Iowa men’s basketball team seeks to prove doubters wrong after offseason departures

The Hawkeyes lost Luka Garza, Joe Wieskamp, CJ Fredrick, and Jack Nunge in the offseason, but are anticipating another run to March Madness next season.


Hannah Kinson

Iowa forward Patrick McCaffery shoots a basket during the Big Ten men’s basketball tournament quarterfinals against Wisconsin on Friday, March 12, 2021 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. The Hawkeyes defeated the Badgers, 62-57. No. 3 Iowa will go on to play No. 2 Illinois tomorrow afternoon in the semifinals.

Robert Read, Summer Editor

The 2021 Iowa men’s basketball team doesn’t want to be defined by what it doesn’t have. Or, more specifically, who it doesn’t have.

Luka Garza, Joe Wieskamp, CJ Fredrick, and Jack Nunge all departed the program in the offseason. Garza, the reigning National Player of the Year, graduated. Wieskamp, a three-year starter and 2020 second-team All-Big Ten selection, entered the NBA Draft. Fredrick (Kentucky) and Nunge (Xavier) both transferred, leaving Iowa without one of its sharpshooting guards and one of its top post players off the bench.

But the Hawkeyes aren’t dwelling on what they have lost as much as they are set on developing chemistry with what remains of the roster.

“We don’t care,” forward Patrick McCaffery said of anyone who doubts Iowa. “We do not care. We know what we have in our locker room. Everyone is confident in what we have. We know the talent we have, the ability we have. We know the versatility we have. We don’t really care about the outside noise. We kind of embrace being underdogs.”

Jordan Bohannon and Connor McCaffery are the two regular starters from last season’s team returning for the 2021-22 season. Keegan Murray, Patrick McCaffery, Joe Toussaint, Ahron Ulis, Tony Perkins, and Josh Ogundele are among the bench players expected to see increased roles in the new-look rotation.

Four players are new to coach Fran McCaffery’s program this year: North Dakota transfer Filip Rebraca, three-star recruits Riley Mulvey and Peyton Sandfort, and walk-on Luc Laketa..

“Mostly right now we’re getting up to speed with our new four guys,” sophomore forward Kris Murray said of what the team’s focus is in summer workouts. “They’ve transitioned really well. I think this summer’s just been developing our guys and making the most of the time that we have. And we’re grateful to have the eight weeks [of practice] we didn’t have last year.”

Iowa led the Big Ten, averaging 84 points per game last season. But Garza, Wieskamp, Fredrick, and Nunge accounted for 64 percent of that production.

Toussaint is stepping into the starting point guard role this season, as Bohannon replaces Fredrick in an off-the-ball role. Keegan Murray and Patrick McCaffery will likely see their roles expand with the losses of Garza, Wieskamp, and Nunge in the frontcourt.

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“I think I’m somebody that’s gonna need to score the ball a little more,” Patrick McCaffery said. “I think that’s something our coaches and our team in general count on me for — to score the ball. Also, I think I’m somebody who can be an effective weapon for us defensively as well, just with my length and my athletic ability.”

Iowa entered last season ranked No. 5 in the nation and stayed in the top 10 for all but one week en route to a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. This year’s team, after losing some of its top players, will likely be unranked to start the season.

There’s nothing the Hawkeyes can do about that now. But when the season starts in November, the group is anxious to prove, despite all it lost, that a return trip to March Madness is a realistic goal.

“We all want the same goal at the end of the day: to win a Big Ten championship and go as far as we can,” Toussaint said. “If we all lock in, to be honest with you, we’ll still be up there. Obviously, there’s no Luka Garza, there’s no Joe Wieskamp, but I feel like if we believe in each other, we can accomplish anything.”

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