Iowa forward Cordell Pemsl loses weight in hopes of gaining more playing time

A heavier Cordell Pemsl looks to score against Iowa State last season. Photo by Jeff Yoder

By Pat Harty

IOWA CITY, Iowa - Iowa forward Cordell Pemsl saw his playing time decrease as a sophomore last season, so he came up with a plan to change that.

And it started with the Dubuque native losing a significant amount of weight during the offseason.

The 6-foot-8 Pemsl now weighs about 230 pounds, which is 10 pounds less than his listed weight from last season and nearly 30 pounds less than his heaviest weight as a Hawkeye. 

“I’m looking at my career as a whole and what I can bring to the table and what I can do, and I knew that there was more than what I was showing last year,” Pemsl said Monday at Iowa’s annual media day event. “I thought the best way to show that would be to physically make a change and to add more to my game.”

Pemsl believes that losing weight will help him play better on defense where Iowa struggled last season, allowing 78.7 points per game.

“I just kind of wanted to be that guy on defense this year,” he said. “We really didn’t have that guy who was able to bring everybody together last year. When we went sideways, nobody really knew how to get things back on track.

“Obviously, everybody knows that we can score the ball. But it starts on defense. If we give up 90 points, we’re not going to win the game.”

Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said Pemsl took it upon himself to lose weight and wasn’t pressured to do so.

”It wasn't like we went in and said: Okay, you have to get to this weight,” McCaffery said. “He just felt like after being in this league for two years, he needed to be thinner, quicker, quicker off the floor, and maybe in his mind, a little more versatile.

“So now he's got to see if that is really what makes him the most comfortable and he feels like that's the best, because he may end up feeling like he's got to put a little more weight back on. I don't think he'll ever be 257 again. He might get to 235 and be a little bit of both, play a little smash-mouth and play a little finesse.”

Pemsl didn’t start any games last season after having started 14 games as a freshman during the 2016-17 season.

He is part of a deep and talented frontline where earning minutes isn’t easy.

“He has to make the adjustment to being a different body type,” McCaffery said. “I think he's excited about doing that. He made a decision to drop that weight.”

Redshirt possibilities: Fran McCaffery didn’t rule out the possibility that somebody could be redshirted this season.

Iowa returns the top nine scorers from last season and only lost one player, forward Dom Uhl, to graduation.

“I think it's too early to have in mind, because you never know what's going to happen between now and -- we saw it last year,” McCaffery said. “You hope nobody gets hurt, and you say, okay, well, who makes the most sense.

“And then I always say this: It's going to be like, who is willing? Is there anybody that wants to do that? Some guys flat-out don't want to.”

McCaffery brought up the case of former Iowa forward Jarrod Uthoff, who was redshirted against his wishes as a true freshman at Wisconsin before transferring to Iowa.

“So you have to be able to assess your players' intentions as it relates to that discussion, even bringing it up, quite honestly,” McCaffery said.

Freshman guard C.J. Fredrick could be a redshirt candidate, especially with him learning to play point guard.

But he also might show in practice that he is ready to contribute.

"I've been playing a little bit of point guard right now, which has been a little bit of a change since high school," Fredrick said. "So I'm kind of just expecting whatever the coach needs me to do right now. It's still kind of up in the air what's going to happen. So I'm just coming into practice and competing every day."

The 6-3 Fredrick was named the Kentucky Gatorade Player of the Year after leading Covington Catholic High School to a state title and to a 35-4 record as a senior last season. He scored 111 points, including two 32-point performances, during the state tournament.