Toussaint brings New York toughness to Hawkeyes

Iowa freshman point guard Joe Toussaint grew up playing basketball in the New York parks. Now, he's bringing the toughness he learned to Iowa.


Katie Goodale

Joe Toussaint speaks with members of the press during an Iowa men’s basketball media availability at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on July 24, 2019. (Katie Goodale/The Daily Iowan)

Pete Ruden, Sports Editor

Joe Toussaint hasn’t played a minute in Carver-Hawkeye yet, but he has played at a venue that may be more famous: Rucker Park.

One of the most prominent streetball parks in the country, the Harlem, New York, courts are where many future NBA players got their starts, including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Julius “Dr. J.” Erving, Stephon Marbury, Ron Artest, and ex-Hawkeye Connie Hawkins.

The courts in Iowa City are different, but Toussaint has brought the New York attitude he gained in the city with him.

“All park tournaments are tough — you have to be tough to play in it,” Toussaint said. “You can’t just come to New York and try to play cool. There’s none of that. You have to play hard, you have to be tough, you have to be gritty. If not, they’re just going to kick you right out of the park.”

That mindset could be important this season. With Jordan Bohannon’s availability still up in the air, Toussaint could receive serious minutes at the point.

That means that despite being a freshman, the 6-foot could be looked at as a leader. That’s nothing new for Toussaint, though.

“That’s one part I’m really good at,” he said. “I don’t really care if people are older than me. I feel like I have the same respect as you; that’s why I’m here. I feel like would just fit in perfectly even if they have more experience than me, but I have experience at leadership through all my years of playing basketball.”

Although he might receive steady minutes at point, Toussaint is not the same player as Bohannon. Far from it.

Toussaint makes his living with speed and defense, which could be big for a team that ranked 13th in the Big Ten in scoring defense last season, giving up 73.9 points per game.

There were times last season when Iowa struggled to defend quick point guards, such as Pittsburgh’s Xavier Johnson, who scored 18 points and dished out 6 assists in Carver on Nov. 27. Toussaint could change that.

After all, he has plenty of experience defending top guards. Former 5-star recruit and current North Carolina Tar Heel Cole Anthony is one of Toussaint’s best friends, and the pair played on the same AAU team together.

Toussaint said Anthony is one of the toughest players he has ever guarded and defending him helped prepare him for the next level. His new teammates can already see it.

“Joe picks everybody up full court, gets after everybody, chases everybody around, it’s really hard to screen him,” freshman Patrick McCaffery said.

Toussaint’s offense also has the ability to translate well to Iowa’s offense. Head coach Fran McCaffery’s teams like to run, and Toussaint’s quickness will serve him well in an offense that gets up and down the floor.

“During my official visit, Coach, he sat me down in a room, and we went through a lot of plays and transition plays, half-court sets,” Toussaint. “He put me into the offense, and high school was the same, my AAU coaches the same with me. I just fit pretty well here, so it was kind of an easy choice on the basketball side.”

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