Iowa Men's Basketball

Jordan Bohannon, seeking big things, is back in time for Iowa's opener

Iowa junior guard had missed last two weeks with bone bruise he won't specify

Iowa Hawkeyes guard Jordan Bohannon (3) poses during his team’s Media Day at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on 10.8.18. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Iowa Hawkeyes guard Jordan Bohannon (3) poses during his team’s Media Day at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on 10.8.18. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — You could call it an anniversary season for the Iowa men’s basketball program, but that wouldn’t be particularly kind.

Come March, it will be 20 years since the last time the Hawkeyes went to the Sweet 16 of the 1999 NCAA tournament, 40 years since their last Big Ten regular-season championship, in 1979.

Seven different Big Ten members have been in a Sweet 16 in just the last three years. Eight have won regular-season titles since Iowa’s last one.

In no small part because the current Hawkeyes are coming off a 14-19 season, the next person to predict the sweetness of a Sweet 16 or the net-cutting after a regular-season title clincher for Iowa will be the first.

But the slate is clean and so, presumably, is the Hawkeyes’ palate from the bitterness of last season. They open the 2018-19 season, Fran McCaffery’s ninth as Iowa’s coach, Thursday at home against Missouri-Kansas City at 7 p.m.

The Hawkeyes have reached the NCAA tourney three times in McCaffery’s first eight years as its coach, with a total of two wins in the event. For the chance to change those numbers for the better next March, Iowa needs to win several more regular-season games than 14.

But does a new day dawn in 2018-19? Will a team returning its top nine scorers from the dismal 14-19 previous season use its experience and depth to surprise people in the five months ahead?

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That question won’t be answered Thursday night, but junior guard Jordan Bohannon says it won’t happen without aiming for distant targets. He averaged 13.5 points and 5.4 assists last season, leading the team in minutes played.

“Win the Big Ten title and go to the Final Four,” Bohannon replied Wednesday when asked what his goals were for this season.

“We’re going to learn from what happened last year and continue to work. I have trust in all these guys behind me that we’re going to keep pushing forward no matter what happens throughout the season.”

Bohannon said he hopes to use what he learned watching teams two of his brothers — Jason and Zach Bohannon — played on at Wisconsin.

“I watched Zach’s team when he was at the Final Four (in 2014), I watched Jason’s team at the Sweet 16 (in 2008),” Bohannon said, “the type of mentality they had and the type of aggressiveness they played with, the physicality, what got them to where they were at.

“When I watched my brother’s team get to the Final Four, I was behind the bench and I saw everything,” Bohannon said. “I think my experience with that and my brothers’ experiences can help us out when we hopefully have the opportunity to get to that point, and obviously from Day 1 when we start tomorrow.”

Yes, Day 1. Bohannon will be part of it. He returned to practice Tuesday after about two weeks away from it. He had what McCaffery called “a bad bone bruise.”

The coach and the player wouldn’t detail the injury Wednesday. McCaffery basically buttoned up when discussing it. Bohannon had fun with it.

“I’ve always been a mystery, haven’t I?” he asked.

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“I feel 100 percent. I’m excited to play Thursday. (Miss the) first game of the year? Come on, guys, you know me better than that.

“It’s nothing serious, nothing for anyone to worry about.”

Bohannon said he has spent the last two weeks working on conditioning and ball-handling. Oh, “My feet are fine,” he insisted, referring to his struggles with plantar fasciitis last season.

l Comments: (319) 368-8840; mike.hlas@thegazette.com

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