As the Iowa Hawkeyes prepare to take on the Iowa State Cyclones in what will be their 11th game overall and their 9th non-conference game of the season, a major decision looms for Fran McCaffery and senior guard Jordan Bohannon.
It’s been well documented the Marion native had offseason hip surgery, which left his availability at all this season up in the air. More than a few fans were surprised Bohannon even attempted to suit up this season given he was on the very front end of the recovery timetable when the year began.
When the season started, the sharp shooter looked like a shell of his former self. He seemed slow on defense and hesitant to pull the trigger on offense. His minutes were limited as was his impact on games. But as the season has worn on and the level of competition has risen, so too has Bohannon’s game.
That should come as no surprise given the track record of big games in big moments for Bohannon. On the year, JoBo is now averaging 8.4 points and 3.3 assists per game while shooting just 33% from beyond the arc - the lowest percentage of his career. Those numbers continue to improve with each game, but the Hawkeyes have also leaned on junior big man Luka Garza.
For his part, Garza has been up to the challenge. He’s Leading the Big Ten in scoring at 22.5 ppg and is nearly averaging a double-double with 9.8 rebounds per game. A good portion of Garza’s success should be attributed to his talent and footwork, something he’s put countless hours into perfecting in the offseason. But some of that great footwork is on display because of the floor spacing created by Iowa’s outside shooters. Jordan Bohannon is a big part of the equation here.
Therein lies the dilemma for Bohannon and the Iowa staff. The would-be senior is still dealing with significant pain from his hip surgery. He still needs time off following physical activity, and has reportedly been sitting out of practice entirely to rest up for games. Playing back-to-back is possible, but very difficult. The injury has already held JoBo out of one contest this year and there are rumors floating that his other hip is now hindering him.
Without his leadership and outside shooting, there are major question marks as to just how successful this team would be. When he’s on the floor, he brings a calming presence on the offensive side of the court as everyone in the building knows he could launch from anywhere beyond midcourt and the shot has a good chance of going in. He hasn’t missed a free throw all season and when the game is on the line, there is nobody more clutch than Jordan Bohannon.
But if Bohannon does shut it down, he would bring all those things to the team a season from now. He would still be clutch and he would still rip opponent’s hearts out from 35 feet. He would still hit every free throw and lead the team on and off the floor. And the team would austensibly be better. Pending offseason decisions for Joe Wieskamp and Luka Garza (yes, Luka Garza could depart early), this team will have virtually the entire roster back for next season. They’ll add more scorers and another post player and everyone on the team will be a year more experienced. The 2020-2021 roster, with Bohannon, has the makings of a Big Ten contender.
Should Bohannon shut it down and forego the remainder of this season to benefit the next? Does this team have a shot at the NCAA Tournament without their senior leader? Could Bohannon gut it out and play up to his full potential the rest of this year if he wanted to?
We’ll know the answer soon enough. Tonight will mark the 10th game Bohannon plays in this year. That’s the limit from the NCAA to retain a medical redshirt. if the senior plays even a single minute after tonight, this will be his final season in college basketball. If not, this team will be left to fight for their tournament lives one shooter, one leader down.