Fredrick’s return to the starting lineup key in Iowa’s victory over Penn State

The sharpshooting guard returned to the court after his ankle injury and immediately made an impact.


Nichole Harris

Iowa guard CJ Fredrick drives to the hoop during a men’s basketball game between Iowa and Penn State on Saturday, Feb. 29 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The Hawkeyes defeated the Nittany Lions 77-68. (Nichole Harris/The Daily Iowan)

Robert Read, Sports Editor

Iowa got some much-needed good news when head coach Fran McCaffery announced on Friday that freshman guard CJ Fredrick would return to the starting lineup against Penn State.

Fredrick made an impact as soon as he stepped back on the court in the Hawkeyes’ 77-68 victory over the Nittany Lions at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, and both sides took notice.

“Having CJ back really helped them,” Penn State head coach Pat Chambers said. “He makes a big difference. He’s such an elite shooter. There’s more space out there. You’ve really got to be concerned with him when he’s on the floor. [He’s] coming off screens — very aggressive. He’s a great player. We recruited him too. We know he’s a great player.”

In his first game back from an ankle injury suffered Feb. 13 against Indiana, Fredrick finished with 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting. The sharpshooter converted on two of his shots from beyond the 3-point arc.

His first shot of the day from deep came only three minutes into the game. It was an official statement that he’s back and healthy.

“Coach and the training staff have been allowing me to go at my own pace so I could come back 100 percent,” Fredrick said. “So I’ve had time to get back in the gym and get shots up and get my conditioning level up. I just didn’t have the game experience, but I think all the tools are still there.”

Fredrick’s ankle injury caused him to miss multiple games for the second time this year. Earlier in the season, he missed two games with a stress reaction in his foot.

Both times, Fredrick made relatively quick recovery considering the potential severity of ankle and foot injuries.

“I just think that’s the way he’s always been,” McCaffery said. “That’s who he is. That’s his character.”

With Fredrick back in the lineup, Iowa’s already potent offense has another shot-maker on the perimeter who compliments the work of center Luka Garza.

Fredrick is going to get his shots, but he’s not going to force them.

“The thing about him is that he never hunts anything,” McCaffery said. “He lets the game come to him. He’s going to shoot open shots and he’s going to make them. And if there’s space to drive it, he’ll take it and make a play. That’s just the way he is.”

Iowa missed Fredrick in its Feb. 25 loss to Michigan State in East Lansing. He was questionable to play going into the contest and may have even made his return a game earlier if it wasn’t for another setback — food poisoning.

“I was feeling really good,” Fredrick said. “Then I had dinner [Feb. 24] and was throwing up all night. I had to get my own night. So that didn’t help. The next morning I just felt so tired, really fatigued. So, the question of me being able to go 30 minutes would definitely have been a problem.”

The Hawkeyes dropped that game to the Spartans, but bounced back against the Nittany Lions to stay in the race for a double-bye at the upcoming Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis.

With Fredrick back in the lineup moving forward, Iowa’s rotation is all the more dangerous. The key thing for this Hawkeye team heading into March may be the team’s chemistry, which is as strong as Fredrick’s ever been a part of on the court.

“We don’t even really consider ourselves teammates — we’re brothers,” Fredrick said. “We’re together all the time. We hang out all the time. We just have a connection that I’ve never really been a part of playing basketball. The way we share the ball, the way we celebrate when we see our brothers making shots — it’s just really fun to play with a group like this.”