New-look Hawkeye men’s basketball optimistic ahead of 2021-22 season

Some fresh and familiar faces will help Iowa fill holes in its rotation left by the departures of Joe Wieskamp, C.J. Fredrick, and Luka Garza.


Grace Smith

Iowa guard Connor McCaffery speaks on live television during Big Ten Basketball Media Days at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana on Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021. While at a podium, Connor McCaffery addressed his thoughts on this upcoming season. “I think we’ll be good. It’s motivating to know that we’re not supposed to be as good because we lost Luka and Wiesy but honestly we’re not worried about that, we know what to do.”

Austin Hanson, Sports Editor

INDIANAPOLIS — Head coach Fran McCaffery’s University of Iowa men’s basketball team will look a lot different this season than it did last year.

The Hawkeyes lost almost 55 percent of their scoring during the offseason.  Three starters — center Luka Garza and guards Joe Wieskamp and C.J. Fredrick — all left the program in a four-month span.

Garza and Wieskamp were both selected in the second round of the NBA Draft in July. Garza ended up with the Detroit Pistons while Wieskamp went to the San Antonio Spurs.

Fredrick entered the transfer portal in April, ultimately landing at the University of Kentucky.

“We don’t have a 6-foot-11 center [like Luka Garza] that’s going to average 20 points per game,” McCaffery told reporters at Big Ten Basketball Media Days Oct. 7. “Where are the rest of the points going to come from? Will it be Keegan Murray? Will it be Patrick McCaffery? Will it be [Jordan] Bohannon moving over to the off guard position? What big guys will step up for us? Will it be Keegan’s brother Kris [Murray], who is a tremendous player?”

With Garza, Wieskamp, Fredrick, and their scoring gone, Fran has had to make a variety of adjustments to his rotation, offense, and defense.

McCaffery expects to play small ball at times in 2021-22, since his two 6-foot-11 big men — Josh Ogundele and Riley Mulvey — are both underclassmen.

Fran said he may fill the post positions in his lineup with 6-foot-9 North Dakota State University transfer Filip Rebraca and Keegan.

“It’s obviously going to be a lot different without Luka and Joe,” Fran said. “They were such an integral part of our offense, and our defense, and our leadership. So, they’ll be hard to replace. But we have a lot of options. We’ve got a deep team. We’ve got some length. We have athletes. We have shooting. But it’s going to be all new roles. Now, instead of being a complimentary player, you gotta be a leading scorer.”

The Hawkeyes are returning 10 players that saw action last season, including the likes of senior guards Connor McCaffery and Austin Ash, junior point guard Joe Toussaint, and sophomore backcourt members Tony Perkins and Ahron Ulis.

The depth and athleticism Iowa has this season will allow it to run more motion and fewer set plays on offense.

“I think we’ll run more motion than we have in the past,” Connor said. “We’ve always been a motion-based team. With Luka, it would get to a point where it’s like, ‘OK, we’ll just run more sets to get him the ball.’ Now, without that, I think you’re just going to see a lot more movement, more motion, and more of an equal-opportunity offense that’s not just centered around [one player].”

Iowa’s new-look offense will feature a wrinkle seldom seen in 2020-21. Fran plans to start and play Toussaint and Bohannon at the same time. Throughout their careers, both have played point guard. This season, however, Toussaint will start at point guard, and Bohannon will fill the hole Wieskamp and Fredrick left at shooting guard in Iowa’s lineup.

“It’s been awesome because I’m able to help [Toussaint] along the way,” Bohannon said. “Having been a point guard [myself] the last four or five years in the Big Ten, [I can] use my experiences to help him along the way.”

“He’s done a great job,” Bohannon added. “He’s a great point guard to have because he understands the offense.”

In addition to changing his position, Bohannon may have shoulder the bulk of the Hawkeyes’ 3-point shooting duties.

Fredrick and Wieskamp ranked second and third, respectively, in the Big Ten in 3-point shooting percentage in 2020-21. Fredrick made nearly half of his field goal attempts from downtown last year, and Wieskamp shot about 47 percent from 3-point range.

Garza also shot well from behind the arc in 2020-21, making about 41 percent of his attempts from distance. He ranked 11th in the Big Ten in 3-point shooting percentage last year.

Bohannon believes the Hawkeyes still have plenty of 3-point shooting on their roster this season, despite the loss of their top three shooters from last year.

“I think Keegan has definitely picked up his 3-point shooting a lot,” Bohannon said. “. . . We have some young guys coming in here. Payton [Sandfort], the freshman, can really shoot the ball. Obviously, having Austin Ash come back as well. He’s one of the best shooters in the country. I think he can actually do some damage this year when he’s thrown in a game. He can easily knock down eight [3-pointers] in a game. That’s how good of a shooter he is.”

“Connor’s been shooting the ball really well,” Bohannon added. “Patrick’s been shooting the ball really well. Patrick’s gained a lot of strength. Kris is shooting the ball really well. You just go right down the line. Everyone’s been working. The 3-point shooters we lost last year are definitely going to be made up for this year.”

Iowa was picked to finish ninth in the 14-team Big Ten this season, per a media poll. Last season, the Hawkeyes were projected to be the league’s second-best team, according to conference media polls.

“This year, it feels like we’re kind of back to what we were my sophomore year or freshman year,” Connor said. “It feels like we’re in that same boat. Everybody knows we’re not going to suck. We’re motivated to compete. Every year it feels like [we’re picked to finish close to last in the Big Ten] and we finish upper half . . . I just think that gives us a little chip on our shoulder.”

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