IOWA CITY — Nicholas Baer has graduated. Tyler Cook is moving on to professional basketball. Isaiah Moss has transferred. Jordan Bohannon’s status for the upcoming season is in limbo following hip surgery.
What does that mean for the Iowa men’s basketball program this winter? In all likelihood, you can expect to see Muscatine native and sophomore Joe Wieskamp in a more prominent scoring and leadership role.
“My game is going to have to progress a lot, even a little more quickly than I thought without Isaiah, T.C. and possibly Jordan,” Wieskamp said during a meeting with reporters Tuesday afternoon at the Iowa Fieldhouse. “I’m going to have to become more assertive.
“A lot of times in games last year I’d stick around in the corner and let shots come to me, but I’m going to be a lot more aggressive and search for shots.”
The 6-foot-6 Wieskamp, a four-time all-stater in high school and the state’s Mr. Basketball in 2018, averaged 11.1 points and 4.9 rebounds per game in his first collegiate season. He was selected to the Big Ten Conference’s All-Freshman team and ranked second in the league in 3-point accuracy at 42.4 percent.
Wieskamp dipped his toes into the NBA Draft waters this offseason to gain feedback. He had workouts with the Boston Celtics and Oklahoma City Thunder.
“I learned a lot,” he said. “It was a great experience for me to go out there and see a couple different places, just the environment, type of personnel, and work out with some different people. It was a lot of networking, getting your name out there and getting you on their radar.”
Asked if he considered keeping his name in for the June 21 draft, Wieskamp said “not really.”
“There could have been a couple different chances if I stayed in it longer, but for the most part I was pretty set on coming back,” he stated.
But with another year of development and having an expanded role in Iowa’s offense, Wieskamp didn’t rule out the possibility of making the jump in 2020.
“We’ll see what happens,” he said. “That’s every kid’s dream to play in the NBA. If it happens, it happens. If not, I’m going to continue to work hard.”
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery believes Wieskamp is in a great spot physically going into his sophomore season. Much like Cook and former Hawkeye guard Peter Jok, the feedback from NBA personnel only will enhance his game.
“I expect Joe, as great as he was last year, to be better,” McCaffery said. “I’ll challenge him to be a guy that can help us, carry us, and I think he’s ready for that.
“He made big shots in big games right into the NCAA Tournament last year. He’s got that makeup that enables him to be great early, right off the bat, and understands now I’ve got to take another step. He’ll do that.”
Wieskamp didn’t lay out specifics on the insight he received from his workouts.
Besides adding physical strength, NBA executives want to see Wieskamp with the ball in his hands more, whether that is reading ballscreens, creating for himself or providing opportunities for teammates.
“It is the next step in the progression of my game,” he said. “Throughout high school, I took over games, and I feel I’ll have the ability to do that this year. Coach is going to put a lot of trust in me and give me a lot of freedom to do what I need to do to go out there and help our team win.”
The biggest adjustment for Wieskamp might come in the locker room.
With Cook, Baer and Moss gone, Wieskamp will emerge into a leadership role for the Hawkeyes along with junior Luka Garza, Bohannon and Cordell Pemsl.
That means being more vocal, something a little out of his comfort zone.
“A lot of you guys know I’m not the most vocal guy, I keep to myself and go into the gym and do my thing,” he said. “I’m going to have to expand myself, become more of a vocal leader and take a big, strong lead.”
McCaffery has no doubt Wieskamp can fill that role. He saw it to a lesser degree during a high school career in which he led the Muskies to the state tournament in his senior year.
“He’ll be a guy when he speaks in the locker room,” McCaffery said, “people are going to listen to him. He's going to have a big role for our team."