IOWA CITY — There was a time a few years ago when Jordan Bohannon lovingly referred to Cordell Pemsl as "Fatboy."
He didn’t intend it in a cruel way. It’s just the sort of thing an old friend felt comfortable saying to someone he’d known and played with on the AAU circuit for several years.
And it wasn’t altogether inaccurate. The 6-foot-8 Pemsl arrived on the Iowa campus weighing 255 pounds. Last year, he radically changed his diet, cutting way back on soda, popcorn and pizza, and played his sophomore season with the Hawkeyes weighing about 235.
The pounds continue to come off. Pemsl showed up to speak with a few reporters Thursday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena looking like a chiseled middleweight. The junior said he now weighs 226 pounds although he looks even lighter than that.
"I really wanted to be able to guard more than just a center," Pemsl said of his continued effort to slim down. "I’m a lot quicker on my feet. Obviously, it’s the summer so I’m working on guarding guys like Maishe (Dailey) and Isaiah (Moss) coming off ball screens and being able to contain that. Honestly, it’s just being able to stay in front of guys and be quicker and more explosive."
Pemsl said there is no big secret to how he has dropped the weight. He drinks a lot of water, tries to eat the right things at the right time and is conscious of portion sizes.
"I feel obviously like I’m getting up off the floor better, I’m containing guys better, I’m getting past guys better," he said.
He hasn’t actually measured to see if how much his vertical jump has increased.
"But I can tell when I’m playing," he said. "I’m bouncier at the rim now and things like that."
Tyler Cook, who starts ahead of Pemsl at the power forward position, said his pal has managed to increase his athleticism this offseason without sacrificing the physical strength that always has been his biggest asset.
"He’s still super strong, like he’s always been," Cook said. "Other than the fact that his speed has picked up and he’s quicker, he’s still super strong. When we’re down low, you don’t really see too much of a difference."
Losing weight isn’t the only thing Pemsl has worked on. In his first two college seasons, he has been almost strictly a low-post player at the offensive end. He averaged 8.9 points as a freshman and 5.7 as a sophomore, but the points came almost exclusively from under the basket or the free throw line. He’s 0 for 1 from 3-point range in his career.
He’s trying to change that.
"I’m trying to work on ballhandling, obviously, and get some more confidence in my shot," he said. "I’ve got all my coaches on my side right now, and they’re all telling me to let it go and shoot it, and that’s what I’ve been working on. That’s a big thing I want to bring to the table next year."
Bohannon admits to being a bit taken aback by the transformation of his friend, but he’s happy for him.
"He looks good. He looks really good …," Bohannon said. "And he’s shooting the crap out of the ball. I think everyone is going to be surprised at how well he’s shooting it."