Joe Wieskamp’s unselfishness and willingness to sacrifice key to Iowa’s chemistry
Muscatine native could be the star for a lot of Power Five teams
By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Deep down in his most inner and personal thoughts, Joe Wieskamp probably wants to be Batman instead of Robin for the Iowa men’s basketball team.
Any competitive athlete with pride and an ago would feel the same way.
But in Wieskamp’s unique case, he is playing alongside one of the greatest players in program history in All-America senior center Luka Garza.
Without question, Garza is Iowa’s Batman, and deservedly so.
Even on an off night such as Wednesday’s 79-66 victory over Rutgers when Garza missed 12 of his 20 field-goal attempts, he still finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds.
Garza has earned his legendary status as a Hawkeye. But his rise to legendary status didn’t really start to materialize until last season.
Garza was good as a freshman and sophomore, but then good turned to great last season as Garza was named the Big Ten Player of the Year and the National Player of the Year by several outlets.
Wieskamp, meanwhile, has just quietly gone about his business as a Hawkeye, although, he made a lot of noise by scoring 26 points and grabbing 10 rebounds against Rutgers on Wednesday.
You could’ve made a strong case that before the start of last season that the 6-foot-6 Wieskamp was poised to become Iowa’s Batman, and Iowa’s next hoops legend. He had made the Big Ten All-Freshman team the previous season and then declared for the 2019 NBA Draft before deciding to return to Iowa for his sophomore season.
But when stardom happened to Garza instead, Wieskamp could’ve resented being demoted to Batman status. But that would have been out of character for the soft-spoken Muscatine native.
Wieskamp didn’t just accept Garza’s Batman status, he embraced it as any good teammate would do. And that’s been huge from a chemistry standpoint.
Of course, it helps that Garza is a tireless worker and a great teammate.
But it also helps that Wieskamp is unselfish, humble and mature enough to understand that the team always comes first.
He and Garza share a mutual respect, and it’s easy to see why.
Wieskamp could be the star and the No. 1 attraction on a lot of Division I teams, but for Iowa, that role belongs to Garza.
And that’s okay with Wieskamp because he appreciates being a Hawkeye, and he appreciates what Garza brings to the team.
Their ability to coexist together, on and of the court, is critical from a chemistry standpoint.
Garza is close to becoming Iowa’s all-time leading scorer, and he is one of just two Iowa players to score at least 2,000 points in a career.
It took a lot of hard work from Garza to reach this point, but it also took a lot of support, unselfishness and sacrifice from Wieskamp to help make it happen.
Iowa, which had lost four of its previous five games before facing Rutgers, was desperate for someone besides to Garza to step up, and Wieskamp rose to the occasion.
He scored 16 of his 26 points in the first half against Rutgers, and he made 5-of-7 attempts from 3-point range.
Wieskamp has now made 29-of-44 attempts from 3-point range over the last eight games, and is averaging 17.1 points and 6.9 rebounds per game during that stretch.
“It was one of those complete performances,” said Iowa coach Fran McCaffery. “He made shots when we needed them. He rebounded and defended. No mistakes. He was real special tonight. No question.”
Wieskamp was determined to get Iowa back in the win column, and he came out aggressive from the start against Rutgers and never let up.
“I wanted to come out here and play a complete game, play a complete 40 or 35 minutes, however, long I was out there,” Wieskamp said. “I feel like I was able to do a better job of continuing to stay aggressive in the second half, though it wasn’t until the eight-minute mark until I started getting things going. I just kept staying with it.
“Guys were up in my space, they were fouling me all game. I felt like I did a good job just fighting through that, playing through the physicality and letting the game come to me.”
The challenge now for Wieskamp is too keep playing at this high level because Garza can’t do it alone.
No. 15 Iowa (14-6, 8-5) plays at Michigan State on Saturday with the rare opportunity to sweep the Spartans.
It certainly helps that sophomore guard C.J. Fredrick was able to play against Rutgers after having
missed the previous two games with an injury. But Fredrick clearly wasn’t himself physically.
Fredrick’s injury could linger all season, according to Fran McCaffery, so that will put more pressure on Iowa’s veteran players to perform on both ends of the floor.
Wieskamp worked hard on defense against Rutgers, and that helped to set a tone.
Luka Garza is without question Iowa’s Batman and most recognizable player. But Joe Wieskamp is also special in his own way, for how he plays, but also for how he handles being Robin.