By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa -For Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon, the way last season ended just didn’t feel right.
The season as a whole also didn’t feel right because it was played during a global pandemic.
The Big Ten arenas were mostly empty and there were no in-person interviews.
Iowa also was soundly defeated by Oregon in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, a game in which Bohannon was held scoreless.
Bohannon participated in Senior Day prior to Iowa’s regular-season finale, but he still had the option of returning for a sixth year since last season was considered a free year due to the pandemic.
Bohannon ultimately chose to pursue that option, and he now gives Iowa one of the most statistically accomplished guards in program history, and at the age of 24, one of the oldest players in the conference.
“It definitely was not a real senior year last year,” Bohannon said Thursday. “You joke about it not being fun, but it truly wasn’t fun at times. Whether people want to say we’re ungrateful or not for saying that, it’s just a fact.
“Us not seeing our family members and there was no one in the stands, there was a magnifying glass on us more than ever last year. And it just wasn’t fun at times. And I’ve talked to a bunch of athletes across the country this past year, it just never felt like a real game. It felt like a glorified scrimmage.”
Bohannon was among a number of Iowa men’s basketball players who reportedly tested positive for the coronavirus last summer.
Iowa student-athletes also were tested for the coronavirus on a daily basis throughout the 2020-21 school year, with most of the tests occurring early in the morning.
Student-athletes were encouraged to never let down their guard, and the constant threat from the pandemic became a burden and a distraction.
“Just getting through it day-by-day of getting tested and wondering when the light is going to come at the end of the tunnel and everything opening back up, there was a lot of unknowns last year,” Bohannon said.
And while the pandemic still is a threat, most of the unknowns have been lifted, thanks to vaccines now being available.
Bohannon was among five Iowa players that met in-person with the media on Thursday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. And that by itself is a sign of progress.
“Just being in front of you guys now today, it’s nice seeing the decision to come back is going to be worth it to have fans,” Bohannon said.
Bohannon isn’t shy when it comes to expressing himself on social media, or in front of fans. He has his own podcast and he feeds off the energy from fans, both friendly and hostile.
“To high-five a fan after hitting a three to talk to fans courtside at away games and talk trash is something I’m excited for because that’s what I live off of, and that’s what everyone else lives off of,” Bohannon said.
Bohannon also has been a vocal supporter for Name, Image and Likeness, and his work, along with the support of others, ultimately paid dividends.
NCAA student-athletes as of July 1 now have the opportunity to benefit financially from their Name, Image and Likeness.
So that’s another benefit to Bohannon playing a sixth season.
The former Linn-Mar star is also on the verge of becoming the Big Ten’s all-time leader in 3-point field goals. Bohannon has made 364 treys as a Hawkeye and is second on the list behind former Ohio State standout Jon Diebler, who made 374 treys during his career.
The decision this spring to switch Bohannon from point guard to shooting guard was due partly to Iowa losing so many 3-point shooters from last season, including small forward Joe Wieskamp and shooting guard C.J Fredrick.
Wieskamp has decided to skip is senior season to pursue what he hopes is a career in the NBA, while Fredrick transferred to Kentucky in the spring.
Iowa will need for Bohannon to make 3-pointers, but he also wants to provide leadership for the younger players, many of whom still haven’t played before packed arenas because of the pandemic.
“Adding a fan experience this year is a totally different beast, and that’s going to take some getting used to,” Bohannon said. “I’m just really excited to do what I can to provide my leadership.”
Bohannon is also excited to play alongside point guard Joe Toussaint in the backcourt.
Bohannon reached out to Toussaint shortly after deciding to return for a sixth season to tell him that he would switch to shooting guard so Toussaint could run the offense.
“I’m really excited to play (with) him because we haven’t really played beside each other since he got here,” said Bohannon, who is Iowa’s all-time leader in assists with 639. “So it’s going to be new experiences and we’re both looking forward to it.”
Toussaint also met with media on Thursday and he talked about Bohannon’s decision to switch to shooting guard, and how it made him feel good.
“One-hundred percent,” Toussaint said. “Because I was confused when I saw it. I was like, I don’t know, but then he called me. It came off my shoulders after he told me that stuff.”
Toussaint is also healthy after having been hampered by a bone spur in his left ankle throughout last season. He kept the injury to himself during the season, but the pain impacted his performance.
Iowa athletic trainer Brad Floy told Toussaint after the season that surgery would be his best option for the future.
“He told me if I want to play for a long time, it’s good if I take care of it now before it gets worse,” Toussaint said. “I got that done, and now I’m recovering really well.”