Zach Bohannon fulfills promise to brother Jordan

Former Wisconsin forward makes all 34 Iowa men's basketball games to see youngest brother play

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IOWA CITY — Jordan Bohannon thought it was a joke, the promise Zach Bohannon made to his younger brother going into the Iowa men’s basketball season.

The former Wisconsin and Linn-Mar forward had made it to each of Jordan’s first four home games at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, and made the trip with their parents to the Emerald Coast Classic in Niceville, Fla. He reiterated he was going to make it to every game, saying, “I told Jordan, ‘I’ll be at all the games.’ He laughed and said I’d be down for a ticket.”

The next game, at Notre Dame, was Jordan’s first start as a Hawkeye. It was on a Tuesday night, and Zach had to be back to work in Cedar Rapids the next day, but he wasn’t going to miss hearing his brother’s name called during starting lineups. It was the first in a long line of proving his promise, and afterward, Zach said, “I can’t miss another game.”

Approximately 14,641 miles and four months later, and Zach kept his word to Jordan, seeing all 34 games played in 2016-17.

“I made it to every one before it was all said and done,” Zach said. “After watching my older brother (Jason) doing what he did, and after watching Matt and (now) doing it with Jordan, the biggest takeaway is that I have some pretty cool brothers. I’m glad they’re my family.”

The idea was born, Zach said, out of three different motivations.

The first was proximity. Zach left Eastern Iowa for the Air Force Academy at 18, then transferred to Wisconsin and barely saw Jordan — just four or five games total — for the five years he was playing himself. Zach felt an obligation to Jordan to see him play because, “I missed so much of his life growing, up, and I felt I had my time playing basketball while Jordan was there cheering me on — including a Final Four in Dallas — and it’s time to give back to my family what he gave to me.”

The second was simply seeing Jordan fulfill a “lifelong dream,” of playing at Iowa and in the Big Ten. The Notre Dame game was a bold point on the timeline of this season because Jordan starting so soon into his college career was an immense point of pride.

The third was the chance to be a fan. Zach mentioned his travels as a player himself. He said the ability to go to an arena and experience the games as his family had for all four brothers — Jason also at Wisconsin and Matt at Northern Iowa — was both motivating and rewarding. Being part of the fan troupe wasn’t without calamity, though. On the Rutgers trip, Zach got on a plane early afternoon after a morning presentation with just the clothes on his back, his glasses and contact lens case and a phone charger. A delayed connection in Detroit led to a $50 Uber ride to Piscataway, N.J., and being a few minutes late to that game. He ended up sleeping at Newark Airport after the game before a red-eye back home.

All three factors converged, of course, at Zach and Jason’s alma mater, where Jordan hit the game-winning shot to down Wisconsin in Kohl Center. Zach said before the game he didn’t want to be one of those “outrageous fans behind the bench, cheering against my alma mater,” but a game-winning shot kind of pushes that out the window.

“It was one of those things, after he hit that shot, I took a little grief on Twitter for being a traitor and cheering against Wisconsin, but family is always first,” Zach said. “It was absolutely surreal.”

That Wisconsin game obviously stood out as the most memorable family-wise for Jordan, too.

The Iowa freshman chuckled at most of the questions he was asked about Zach’s season-long excursion because the youngest Bohannon still kind of can’t believe Zach made it to all of them — or that he was even willing to.

Zach said Jordan called him crazy, and Jordan basically backed that up when asked about it. Of course it means a lot to Jordan for Zach to have committed all the time and resources to making it to all 34 games. Zach had to take some time off work as a project manager for the Linn County YMCA — though he said his boss, Bob Carlson, was a major proponent of the idea and told him, “I don’t want you to stop your tradition of making every game. If you miss a trip because of the Y, I’m not the one responsible.”

“It’s really special — especially with how I thought it was a joke at first,” Jordan said. “It’s pretty crazy to have someone make that kind of promise to you, especially with all the time it takes. It’s really special.

Photos: The Bohannon family, through the years

“It got more interesting as the games went on because I didn’t think he’d be at the next game. He said, ‘Put me down for a ticket and I’ll be there.’ It was pretty impressive.”

Jordan didn’t really believe Zach would make it to all the games — because logistically it’s a tall task, not for lack of commitment — so Zach wanted to prove he could do it.

He did it for the first year, so why not just keep it going?

Jordan said the tickets will be there. It’s just up to Zach to make it, now.

“After the last game against TCU, we were walking out and I go, ‘Jordan, I did it. I fulfilled the promise.’ He goes, ‘you’re an idiot for doing it,’” Zach said. “I go, ‘That’s the respect you’re going to give me?’ and then was like, ‘How about this, if you’re not going to give it to me for making every game your first year, how about we make it for the rest of your career?’

“He kind of laughed at me and was in shock. I guess we’ll talk about next season next year.”

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

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