College Mens Basketball

Jordan Bohannon raising level of play for Iowa

Hawkeyes' point guard said Saturday he was feeling pressure, has worked on being more optimistic

Iowa Hawkeyes head coach Fran McCaffery talks with guard Jordan Bohannon (3) during the first half of their HyVee Classic game at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines on Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Iowa Hawkeyes head coach Fran McCaffery talks with guard Jordan Bohannon (3) during the first half of their HyVee Classic game at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines on Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Iowa point guard Jordan Bohannon was in a much better mood Saturday than he has been in about a month.

Of course, winning helps. Everything is more fun when you win. But the sophomore from Marion gave a little insight after that victory against Drake at Wells Fargo Arena as to why things seemed a little stiff before that, especially on the court.

Bohannon said “I’ve been putting a lot of pressure on myself,” to be great, to be at least close to what Peter Jok was; to be the leader of the team as the guy who brings the ball up the floor. His 15 points and seven assists Saturday went a long way toward that goal, and the pressure-free basketball they got to play was not a coincidence, he said.

“We needed one of these games to let ourselves know that everything’s OK,” Bohannon said. “I can honestly say a lot of it starts with me and trying to get the team motivated and trying to get the team going.

“I want to keep having that, having people look to me to pick the team up and I feel like when we’re able to do that, we play well as a team.”

His coach doesn’t care much for this kind of thing.

Fran McCaffery has dismissed the notion that Bohannon has been affected by any kind of pressure so far this season. McCaffery said Saturday “I haven’t talked to him about it. I didn’t think it was an issue.” He said he’s encouraged Bohannon to be who he is and that, “‘You’re not Pete. Just do what you do. I trust you. Your teammates trust you.’”

McCaffery cited Bohannon’s numbers — 12.7 points, 4.7 assists and two turnovers per game with 47.2 shooting from 3-point range and 43.9 percent from the field — as a reason why he doesn’t think there was an issue.

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“I just evaluate game-by-game; I think he’s played really well,” McCaffery said Monday in a teleconference. “His concentration — he’s not making mistakes due to lack of concentration or lack of effort. That’s what I’m looking at. I just think you’re talking to a competitive guy who’s not happy we lost some games we thought we should’ve won. I’m not really evaluating fun factor.

“I don’t even think about it. I don’t know what else to tell you. It’s a non-issue. It’s not worth talking about.”

But what McCaffery said he thinks (or doesn’t think) and what Bohannon has said are two different things — at least recently.

Bohannon blamed himself for multiple losses in the last month — Virginia Tech and Indiana specifically — and said Saturday the early part of this season was affected by his feeling both the need and the desire to step into a bigger role on the team. His comments after those aforementioned games showed a player, as McCaffery said, who hates losing. Bohannon said between the Penn State and Indiana games that “it really does piss me off,” when Iowa loses. The comments also show a kid desperate to be there for his teammates.

Sometimes that manifests itself in mistakes. Bohannon has three games this year where he had more turnovers than assists — one assist, four turnovers vs Louisiana; four assists, five turnovers vs Indiana; two assists, four turnovers vs Iowa State.

Despite those — and some erroneous social media questioning about whether or not the same guy who was looked at as a potential all-time great last year could even play point guard this year — more often than not this year Bohannon’s desire has manifested itself in the offensive production everyone was accustomed to last year.

He had a career-high 30-point game in a win versus UAB, scored 21 in a loss to Louisiana, and had 19 points against the Cyclones and those 15 against Drake on Saturday. His season-long assist-to-turnover ratio is 2.33-to-1, which is 88th (of more than 2,000 players) nationally.

That McCaffery hasn’t noticed a difference in the young player in practice probably says a lot about how Bohannon carries himself.

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Whatever Bohannon has done personally to turn the tides on how he views himself and his performance, it’s worked the last couple games. With Southern Utah at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Tuesday and a trip to Sioux Falls, S.D., to play Colorado on Friday, he and the Hawkeyes will see if it continues to work.

“With Pete gone, I probably added a little too much pressure on myself at the beginning of the season because I felt like I need to do a lot more,” Bohannon said Saturday. “I think some of us could say the same thing. When we’re all going and leaning on each other instead of going one on one, we’re a lot better as a team.

“Obviously you want to learn from your past, but don’t want to keep dwelling on it. You want to have a little optimism in your life. That’s something I started working on the past couple weeks, and it’s been instrumental for me.”

MCCAFFERY TO BE INDUCTED INTO SIENA HALL OF FAME

Hawkeyes men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery will be inducted in the Siena Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 2017 in a special ceremony on Feb. 18, at the Times Union Center in Albany, N.Y., according to a release from Iowa.

McCaffery led Siena to the most successful five-year run in program history, which culminated with the Saints being the only Division I program to win both their regular season and tournament championships for three straight years (2008-10).

McCaffery finished with a 112-51 overall record from 2005-10. McCaffery guided Siena to four straight 20-win seasons and MAAC Tournament championship game appearances in his final four years at Siena, and became the first coach in MAAC history to lead his team to multiple NCAA Tournament victories in leading the Saints to first-round wins against Vanderbilt (2008) and Ohio State (2009).

l Comments: (319) 368-8884; jeremiah.davis@thegazette.com

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