Iowa Men's Basketball

Romeo and Joe: Freshmen featured in Iowa-Indiana matchup

Two Mr. Basketballs pursue victory in Assembly Hall Thursday

Mr. Basketball of Iowa in 2018, meet Mr. Basketball of Indiana in 2018.

Thursday night’s Iowa-Indiana game in Bloomington, Ind., isn’t a one-on-one feature in any sense, but does have two freshmen who have lived up to their billings.

On the visiting side is the 6-foot-6 homegrown guard, Joe Wieskamp, who averages 11.4 points after scoring 2,376 points at Muscatine High. On the home side is 6-6 homegrown guard Romeo Langford, who averages a Big Ten-best 17.4 for freshmen after scoring 3,002 points at New Albany High, where the city has named an outdoor basketball court after him.

Only one Big Ten player shows up in 2019 NBA mock draft lists as a lottery pick, and that’s Langford.

“He’s a top draft pick for a reason,” Wieskamp said this week. “He’s a very talented player, a good shooter of the 3.

“I think it doesn’t look like he’s trying very hard, but he’s flying past you, rising up for a dunk. Everything about his game is so smooth and you can tell it’s going to translate well to the NBA.”

The fear in Indiana isn’t that Langford will go pro in a few months, but that the Hoosiers will have squandered their lone season with him. The high anxiety subsided a bit last Saturday when Indiana stunned Michigan State in East Lansing, 79-75 in overtime. Langford had 19 points and made a go-ahead 3-pointer in the OT.

That ended the Hoosiers’ seven-game losing streak and put them back on the good side of most NCAA Tournament bracketologists. Not coincidentally, it coincided with the returns of 6-10 junior De’Ron Davis and 6-3 junior Devonte Green, who combined for 23 points off the bench. Davis had missed the previous three games due to injury. Green missed the previous three due to suspension.

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With that feel-great win and a return to Assembly Hall, the Hoosiers figure to be fired up against the Hawkeyes. Like Indiana, Iowa is coming off its best victory of the season, 74-59 over then-No. 5 Michigan in Iowa City last Friday.

Wieskamp was big in that one, amassing 16 points, seven rebounds and five steals. He came to Iowa with the handle “scorer.” He has worked to quickly make it “ballplayer.”

Defensively, Wieskamp said, “at the beginning of the season you could tell I wasn’t necessarily comfortable out there. I was there, but I wasn’t altering the offense, making them make tough plays where I was able to make steals. I think throughout the season I’ve learned so much and grown.”

Eleven of Wieskamp’s 23 steals this season have come in the last five games. In Big Ten games, he has 17 steals and just nine turnovers.

“I try not to do anything too crazy, try to make smart plays when I have the ball. I try to read the defense even before I get the ball,” Wieskamp said, “know when I do get it I kind of know what to do if a guy’s flying at me. I try to read that before I even catch it so that way I can make the play. Just try to take care of it and not force anything that’s not there.”

Wieskamp’s single-game career-high at Muscatine was 54 points. He was aware Tuesday that Central City junior Nick Reid had scored 76 points against East Buchanan the night before. It was the most points an Iowa boys player had scored in a game since 1927.

“I was shocked,” Wieskamp said. “Any time a player is able to do that, it’s pretty special. Congrats to him.”

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

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