116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Iowa point guard Joe Toussaint soars down the court with a basketball like a Richard Branson rocket.
It’s not a point guard look we’ve seen from a Hawkeyes men’s basketball team since, well, you tell me.
“He's working on his pace and how he can control his speed,” Iowa forward Patrick McCaffery said, “and I think that's something that's going to be real dangerous once he's able to really get a hold on this. He's got a gear nobody in our league has.”
It’s never been a question if Toussaint had the vision or skills to play Big Ten ball. It’s if he could consistently play under enough control.
“He’s obviously going to be a really key piece to our team,” McCaffery said, “and I think he’s somebody that can make a really big jump and surprise a lot of people.”
If you saw Iowa’s 73-57 win at then-No. 4 Ohio State on Feb. 28, you saw what Toussaint can do with extended playing time. He had seven assists in 14 minutes, and repeatedly beat Buckeyes down the court and found Luka Garza in the paint or Joe Wieskamp on the perimeter.
A little less than a month earlier, Toussaint had 10 points and six assists in a home win over Michigan State. Against Gonzaga last December, he was a bright spot in defeat with 14 points in 18 minutes.
But he was inconsistent, and with two good reasons. One, he lost playing time to the return of guard Jordan Bohannon. Two, he had an ankle issue that was worse he realized.
Toussaint thought he had a lingering sprain. “I played through it and didn’t tell anybody,” he said. “That’s just not who I am and just didn’t want to share my business.”
It turned out he had what he said was “a bone spur and an accessory bone in my ankle.” He got surgery shortly after the season ended.
“I just have more balance,” he said Thursday. “I can move better. It’s still not 100 percent, but now when I jump I don’t feel anything in my ankle.”
Toussaint felt a bit of anxiety when Bohannon announced in late April that he was returning for a sixth season, available because of a blanket waiver the NCAA granted its athletes because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Bohannon played a fifth season in 2020-21 on an NCAA hardship waiver because of injury the season before.
Expecting to be the starting point guard next season, Toussaint saw the news Bohannon was returning. College players have transferred for a lot less than perceiving a role they thought was theirs had been pulled from underneath them.
“I was confused when I saw it,” Toussaint said. “I was like ‘I don’t know.’ But then he called me.”
Bohannon, Iowa’s all-time assists leader, is happy to add to his school record for career 3-pointers and let Toussaint direct the orchestra.
“I FaceTimed Joe T. after I made my decision.” Bohannon said.
“The first thing I said was ‘I don’t want to take any light away from you, this is your time to have the ball. You should be the point guard this year, you should have the opportunity to create guys’ open shots and do what you can to use all your skills that I was kind of in the way of last year because I was still here.”
And, the matter was settled. A younger Hawkeyes team than last season’s is ready to take its cue from Joe of the Bronx.
Toussaint thinks like we probably expect point guards from New York to think.
“I always play with a chip on my shoulder,” he said. “When I step on the floor I just think I’m the best player on the floor. That’s just how I play, the mentality I play with.
“If you lace it up in front of me, I feel like you’re going to have to show me you’re better than me.”
Asked to give a scouting report on himself, Toussaint said “His strengths are he can go either way, right or left. Very high IQ. He pressures the ball on defense. You can’t play with the ball around him.
“Weaknesses, I would say, force him to shoot jump shots, force him to shoot 3s.”
Then, he added “I’m hoping people are listening to this because I want them to force me to shoot jump shots.”
How good can Toussaint be? “Great,” said his pal, McCaffery. Great would work.
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