks the first time since the summer of 1986 that the Prime Time League hasn't been held in Iowa City or North Liberty.
The popular summer league, which featured members of both the Iowa and Northern Iowa men's basketball teams, was discontinued this summer due to scheduling conflicts with the Iowa players.
The NCAA now allows for college coaches to work with their players up to eight hours per week over the summer. That made it hard for the Iowa players to fit the PTL games into their schedule twice a week.
The PTL also had played games in Waterloo at least three times in recent summers, and that added to the scheduling difficulties for the Iowa players.
"It's a little bit different not getting a chance to get play against some competition in North Liberty and Waterloo," Baer said. "But also we're utilizing some of the extra time that we have to workout as a team and to play individually. So the time is being spent well.
"It's really unfortunate that we're not able to play in the Prime Time League because it was a great league. And I'm really thankful to Randy Larson for him putting that on for thirty-plus years. So I'm upset about that. But we're utilizing the time we have in a good way."