116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
In a sports way of overthinking things, maybe it's best that there is no full-throated Senior Day Sunday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena for Jordan Bohannon and Luka Garza.
The emotion from not only facing the final home game of their distinguished careers, but by 15,056 fans showering them with appreciation, might have distracted them from the task at hand. Which is helping their fifth-ranked Iowa team try to defeat Wisconsin.
The reality, of course, is that it's a shame their careers won't be saluted before more people than their family members and teammates. Because not many Hawkeyes have wrapped themselves around fans' hearts like these two.
In recent games, Garza became Iowa's all-time leading scorer and Bohannon added No. 1 in assists to his status as No. 1 in 3-pointers. But this is about more than numbers. It's about injecting so much spirit and leadership and personality, piling up memorable moments and giving people lots of smiles.
'We all wish the place was full and they could be honored properly,' Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. 'We're going to do the best we can, pretty much what we always do. But unfortunately not even the parents are going to be allowed on the floor.
'Hope to honor them at another time, maybe at the banquet, maybe next year at a game when it's full again. But those two guys have been so instrumental and had so much success in our program's history. I'm just thankful to have had the opportunity to coach both of them, watch them grow and develop and become record-setters essentially.
'We'll do the best we can on Sunday for them, but at some point they'll be honored again, I'm sure.'
On the surface, Bohannon and Garza don't seem much alike other than they're basketball players. Garza is 10 inches taller and 90 pounds heavier than his teammate of four years. He is from the Washington, D.C., area, Bohannon from Marion. Garza hasn't said a thing in four years to raise anyone's brows. Bohannon seldom gets out of an interview without tweaking someone, stirring a pot.
But they relate to each other and always have. Both sons of former Division I athletes, they came out of the womb competing. Though they had wonderful high school careers, neither had a four-star, can't-miss tag attached to them as recruits.
Bohannon was the Iowa high school 'Mr. Basketball' his senior season, but he repeatedly tells the world how his game was doubted by most major-college coaches, how grateful he is for McCaffery for seeing what he could do and giving him the chance to play at Iowa.
Garza was a late-bloomer as a prep. His conditioning and skills didn't fully manifest themselves until later in his time at Maret School in Washington. Major-college coaches did eventually see it, but McCaffery was ahead of them and had already made signing Garza a priority.
Connor McCaffery, a third-year junior guard for the Hawkeyes, was the conduit between his father and the two players. Connor played a lot of AAU ball with Bohannon, and Connor's Iowa City West team faced Bohannon's Linn-Mar Lions multiple times.
Because Connor attended an AAU tournament in Atlanta, Fran attended in the role of parent. That's where he first saw Garza, before Garza's junior year of high school.
'He just impressed me the first time I saw him,' Fran McCaffery said.
'For whatever reason that I couldn't figure out, there were knocks on him in the recruiting process. What was interesting, Frank (Garza, Luka's father) and I would talk about this. We both knew that in the end he would have everybody there wanting him.
'We were in first in terms of a (power conference) school that said, 'Hey, you're our guy.' We never wavered from that. The whole getting in early thing, a lot of people think that goes a long way, and it does, but it goes a long way because you develop a relationship. It's not we were the first school that offered. You develop a relationship in a way that I think builds trust. That's what we had.'
Familiarity doesn't breed contempt in recruiting, and McCaffery got very familiar with Bohannon.
'I had the luxury of watching Jordan at a very young age,' McCaffery said. 'He played with Connor. They went to Las Vegas to play. He was terrific there. Obviously, watched him throughout his high school career, because they used to play against West High two times a year. Then they would play in the fall leagues, in the spring leagues. I really watched Jordan develop.
'I think what happened with Jordan was he just consistently played well no matter who he played against. ... He just always played well. Whenever he played against high-level guys, he played well.
'I think it just got to the point where it was a no-brainer for me. I can't speak to why others didn't think so because it wasn't like he ever played poorly in any game that I ever attended, and I saw him quite a bit.'
But a coach usually can't know how a recruit would handle major adversity. Bohannon and Garza have dealt with physical issues that would have stopped or at least slowed many others.
Early in his Iowa career, Bohannon had plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the ligament connecting the heel bone to the toes. It causes a stabbing pain in the heel.
'He just fought through and never complained one time,' McCaffery said. 'I didn't even know he had anything wrong with him. He just showed up and played.
'He has a competitive side that most people don't have. They just don't have it. He has it. He's fearless. I think you saw it when he was a freshman, some of the performances were amazing. His sophomore year, which is one that I will always remember, he gutted it out. Connor got sick, had to redshirt. We didn't have a point guard. He's playing on two bad hips and plantar fasciitis. That's the epitome of toughness right there.'
In September 2018, not long before his sophomore season was to start, Garza had surgery for a benign cyst in his abdomen. It weighed nine pounds. Two months after the surgery, he made all eight of his field goal attempts and scored 22 points in Iowa's 91-72 2K Classic championship-game win over Connecticut in Madison Square Garden and was named tourney MVP.
Bohannon, about to enter what he thought would be his final collegiate season, had surgery on his right hip in May 2019. Not long after, he had pain in his left hip. He played 10 games in the 2019-20 season, wasn't the player he had been over his first three seasons, and took a medical redshirt. He got surgery on the left hip in December 2019, and began his second difficult rehabilitation.
He started this season slowly, making just 17 of 61 3-pointers. As he was getting criticized by what he has called 'Twitter coaches,' Bohannon quickly became his old self on the court. Since going 1-of-7 from deep at Minnesota on Christmas, he has made 46.8 percent of his 3-pointers and led the team in assists. That's a year removed from a second hip surgery.
'When I first got here and I started playing with Jordan,' Garza said, 'I immediately understood that this guy was tough. He played through anything.
'That's something I think we kind of share in common is we're going to battle through whatever we can until we hit a point where we have to be told that you have to get surgery, that you have to stop playing.
'I had no idea I had whatever was going on in my abdomen and then I found out and I had to push through that. I had a way-quicker recovery than what Jordan went through. I didn't have to get it done twice.
'You have to commend a guy to push through all that and be able to come back and do all that he's done for us this year.'
About Garza, who will be the Big Ten's leading scorer for a second-straight season and likely will become the Big Ten's first repeat Player of the Year since Michigan State's Mateen Cleaves in 1998 and 1999, Bohannon said 'What Luka's done has been unreal.'
Yes, the pregame ceremony for Iowa's seniors will be emotional enough even without 15,056 fans adding their appreciation. Garza and Bohannon, with their combined total of 3,758 points, 1,211 rebounds, 761 assists and 462 3-pointers and more still to come, will remembered for much more than numbers. They have led the Hawkeyes to a fun place, where much seems possible in the approaching postseason.
'That's what you want as a coach,' McCaffery said. 'You want your leadership to come from within the locker room, not just from the coaching staff.
'Really, really happy for both of them, proud of both of them.'
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