No. 22 Iowa and Northern Iowa will meet on Saturday in the final Hy-Vee Big Four Classic in Des Moines

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Jordan Bohannon

By Pat Harty

DES MOINES, Iowa - You name it from an individual standpoint and Jordan Bohannon probably accomplished it in high school as a star guard for the Linn-Mar basketball team.

His list of accomplishments include being named 2016 Mr. Iowa Basketball, the Iowa Gatorade Player of the Year in 2016 and first-team all-state.

Bohannon also led Class 4A in scoring with 593 points as a senior and he holds the school record for career 3-pointers made and career and single-season free throw percentages.

But there is one glaring thing missing from Bohannon’s highly decorated high school career, and that was a berth in the state tournament.

The closest any of his teams came to making it was a sub-state final loss to Cedar Falls on a last-second-shot when Bohannon was a senior in 2016.

Bohannon had to wait until he joined the Iowa basketball team to finally play at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, which in addition to hosting the high school state basketball tournament, is also the site of the Hy-Vee Big Four Classic for one last time.

“It’s funny because this is the only chance I’ve had to play in Wells-Fargo, so it’s been a lot of fun to be able to play there and play against Iowa teams,” Bohannon said. “It’s a really great thing. But at the end of the day, we’re just going to worry about the next game on our schedule.

“It’s unfortunate that it’s not going to keep going. But next year, it’s whatever game they decide to play instead.”

No. 22 Iowa (7-2) will face Northern Iowa (4-5) in the second game of a doubleheader on Saturday, while Drake and Iowa State will meet in the first game at Wells Fargo Arena.

This is the seventh and final year for the Big Four Classic, so it’s also likely the last time that Bohannon will face the Panthers in college.

Bohannon considered Northern Iowa during the recruiting process and has cheered for the Panthers before when his older brother, Matt Bohannon, played basketball there.

“He had a lot of fun with it because that was an opportunity for UNI to play Iowa at a neutral site,” Bohannon said of his brother. “And it was fun for me to watch my brother play against a school like that and have a chance to be able to play on a big stage like that.

“That’s really cool.”

Bohannon might have picked Northern Iowa to play basketball if Iowa coach Fran McCaffery hadn’t offered him a scholarship.

Bohannon also has two older brothers who played for Wisconsin, but the Badgers never offered him a scholarship, which still bothers and motivates Jordan to this day.

And it’s reasonable to assume that some of the Northern Iowa players feel the same about being passed over by Iowa for a scholarship because there isn’t one player on the current Northern Iowa roster who is believed to have had a scholarship offer from Iowa, whereas Iowa has several players on its roster who could’ve played for Northern Iowa on scholarship, including Bohannon.

“This is definitely a game they probably mark on their schedule,” Bohannon said. “A lot of guys on that team, they want to be in our shoes. They want to play for Iowa, I’m sure. And for them to have a chance to play against us, we’re going to get their best shot the entire year.”

The Hawkeyes and Panthers both know each other quite well, from a personal and from a player standpoint.

They both have six Iowans in their rotation and those 12 players already have a long history of competing with and against each other in high school and AAU basketball.

Iowa freshman forward Joe Wieskamp and Northern Iowa freshman guard A.J. Green became friends while playing on the same AAU team throughout high school.

Bohannon is also familiar with Green after having played against him in high school and in the Prime Time League, which was a former summer league in North Liberty.

In fact, Green made the buzzer-beater in the substate final that ended Bohannon’s high school career in 2016.

“There’s a little bad blood, I guess you could say, because he hit the game-winner my senior campaign to try to get to state,” Bohannon said, “Something I’m always going to remember the rest of my life.”

Saturday’s game could be the first and only time that Wieskamp and Green face each other in college with the Big Four Classic ending, and with Iowa and Northern Iowa having no games scheduled for the foreseeable future.

“Whatever game is on the schedule, I’m excited to play,” said the 6-foot-6 Wieskamp. “I take every game the same way.

“Obviously, it would be fun to continue to play them in the future, but it is what it is. I’m just excited that we’re able to play them one more time.”

Iowa hasn’t played since defeating Iowa State 98-84 on Dec. 6 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The players spent the past week taking final exams and now have a month to focus almost exclusively on basketball.

Iowa senior forward Nicholas Baer is in the midst of a hot streak, having made nine of his last 15 attempts from 3-point range.

The 6-foot-7 Baer also has had some of his best performances at Wells Fargo Arena, both in high school and for Iowa.

He grabbed 14 rebounds, scored 11 points and had five steals and five assists points during a 90-64 victory over Drake last season. He also recorded his first double-double while making his first collegiate start against Northern Iowa in the 2016 Big Four Classic.

And he set an arena record for blocks against Drake as a redshirt freshman in 2015.

So what is it about Wells Fargo Arena that brings out the best in Baer?

“I just think it’s kind of how the nature of each game has turned out,” Baer said. “It’s always nice going back and playing in Wells Fargo Arena. I’m familiar there, I played there in high school.

“But I just think we had good game plans going into those games and were able to execute.”

Junior forward Cordell Pemsl is expected to play for Iowa on Saturday, but how much is uncertain.

The Dubuque native is dealing with a sore knee that was thought to have required season-ending surgery. However, surgery has been put on hold and Pemsl is taking it one day at a time.

The 6-8 Pemsl came off the bench to score eight points and grab six rebounds in the victory over Iowa State. He also provided Iowa with a level of toughness that was needed against the Cyclones.

Fran McCaffery was asked on Thursday if there was a chance that Pemsl could play for the rest of the season.

It's a possibility, I guess, but it's up to him,” McCaffery said. “It really is legitimately day-to-day; how he feels.”

Northern Iowa hasn’t played since defeating Dubuque 75-67 last Saturday in Cedar Falls.

Green is the only player for Northern Iowa who is averaging in double figures in scoring with a 15.8 per-game average.

“His game is pretty complete. He can dribble, pass and shoot. He's got size. He can score in bunches. He can load people up.

“He's always played the game with great confidence, and sometimes you see that not translate, but that's not been the case with him,” McCaffery said. “He's kind of playing with the same kind of confidence and aggressiveness that he always has. It's sort of been a seamless transition, I guess you'd say, for him.”

Iowa has three players who are averaging in double figures in scoring, led by 6-9 junior forward Tyler Cook's 16.6 per-game average.

Cook has 986 career points and is 14 points shy of becoming the 47th player in program history to reach 1,000 career points.

 

Iowa vs. Northern Iowa

When: Saturday. 6 p.m.

Where: Wells Fargo Arena, Des Moines

What: Seventh and final Hy-Vee Big Four Classic

TV: Big Ten Network

All-time series: Iowa holds a 35-10 advantage, but the two teams have split the last 14 meetings. Iowa is 5-1 in the Big Four Classic, including 2-1 against Northern Iowa.