His coach has believed all along that Joe Wieskamp is the best high school basketball player in Iowa.
Gary Belger is not alone.
The Iowa Print Sports Writers Association has selected the Muscatine senior as Iowa’s Mr. Basketball for 2018.
Wieskamp is the first boys’ basketball player from the Mississippi Athletic Conference to earn the award since its inception in 1981.
“In my opinion, Joe has been the best player in the state the last two years,” Belger said. “What he’s been able to do with the defensive attention he receives every night out, two or three guys covering him, it has been remarkable to watch.
“Nobody finishes better around the basket than Joe. He just plays with great poise and is very even keel."
Voted on by sports writers and coaches across the state, Mr. Basketball is awarded to the state’s top senior. Wieskamp is one of two top 100 recruits in the 2018 class along with Cedar Falls guard AJ Green.
Wieskamp, an Iowa Hawkeye signee, averaged 33.5 points and 13.5 rebounds per game in leading the Muskies to a 16-win season and their first state tournament berth in 16 years. He accounted for more than 56 percent of Muscatine’s scoring and had 20 double-doubles in 24 games.
“Obviously for me, it was all about the team and my biggest goal was to get our team to the state tournament,” Wieskamp said, “but I set out some individual goals and getting Mr. Basketball was at the top. It is the most prestigious award you can probably get in the state of Iowa.
“It is an honor to get it because there are a lot of great players before me who have won that award. It is pretty cool to be on that list.”
Fred Hoiberg, Jess Settles, Raef Lafrentz, Nick Collison, Kirk Hinrich, Matt Gatens, Harrison Barnes, Marcus Paige and future teammate Jordan Bohannon are among those to be Mr. Basketball in Iowa.
Wieskamp finished his career as the Iowa Class 4A all-time leading scorer with 2,376 points, sixth on the all-time list. He also grabbed 908 rebounds (fifth all-time in 4A) and scored double figures in 88 of his 91 career games, including the last 62.
“It shows the things I’m doing are the right things,” Wieskamp said. “I’m on the right pathway to set myself up for success in the future. A couple guys on that list played in the NBA, and that’s my biggest dream to play in the NBA someday.
“If I can follow suit and have a good college career, maybe the NBA is there for me one day.”
Wieskamp was one of three players from the MAC to garner first team all-state honors in 4A. Bettendorf junior DJ Carton and North Scott senior Corvon Seales also earned spots on the eight-player first team.
Carton, already with a slew of Division I offers, averaged 23.6 points and 5.7 rebounds per game for the Bulldogs. He had a career-high 36 points in a substate semifinal overtime loss to Dubuque Senior.
Seales, who will continue his career at Division II Minnesota State-Mankato, registered 15.5 points and 4.5 rebounds per contest. He powered the Lancers to a share of the MAC title, 20 wins and a trip to the state tournament.
Pleasant Valley senior Brian Dayman was a third-team selection in 4A. Dayman averaged 13.2 points and was second in the MAC in rebounding at 8.6 per game.
Wapello point guard Trenton Massner was a first-team choice in 2A. Massner poured in 22.5 points while collecting 7.2 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game. He paced Wapello to its first state tournament appearance since 1994.
Northeast post Luke Empen was a second-team choice and Camanche guard Dev Patel made the third team in 2A.
Empen recorded 16.1 points and 10.3 rebounds per game for the Rebels, who reached the substate final. Patel filled the stat sheet for the Indians — 14.4 points, 7.3 rebounds, 7 assists and 2.5 steals per outing.
Since Muscatine's loss to Iowa City West in the state quarterfinals last week, Wieskamp has taken a respite from basketball.
He left Monday for a spring break trip to Jamaica with several of his friends and teammates. Once he returns, he'll begin preparing for the next phase of his basketball career.
"I've had some days already where I want to shoot or work out, but I know it is important to take some time off to avoid injuries," he said. "The season is a grind and it wears on your body.
"I'm going to enjoy this time off and have fun with my friends. When I come back, my love for the game will be that much more."
IPSWA all-state teams
First team -- Joe Wieskamp, sr., Muscatine; AJ Green, sr., Cedar Falls; Patrick McCaffery, jr., Iowa City West; Tyreke Locure, jr., Des Moines North; DJ Carton, jr., Bettendorf; Garrett Sturtz, sr., Newton; Corvon Seales, sr., North Scott; Devonte Thedford, sr., Des Moines Hoover
Second team -- Nathan Johnson, sr., Waukee; CaRondis Harris-Anderson, sr., Waterloo West; Carter Stevens, sr., Dubuque Senior; Lucas Duax, sr., Dubuque Hempstead; Luke Appel, sr., Marshalltown; Trey Hutcheson, jr., Linn-Mar; Sam Ingoli, sr., Dowling Catholic; Boston Grimes, sr., Johnston
Third team -- Brian Dayman, sr., Pleasant Valley; Aidan Vanderloo, jr., Sioux City East; Seybian Sims, sr., Iowa City West; Malcolm Clayton, sr., Fort Dodge; Dylan Jones, jr., Waukee; Hunter Strait, sr., Ankeny Centennial; Troy Houghton, sr., Council Bluffs Abe Lincoln; Van Rees, sr., Sioux City East
First team -- Brady Sartorius, sr., Mount Pleasant; Luke Vaske, sr., Norwalk; Zach Lester, sr., Clear Lake; Matt Mims, sr., Cedar Rapids Xavier; Elijah Hazekamp, sr., Sioux City Heelan; Jared Kruse, sr., Oskaloosa; Nate Mohr, sr., Glenwood; Andrew Blum, sr., Glenwood
Second team -- Cole Henry, sr., Oskaloosa; Derek Krogmann, jr., West Delaware; Jack Molstead, jr., Charles City; Cooper Ross, sr., Carroll; Xavier Foster, so., Oskaloosa; Bowen Born, so., Norwalk; Steve Borneman, sr., Dallas Center-Grimes; Owen Coburn, jr., Spirit Lake
Third team -- Connor Groves, jr., Sergeant Bluff-Luton; Spencer Touro, sr., Benton Community; Scott Leonard, sr., Atlantic; Chase Zielke, sr., Marion; Luke Velky, jr., Waverly-Shell Rock; Jackson Joens, sr., Cedar Rapids Xavier; Gabe Shields, sr., South Tama; Shane Chamberlain, sr., Harlan
First team -- Trenton Massner, sr., Wapello; Parker Badding, sr., Carroll Kuemper; Alec Oberhauser, sr., Aplington-Parkersburg; Jacob Vis, jr., Western Christian; Dillon Faubel, sr., Treynor; Isaac Prewitt, sr., Des Moines Christian; Carter Cuvelier, jr., Aplington-Parkersburg; Haris Hoffman, jr., Cascade
Second team -- Marco Balderas, sr., South Hamilton; Zane Leedom, sr., East Marshall; Luke Empen, sr., Northeast; Tyus Arends, sr., Sioux Center; Jared Nichols, sr., Colfax-Mingo; Ryan Schmitt, jr., Van Meter; Luke Clausen, sr., Treynor; James Betz, jr., Garner-Hayfield-Ventura
Third team -- Dev Patel, sr., Camanche; Beau Cornwell, jr., West Branch; Sam Snyder, sr., Forest City; RJ Harris, sr., AHSTW; Mitch Gehling, sr., Dyersville Beckman; Jace Davidson, jr., Pocahontas Area; Drew Olson, sr., Osage; Kyle Boerhave, sr., Sheldon
First team -- Jake Hilmer, jr., North Linn; Nicholas Ruden, sr., Remsen-St. Mary's; Brady Gavin, sr., Martensdale-St. Marys; Grant DeMeulenaere, sr., Grand View Christian; Ryan Miller, sr., North Linn; Jake Carrey, sr., Council Bluffs St. Albert; Zach Martinek, jr., West Fork; Jesse VanWyk, sr., Lynnville-Sully
Second team -- Paul Rundquist, jr., Wapsie Valley; T.J. Schnurr, jr., Algona Garrigan; Peyton Brasser, sr., South O'Brien; Joe Weber, sr., Boyer Valley; Carter Booth, sr., Central Decatur; Caleb Terhark, jr., George-Little Rock; Brett Givens, sr., Lisbon; Brady Happel, jr., Dunkerton
Third team -- Caden Kickbush, sr., Gladbrook-Reinbeck; Codey Hicks, jr., Janesville; Brennan Sefrit, so., Bedford; Keonte Luckett, jr., New London; Andrew Gibb, jr., Fort Dodge St. Edmond; Thomas Hensley, sr., CAM; Jack Kelley, jr., Don Bosco; Bryce Coppock, so., Newell-Fonda
Mr. Basketball -- Joe Wieskamp (Muscatine)