IOWA CITY — It’s hard to envision a scenario in which the University of Iowa men’s basketball program could have possibly seen more transition than it saw in the 2019 offseason.
That hasn’t dampened any expectations for the Hawkeyes, though.
Iowa returns just two starters, and maybe a third, and eight other veterans to a team that went 23-12 and lost in the second round of the NCAA tournament. But it’s notable who the Hawkeyes have lost since that overtime loss to Tennessee.
Nicholas Baer graduated, Tyler Cook left early for the NBA draft, and Isaiah Moss transferred to Kansas. Maishe Dailey also transferred out of the program, and it was announced in May that star guard Jordan Bohannon would be out indefinitely after undergoing hip surgery. On Sept. 20, the university announced that Dubuque Wahlert grad Cordell Pemsl had been suspended indefinitely after being arrested for operating while intoxicated.
“It’s a much different team than I think we had thought it might be,” Hawkeyes coach Fran McCaffery said at the team’s annual media day Wednesday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “I kind of thought we’d lose Cook, knew we were going to lose Baer, expected to have Jordan. Felt like we had enough depth with Isaiah’s departure. But you have essentially three new players and three players sitting out, so six new bodies. Three of them have been here, they know the offense, they know each other, so it’s not that bad.”
That means the Hawkeyes will rely heavily on returning starters Joe Wieskamp and Luka Garza. Forwards Ryan Kriener and Riley Till will likely get more playing time, along with Jack Nunge, a sophomore coming off a redshirt season. Guard Connor McCaffery will likely start at point guard in Bohannon’s absence.
The Hawkeyes also brought in graduate transfer Bakari Evelyn, who has played at Nebraska and Valpairaiso, and highly touted recruits Patrick McCaffery and Joe Toussaint.
“They’re all talented in their own ways,” Wieskamp said. “Joe is extremely quick, he makes things happen. Bakari is an extremely talented scorer, can also make plays happen with the ball. And Patrick obviously is very skilled and can score at all three levels. His shot’s improved, and he’s just so long that he can affect the game in many ways.”
Fran McCaffery said a week ago at Big Ten Conference media day that he believed Bohannon was closer to a return than first anticipated. He said on Wednesday that Bohannon has been at practices and is engaging in light drills, but a cautious approached is being taken. He believed Bohannon could be cleared to practice in as soon as a week or two.
“June and July were the toughest months,” Bohannon said. “It was a lot of little stuff, learning how to put pressure on my foot, really learning how to walk again. I have a totally different stride now, because I don’t have an extra bone in my hip. It’s gone, so I don’t have that hip impingement anymore.
“So that was the big thing, trying to learn how to walk again, trying to learn how to take a stride. The first day I was able to walk upstairs again (in mid to late June) was a happy day, because I was able to get out of the basement.”
McCaffery said Pemsl could return to practice prior to the first game, too. Pemsl, a junior who redshirted last year, was not made available to media as he is suspended from all team activities.
“He took care of his legal part of his issues. He’s got some other things he’s got to work out,” Fran McCaffery said. “If he stays on top of things, maybe by next week we could have him back at practice.”
The departures, along with Bohannon’s injury, means the Hawkeyes return just three of their top seven scorers from last season.
Garza is Iowa’s top returning scorer after averaging 13.1 points and 4.5 rebounds. Wieskamp was fourth on the team in scoring at 11.1 points per game and is the team’s top returning rebounder (4.9). Kriener averaged 5.7 points and 3.0 rebounds.
Iowa opens the regular season on Nov. 8 at home against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville.
“When you have losses like that — especially Tyler and Nicholas, huge losses, and obviously Isaiah Moss — you need guys to step into those roles and be ready for that,” Garza said. “I think we’ve had a lot of guys who are really ready for that and worked all summer and spring and this fall to just be able to be prepared for that moment.”