All eyes on incoming freshman Joe Wieskamp this basketball season


Katina Zentz

UI freshman Joe Wieskamp poses for portrait at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on July 10, 2018.

Hawkeye basketball has always been a part of Joe Wieskamp’s life.

The Muscatine standout played fewer than 40 miles away from Iowa City in high school. He played on the Iowa Barnstormers AAU basketball team with current Hawkeye Connor McCaffery and class of 2019 Hawkeye commit Patrick McCaffery, so he knew head coach Fran McCaffery for quite some time before he committed to the program.

“It just felt like home,” he said.

Despite this, reality hadn’t quite sunk in yet that the freshman was playing for a program he grew up watching. That is, until an open gym practice.

Wieskamp’s favorite Hawkeye to watch growing up was Aaron White, who spent four seasons with the Iowa program.

“He came and played open gym with us a couple weeks ago and we were on the same team. It’s pretty cool to play with one of your idols,” Wieskamp said.

Since then, it’s been all reality for the Hawkeyes’ top prospect from the 2018 recruiting class – everything’s “felt natural.”

In theory, Wieskamp’s arrival spreads the floor more than last season; in his senior season for the Muskies, he averaged 33.5 points per game while accounting for 56 percent of the team’s scoring.

“In my opinion, Joe has been the best player in the state the last two years,” former Muscatine head coach Gary Belger said in an interview with the Quad-City Times. “Nobody finished better around the basket than Joe.”

Last season Tyler Cook and Jordan Bohannon did most of the damage offensively for Iowa. The two combined to average nearly 30 of Iowa’s 80 points per game last season, but defensively, teams were able to catch on at times.

“Obviously, everyone knows that Tyler can score from the post… Jordan can shoot. Those guys get doubled lots of times, so I think I can add another shooter on the outside [to] open up more space for people,” Wieskamp said.

Teams can never have too many offensive weapons, and Wieskamp’s arrival adds just another scoring threat to a Hawkeye arsenal capable of hitting from all over the floor.

Where Iowa needs improvement the most is on defense. The Hawkeyes gave up 78.7 points per game last season. That’s the 317th-worst total in Division 1 basketball.

“In high school, I don’t think I focused as much on it because I knew I had to score so much,” Wieskamp said. “I got to lock in defensively if I want to play.”

Understanding Iowa’s need for defense, Wieskamp is using the offseason to become a better all-around player, not just a shot-creator and slasher, because collegiate basketball is a totally different breed from high school ball. The pace is faster and the competition is much more physical, but even so, Wieskamp’s teammates have already taken note of his adjustment playing at a higher level.

“Joe is way smarter than normal freshmen are,” Cook said. “I think back to when I was a freshman, coming in and trying to pick up on things on the fly and adjust to the game – the speed of the game, physicality and stuff. It took me and my class a while. But with Joe, he’s a smart kid, he’s a smart player. He’s come in and really embraced everything that we’ve tried to teach him. He’s done a great job so far.”

And while he may seem ahead of his class and adjusting to the game this summer, his work is far from over. A lot has been thrown at Wieskamp already, but in his eyes, he’s handling it with poise.

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