Iowa men’s basketball finding new identity ahead of 2021-22 season

With four former Hawkeyes leaving the program, Iowa men’s basketball is entering the 2021-22 season with a new look.


Kate Heston

Iowa Forward Keegan Murray (15) holds the ball under the basket during an Iowa men’s basketball game against Nebraska on Thursday, March 4, 2021 at Carver-Hawkeye arena. The Hawks beat the Cornhuskers, 102-64.

Ben Palya, Sports Reporter

Iowa men’s basketball has been steady the past few seasons, with former Hawkeyes Luka Garza, Joe Wieskamp, and CJ Fredrick anchoring the Hawkeyes through a rise to national prominence last season.

But now, the Hawkeyes are having to turn the page. Garza and Wieskamp left Iowa to pursue NBA careers, and Fredrick transferred to Kentucky men’s basketball. Hawkeye backup center Jack Nunge also left the Hawkeye program for Xavier, to be closer to his family in Newburgh, Indiana.

As the Hawkeyes come into the season with a different look, there are still some familiar faces ready to step up.

Hawkeye sixth-year senior Jordan Bohannon decided to use the NCAA’s extra year of eligibility — given to all 2020-21 student-athletes because of the COVID-19 pandemic — and will move to the “2” spot off the ball.

Junior Joe Toussaint will start at the “1” for the Hawkeyes in 2021-22.

So far this offseason, Hawkeye men’s basketball head coach Fran McCaffery said the “1” could be a position of strength for Iowa, as Toussaint and sophomore guards Ahron Ulis and Tony Perkins have impressed at the spot.

“You think about our team a couple years ago and how limited we were with who we brought off the bench, it’s a nice problem to have,” McCaffery said at a Zoom meeting with reporters Monday.

Strength at the point guard positions could be vital as the Hawkeyes attempt to put together the rest of their lineup.

Sophomore Keegan Murray has emerged as a versatile part of the Hawkeye program. The 6-foot-8 forward put 10-15 pounds of muscle on during the offseason, and said earlier this summer he could play at small forward — or center in a small-ball lineup — for the Hawkeyes in 2021-22.

“He plays the game the right, he plays hard, he runs, and he’s versatile,” McCaffery said. “He’s gotten stronger, and his role has changed so he’s gotten more aggressive.”

With the loss of Garza, the 2020-21 consensus National Player of the Year, McCaffery has multiple options to fill the gap at center.

Senior Filip Rebraca, a transfer from North Dakota, integrated himself nicely so far with the Hawkeyes, and looks to be a key piece to Iowa this season. Rebraca has struggled with a non-COVID-19 related illness recently, and is working back to full fitness.

Rebraca’s illness is not the only setback for the Hawkeyes this offseason. The Hawkeyes have struggled to fully practice, as senior Connor McCaffery, Toussaint, and Perkins all underwent offseason surgeries. Sophomore forwards Patrick McCaffery and Kris Murray also dealt with minor offseason injuries.

But the Hawkeyes have still been able to progress with who is available.

“I don’t think we ever had the whole team [together over the summer],” McCaffery said. “It’s one of the deepest teams we’ve had, so at least we feel like we can absorb those injuries.

The Hawkeyes start their season against Longwood at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Nov. 9. Iowa’s Big Ten opener will be against Purdue on Dec. 3 in West Lafayette, Indiana.

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