There’s only so much oxygen to go around when it comes to publicity for a basketball team, and Iowa’s Luka Garza has earned every breath he’s getting.
However, save some for sophomore wing Joe Wieskamp. He has his name all over the Big Ten stat sheet for the Hawkeyes (16-6), who take a 7-4 Big Ten record into their game at Purdue (12-10, 5-6) Wednesday night.
The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced Tuesday Wieskamp was among the 10 finalists for the 2020 Jerry West Shooting Guard of the Year Award.
Even with Garza pouring in a Big Ten-best 26.5 points per game in conference play, Wieskamp has managed to be fourth with 17.8 points. Even with Garza pulling down enough defensive rebounds to rank fourth in Big Ten action, the 6-foot-6 Wieskamp is seventh. All six players ahead of him are at least 6-8, and three are 6-10 or taller.
“Joe’s always been a terrific defensive rebounder, going back to elementary school,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said Tuesday.
Oh, there’s a lot more. Entering Tuesday’s games, Wieskamp ranked first in 3-pointers per game (2.4) and free-throw percentage (.863) in Big Ten play.
It isn’t 30 points one night, 6 the next for him. In games played in 2020 — all Big Ten affairs — Wieskamp has scored 23, 21, 26, 11, 20, 18, 12, 17 and 18. He had 2 points in the first 15 minutes of Iowa’s 72-65 win over Illinois on Sunday. Two turned into 18 by game’s end.
This is a really good player.
“I think you’re seeing a more-versatile Joe Wieskamp than you saw last year,” McCaffery said, “which is a credit to him and how he worked this summer.
“He’s always been a good defender. He sticks his nose in there, gets down in his stance and guards guys that are smaller than him or bigger than him, and competes.”
Wieskamp made himself an NBA early-entry candidate after last season, which may have surprised some people. He wasn’t yet an NBA player. But he wants to be, and seized the opportunity to work out for some pro teams and get direct feedback on what he needed to add to his repertoire and what he needed to sharpen.
“I think he was smart in terms of knowing at the end of last season ‘What did I do well, what do I need to improve on?’” McCaffery said. “We can sit down and tell you, and we do, but if you’re a baller and you’re smart like he is, you already know.
“‘My handles have got to get a little bit better, I’ve got to mix up my jump shots and my drives and my pull-ups and my ball movement. I’ve got to keep defending and rebounding like I always have and try to get even better at that.’ Improve your body, get stronger, get maybe more explosive.
“You combine all those things, obviously in theory you should be better your second year than the first. In his case, it’s reality.”
Remember when Iowa lost at Nebraska on Jan. 7? Wieskamp went 1-for-10 from 3-point distance. That was noted more than him still managing to fight for 21 points, because the cold outside shooting was so unusual from him.
Even with that 1-of-10, he’s made 40.6 percent of his 3s in league games. His name’s on that list of Big Ten leaders, too.
Really good player.
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