Iowa Men's Basketball

Jordan Bohannon says Iowa will climb 2 more rungs - to No. 1

But first, Hawkeyes will play Western Illinois Thursday night in Carver

Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon (3) defends against North Carolina Central's Mike Melvin   (1) during the Hawkeyes' victory o
Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon (3) defends against North Carolina Central's Mike Melvin (1) during the Hawkeyes' victory over the Eagles on Nov. 25 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

It was a Zoom conference call with Iowa men’s basketball players and head coach Wednesday, and it looked like the topic of the day would be how unfamiliar the Hawkeyes would be with their opponent at Carver-Hawkeye Arena Thursday night, Western Illinois.

The Leathernecks have a new coach and 14 new players, haven’t played a game, and ... Zzzzzzzz.

But then Jordan Bohanon was the last of three players to be interviewed, and Bohannon delivered the way he often does in interview settings.

The question to him was about Iowa being No. 3 in the latest Associated Press rankings, the Hawkeyes’ loftiest perch in almost five years.

“I still think we’re No. 1 and I think we will be pretty soon here in the next couple weeks,” the senior guard from Marion stated.

He shoots, he scores. They’ll cut, they’ll paste. “They” being No. 14 North Carolina, which comes to Carver next Tuesday. And Iowa State, headed to Iowa City next Friday. And No. 1 Gonzaga, which plays the Hawkeyes in Sioux Falls, S.D., on Dec. 19.

Oh, Bohannon did add “But at the end of the day it’s important we continue the mind-set that it’s one game at a time.” That’s one of the few lines that player has used from the textbook in Athlete Interview 101.

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Earlier in the Zoom, Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery was asked if his team were able to blot out its high ranking.

“I think ratings are what fans, people talk about,” McCaffery said. “Whether you turn on ESPN or you guys that write, it’s a conversation piece.

“Does it really matter where you’re ranked in the first week of December? Probably not. It probably should be something talked about more at the end of the year because that would be more a reflection of your body of work.”

Iowa’s body of work is home wins over North Carolina Central and Southern, not North Carolina and Gonzaga. The Hawkeyes climbed two spots from their preseason ranking because Villanova and Virginia lost in the season’s first week.

“I think that it’s cool that we’re ranked this high,” Bohannon said. “I think that was a testament to what work we really put in these last couple years to try build ourselves to this point, and having the best player in the country in Luka Garza is definitely an advantage for us.”

On to something serious. The Hawkeyes welcomed back sophomore forward Jack Nunge back to practice Wednesday. Nunge had been gone for the previous 10 days because he was back home in Newburgh, Ind., following the Nov. 21 death of his father, Dr. Mark Nunge.

The Iowa team viewed the funeral via live video streaming last Wednesday. Nunge returned to Iowa City Tuesday.

“We’re anxious to get him back and be back,” McCaffery said. “He’ll be back with his brothers.

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“He was really playing well and he was in a good place (before the season), and hopefully basketball and the arena, it can be his sanctuary as he grieves and continues to grieve. But I feel confident that he’ll be ready to go.”

“I think he’s going to be a little better now that he’s around us,” said Bohannon, “and we’re able to kind of lift him up a little bit and kind of take his mind off some things in his life.”

Nunge is one of the quieter Hawkeye players, so he’ll leave the prognosticating to a teammate who admitted Wednesday that “People might say I’m cocky at times.”

“I think we’re going to go 1-and-0 — how many are we going to play? — 35 times,” Bohannon said. “So we’ll go 1-and-0 35 times. That’s the goal.”

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

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