Fran McCaffery preparing as if Jordan Bohannon won't play next season

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Jordan Bohannon acknowledges the fans in Carver-Hawkeye Arena during the Michigan game. Photo by Jeff Yoder

By Pat Harty

IOWA CITY, Iowa - Iowa coach Fran McCaffery is preparing for next season as if Jordan Bohannon won’t be available, and that makes sense under current the circumstances.

“You proceed as if he’s not here because he won’t be for a while, so you proceed without him and prepare for him not to be playing,” McCaffery said about his standout senior point guard. “His focus right now needs to be on one thing, and that’s getting better.

“He can’t be worried about coming back or when he’s coming back. We won’t put that pressure on him.”

Bohannon is in the early stages of recovering from hip surgery last month and it typically takes at least five months to fully heal from his kind of surgery.

And with practice starting in less than five months in October, there is reason to think that Bohannon won’t be ready to participate and that he ultimately will choose to redshirt this coming season and then play at full strength as a fifth-year senior in the 2020-21 season.

That seems to be the most likely scenario at this stage because Bohannon wants to make sure that he is healthy as a senior after having been hampered by injuries in each of the past two seasons.

Bohannon would have over a year to fully recover should he choose to redshirt, but that would also leave Iowa with just one player on the team with any experience at point guard, that being Fran McCaffery’s son, Connor McCaffery.

The 6-foot-5 Connor McCaffery played as Bohannon’s backup this past season as a redshirt freshman, and they also sometimes played together, as Bohannon would switch to shooting guard.

Iowa also has a new point guard on the team in incoming freshman Joe Toussaint, and will soon add another guard with the recent commitment from Bakari Evelyn, who is a graduate transfer from Valparaiso.

Redshirt freshman C.J. Fredrick is another possibility at point guard, and Fran McCaffery has been gushing over Fredrick’s skill set since he joined the program.

Fran McCaffery was asked on Tuesday about the point guard position without Bohannon, and not surprisingly, McCaffery showed no signs of panic, or even much concern.

He also said that Iowa's roster is set for next season, with or without Bohannon.

“It’s pretty simple, really,” McCaffery said when asked how to fill Bohannon’s void. “You’ve got Connor and Joe Toussaint and those two guys will handle it.

“And we should be getting somebody else that might be able to help as well.”

McCaffery was referring to Evelyn, but he made sure not to mention Evelyn’s name because his transfer isn’t official yet and coaches are prohibited from talking publicly about a specific transfer until the move becomes official.

“Versatility is what we’re looking for there, and we’ve got some flexibility,” Fran McCaffery said. “C.J. Fredrick can also play that position. C.J. is a really good shooter.”

McCaffery could also use 6-6 sophomore Joe Wieskamp in the backcourt, in addition to Wieskamp’s usual spot at small forward.

“We could swing Joe into the backcourt if we needed to,” Fran McCaffery said. “So we’ve got a lot of options there.”

Junior center Luka Garza said the challenge and the goal for the players this summer is to prepare to be as good as they can be regardless of Bohannon’s status.

“Whether he’s there or not, that’s kind of in God’s hands, almost,” Garza said. “We’re praying for him and hoping that everything goes well. We just want him to recover and be one-hundred percent.

“No matter when he comes back, that’s just on him. We want him to take his time. You just can’t rush those things and then come back and get hurt in a different area. We just want him to take his time and get healthy.”

Fran McCaffery, Garza and Wieskamp were all made available to the media on Tuesday as sort of way to give fans and the media a summer hoops fix. 

The Prime Time League used to fill that void, but it was discontinued after the summer of 2017.

Roster changes: Iowa had all five starters returning when this past season ended in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in March.

That number has been reduced to three with Tyler Cook having since declared for the NBA draft and with Isaiah Moss having transferred to Kansas. And it could shrink to two if Bohannon doesn’t play this season.

Reserve guard Maishe Dailey also transferred to Akron where he will play his senior year.

“I was a little surprised," Garza said of all the roster changes. “You obviously can’t foresee injuries and transfers and stuff like that. But it just happens. This is what happens at this level of basketball.

“People see other opportunities that they want to go for it and people get hurt and stuff like that. So that’s just when you’re at this level, it’s kind of like a business and you’ve got to be real professional about it.”

Garza and Wieskamp are Iowa's only two healthy returning starters at this point.

Wieskamp tested the NBA draft process this spring before withdrawing his name from consideration. He is now focused solely on getting better as a Hawkeye, but not just as a player.

"I’m going to have to definitely step up big time this year and be a leader,” Wieskamp said.

Patrick McCaffery update: Fran McCaffery told reporters on Tuesday that he plans to play his son, Patrick McCaffery, as a true freshman next season.

Patrick McCaffery is a 6-8 incoming freshman and the all-time leading scorer for Iowa City West High School.

He had a malignant tumor removed from his thyroid five years ago, and has struggled to gain weight and strength since then, although, Fran McCaffery is now seeing progress in that area.

“Right now, it would be to play him,” Fran McCaffery said. “As we get closer to the season and we feel like it’s going to be benefit him to redshirt, we’ll see where he is weight wise. He’s getting a lot stronger. He’s been lifting. His game is in a really good place.”

Good luck to Isaiah: Fran McCaffery was asked about Isaiah Moss’ recent commitment to Kansas. Moss picked the Jayhawks and head coach Bill Self after having been committed to Arkansas for a few weeks.

Moss started at shooting guard for Iowa in each of the past two seasons.

He will play for Kansas as a graduate transfer next season.

“I hope it works out for him,” Fran McCaffery said. “I’m friends with coach Self and it’ll be good for him. And we’re just moving forward.”