By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – The Iowa men's basketball team held its annual media day event on Wednesday and the circumstances, namely the roster, have changed significantly since last season.
Even the uniforms have changed as Fran McCaffery enters his 10th season as the Iowa head coach.
Gone are three of the top players from last season, including leading scorer and rebounder, Tyler Cook, and a fourth player could be missing if senior point guard Jordan Bohannon chooses not to play this season as he recovers from hip surgery.
A final decision hasn't been made on Bohannon's status, and Fran McCaffery said it could be a situation where Bohannon plays in a few games, but then shuts it down to retain his eligibility for next season.
"The bigger question might be is that the smartest thing to do," McCaffery said Wednesday. "Yeah, we can sneak him in a few games and maybe he gets 18 and we win a game. I think he's got to decide are you playing — are we going to give it a go, really going to give it a go and see if it responds the way that we hoped it would, because remember, we said it's a five- to nine-month rehab, so all of a sudden he starts to play and then he's realizing I'm still in pain and I can't move the way I wanted to move, I want to shut it down, and then we can do that.
"So I think if we go in that direction, that's how it will play out."
Bohannon had surgery in late May and his recovery was expected to take anywhere from five to nine months.
"I want to help the team as much as possible, and if I'm able to play, I'm going to try and play," said Bohannon, who already has made a school-record 264 3-point baskets.
Iowa has to fill holes that were left by the departure of Cook, a second-team All-Big Ten power forward who skipped his season to enter the NBA draft; senior guard Isaiah Moss, who transferred to Kansas as a graduate student, and forward Nicholas Baer, who used up his eligibility last season.
Shooting guard Maishe Dailey, who appeared in all 35 games last season, also has transferred to Akron where he will play as a senior next season.
But even with those losses, the expectations haven't changed. The goal is always to make the NCAA Tournament and junior center Luka Garza believes that is within reach, even if Bohannon doesn't play this season.
Iowa advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament and finished 23-12 overall last season after having not made the tournament in each of the previous two seasons.
Fran McCaffery has led the Hawkeyes to four NCAA Tournament appearances, and to three appearances in the National Invitation Tournament.
"It's obvious what he brings to this team," Garza said of Bohannon. "He's a leader and clutch player and a great three-point shooter. He's our point guard. He's a tough warrior. He obviously brings a lot. You can't replace what he does, but we have a lot of guys who would be willing, and are willing, to step up into that role and be able to help."
One of those guys was absent from media day on Wednesday as sophomore point guard Connor McCaffery, who is Fran McCaffery's son, couldn't attend the event because he was playing in a fall exhibition game with the Iowa baseball team at the same time.
Iowa's backcourt will feature two new players in graduate transfer Bakari Evelyn and freshman point guard Joe Toussaint, while redshirt freshman C.J. Fredrick should make a significant contribution at shooting guard.
"Coach brought me here to contribute and I plan to do that anyway I can," said Evelyn, who played the last two seasons for Valparaiso after having played his freshman season at Nebraska. "I think we have a lot of good pieces besides myself, but I definitely think I can be another good piece to help us reach our full potential as a team."
Two of Iowa's best pieces are 6-foot-6 small forward Joe Wieskamp and 6-11 junior center Luka Garza.
Wieskamp made the Big Ten All-Freshmen team last season and tested the NBA Draft process before withdrawing his name, while Garza enters his junior season having scored in double figures 40 times, including 20 points or more 12 times.
Wieskamp will be asked to do a lot on both ends of the floor, but he also worked hard during the offseason to improve as a leader. The Muscatine native always has been kind of quiet and more of a leader by example, but he wants to do more than that this season.
"It's been a big emphasis for me all throughout the summer and leading into the fall," Wieskamp said. "I think that just saying I'm going to be a vocal leader is little bit too broad. So one thing I've been working on every day is just setting goals for myself, whether that be saying something every time down the floor or saying something during a huddle, or just different things like that, I think meeting those expectations and those goals every day are more achievable than just saying I want to b a vocal leader."
Iowa has good depth on the frontline even with Cook and Baer having departed.
Senior Ryan Kriener, who stands about 6-9, returns with 90 games under his belt, while 6-11 sophomore Jack Nunge returns from a redshirt season in which he gained about 15 pounds.
Combine them with 6-8 freshman small forward Patrick McCaffery, who is also Fran McCaffery's son, and that's a lot of size and potential on the frontline. Patrick McCaffery is Iowa City West's all-time leading scorer, and that is what he does best is score points.
"Right now, the plan is for him to play," Fran McCaffery said of Patrick. "You know, he's been playing really well in practice. He's gotten stronger. He's been consistently performing at a high level. The thing about Patrick is he can score. He's always been a scorer, and he's very efficient."
Junior forward Cordell Pemsl did not attend media day on Wednesday as he still is suspended indefinitely after having been charged with drunken driving.
Fran McCaffery said Wednesday that Pemsl could return to practice next week if he meets all of his requirements.
"He took care of his legal part of his issues," Fran McCaffery said. "He's got some other things he's got to work out. If he stays on top of things, maybe by next week we could have him back at practice."
Here are multiple player interviews from media day: