Once overlooked by Wisconsin, Jordan Bohannon returns to Kohl Center for final time

Iowa’s senior point guard once worshipped the Badgers. Now he’s still working to prove them wrong.

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Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon sinks a free throw during a men’s basketball game between Iowa and Minnesota at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday, Jan. 10, 2021. The Hawkeyes defeated the Golden Gophers, 86-71.

Robert Read, Pregame Editor


Jordan Bohannon grew up watching two of his older brothers play basketball at Wisconsin on the hardwood at the Kohl Center. On Thursday, Iowa’s fifth-year senior point guard will take the court there for the final time.

And if it is anything like his first time playing at the venue, it will be a special sendoff.

As a freshman in 2017, Bohannon and the Hawkeyes trailed by one late in Madison. Head coach Fran McCaffery drew up a play for the Big Ten’s leading scorer — Peter Jok. Bohannon fed Jok the ball, but Jok’s mid-range shot near the free-throw line rimmed out.

Iowa’s Cordell Pemsl grabbed the long offensive rebound and passed the ball to an open Bohannon on the left wing. The result was one Iowa fans would become familiar with when “JBo” attempted a deep 3-pointer in the clutch.

Swish.

“That kid’s a gamer,” McCaffery said of Bohannon, recalling the play on Tuesday. “He’s always been a gamer.”

With nine seconds to go, Bohannon knocked down a game-winning 3-pointer in an arena he’d once dreamed of playing in. And that added to the satisfaction of making the game-winner.

“That shot is definitely close to being No. 1 in my most proud moments at Iowa just because of the rich history my family has at Wisconsin.”

Bohannon’s history with the Badgers has stayed with him. All the way up to Thursday’s 6 p.m. meeting between No. 11 Iowa (15-6, 9-5) and No. 21 Wisconsin (15-7, 9-6), which will air on ESPN. Iowa guard CJ Fredrick is questionable to play, and Joe Wieskamp is seeking to continue his dominant play that garnered him Big Ten Player of the Week.

But Bohannon’s tie-in to the game is much more personal.

Bohannon never received a scholarship offer from Wisconsin. Bohannon has called Iowa his “dream” school, but to not receive interest from a program he had been so invested in still stung.

RELATED: Wieskamp named Big Ten Player of the Week

“It was always Wisconsin in my mind because I grew up a Wisconsin fan,” Bohannon said. “Wisconsin was the main school… I was cheering on, always wanting to play at, because my brothers went there. It’s cool looking back, because that raised me into the competitor that I am. I continue to have that chip on my shoulder that these guys have overlooked me.”

Jason Bohannon (2007-10) and Zach Bohannon (2013-14) — two of Jordan’s three older brothers — both played for the Badgers under head coach Bo Ryan.

Growing up in Marion, Iowa, Bohannon would wear Wisconsin jerseys to school in support of his brothers and collect trading cards of Badger players. After his fourth-grade year in school, he even attended a Badgers basketball game where Jason was a counselor. He was named the camp MVP despite competing against players a year or two older than him.

Bohannon attended Badger elite camps in his sophomore and junior years of high school, but after associate head coach Greg Gard took over Wisconsin’s program after Ryan’s retirement, there was no longer a mutual interest in the Badgers bringing in the youngest Bohannon brother.

Bohannon received a scholarship offer from Iowa before his senior season at Linn-Mar High School. He committed and, much like his father Gordy Bohannon, the starting quarterback on the Iowa football program’s 1981 Rose Bowl team, eventually earned his spot in Hawkeye history.

Looking down the historical stat sheet, Bohannon is Iowa’s all-time leader in 3-pointers (337), a mark that also ranks second all-time in Big Ten history. He is also 14 assists away from reaching the top of that category in Iowa history.

The Bohannon family has watched Jordan prove the schools that overlooked him wrong.

But in his third and final trip to the Kohl Center, Bohannon’s family won’t be in attendance. Some Big Ten programs allow family members of athletes to attend games, even though there is no general admission because of the pandemic. Wisconsin is not currently one of them.

So while he would sit in the stands at the Kohl Center, or in the front row in Wisconsin’s 2014 Final Four game, Bohannon won’t have support in the stands for his final game in the state of Wisconsin.

But that won’t make it any less memorable.

“I always look forward to going to the Kohl Center and revisiting those experiences that I had as a little kid,” Bohannon said. “… That arena is definitely a special part of me.”

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