IOWA CITY — AJ Green, Northern Iowa freshman guard, has put a lot of hurt in hearts of the Iowa men’s basketball program.
In 2016, Cedar Falls High sophomore Green made a buzzer-beating 17-foot jumper in overtime to give his team a 76-74 win over Linn-Mar in a Class 4A substate final in Cedar Rapids. Jordan Bohannon, now a junior Hawkeye guard, had 44 points that night for the Lions, but was denied the experience of ever playing in a state tourney.
Last March, senior Green scored 24 points and led Cedar Falls to a clicking-on-all-cylinders 65-45 win over Iowa City West in the 4A championship game in Des Moines. Patrick McCaffery, an Iowa 2019 recruit, son of Hawkeyes coach Fran McCaffery and brother of Iowa guard Connor McCaffery, was on the losing side.
But no one in the Iowa camp spoke of payback this week. OK, Bohannon sort of did.
“There’s a little bad blood, I guess you could say, because he hit the game-winner my senior campaign to try to get to state,” Bohannon said, “something I’m always going to remember the rest of my life.”
Bohannon was exaggerating about the bad blood, saying “We played back in AAU against each other, we played back in high school against each other, and it’s pretty cool to play on national television against these same guys. It just shows the amount of athletes coming out of Iowa high schools.”
Iowa and UNI each have a half-dozen Iowans in their rotations. While Iowa’s biggest in-state rival is Iowa State, it’s the Hawkeyes and UNI who are the two Division-I programs that rely heavily on Iowa players.
“It’s kind of a special brotherhood we have,” said Bohannon. “I think these past four or five years — you see D.J. Carton (of Bettendorf) just committed to Ohio State and the Murray twins at (Cedar Rapids) Prairie — it’s a pretty great time for Iowa basketball."
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“There’s some tremendous teams, tremendous coaches, tremendous players, and we’ll continue recruiting this state hard,” Fran McCaffery said, “because I’ve been able to see the production that they have given this program, and it obviously had been done long before I got here and will continue as long as I’m here, I can tell you that.”
Jacobson, meanwhile, has five signees for his 2019 recruiting class. All are Iowans.
He has done a lot of winning since becoming the Panthers’ head coach in 2006, and Iowans have been anchors. That includes Matt Bohannon, Jordan’s brother, who played in 138 games and scored 1,092 points at UNI.
The state will have a great representation in Saturday night’s UNI-Iowa game that’s the second half of the final Hy-Vee Classic at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. Where, by the way, Green scored 77 points in three games to become the captain of the 4A all-tournament team nine months ago.
Bohannon was Iowa’s 2016 “Mr. Basketball.” His backcourt mate, freshman Joe Wieskamp of Muscatine, got that honor this year. UNI senior guard Wyatt Lohaus was the 2014 “Mr. Basketball” after helping Iowa City West to the third of its three straight 4A championships, with Connor McCaffery a starter on that squad as a sophomore.
Green and Wieskamp are Iowans getting it done as D-I freshmen. Green, a 6-4 guard, leads the Panthers in scoring with 15.8 points per game. The 6-6 Wieskamp, Iowa’s all-time top career scorer in 4A, averages 10.1 points and 5.3 rebounds for the Hawkeyes.
“There’s a bunch of good players that have played in the history of high school basketball in the state of Iowa,” UNI Coach Ben Jacobson said, “but AJ and Joe are without question two of the best to do it.
“I think Joe’s off to a great start for them. I think people see him as a guy who, because he scored so much in high school, that’s where people kind of start and stop with him.
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“He’s more than that. He’s a very good defender. He’s got good size and he goes and rebounds. He isn’t just a guy who’s going to go get points. At this level already, what he’s done defensively and what he’s done rebounding has been impressive.”
Wieskamp and Green were AAU teammates as far back as the sixth grade. “He’s a great player,” said Wieskamp. “It was awesome to watch him lead his team to a championship. Growing up with him, he was kind of a lead-by-example guy. But watching him play at the state tournament you could tell he started to become more vocal, really take the initiative and lead that team.
“I’m just excited to play him. I think it will be a fun game.”
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