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Overreaction Monday: CJ Fredrick Is Iowa Basketball’s X-Factor

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Redshirt freshman CJ Fredrick just might be a spark Iowa basketball needs.

NCAA Basketball: Oral Roberts at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa basketball is off to a better start than most people, including myself, predicted. But at the same time, Iowa struggled (mightily) at home against a quality (yes, quality) DePaul team. Then, in the loss to Michigan, Luka Garza erupted for 44 points, but the rest of the Hawkeye scorers? Nowhere to be found.

Iowa needs a legitimate second scoring option to emerge, especially considering the next three games pit the Hawkeyes against Minnesota, Iowa State, and Cincinnati.

Look no further than redshirt freshman guard CJ Fredrick.

He doesn’t have the experience compared to the other Hawkeye starters, but he’s made a legitimate case to be Iowa’s No. 2 scorer behind Garza, and the Hawkeyes need it. Consider Fredrick an X-factor, if you will.

Joe Wieskamp, who on paper is one of Iowa’s top weapons, hasn’t been the same player in 2019 as he was in 2018. He’s shooting nearly 10 percent worse this season (39.8 percent) and averaging nearly a half a turnover more per game. Considering his skill set (he shot 42 percent from 3-point range as a freshman), I highly doubt his lackluster start to the season carries on for much longer. I hope, at least.

Meanwhile, Jordan Bohannon has faced an uphill battle recovering for surgery. Following the win against Syracuse, Bohannon told the Register’s Chad Leistikow that he was no longer practicing due to pain in his hip.

So, I’m giving Bohannon the benefit of the doubt. I applaud Bohannon for coming back this soon after surgery. But there are rumors circulating that Bohannon may shut things down after the Iowa State game – I don’t blame him. His potential shutdown, regardless of his health, would be a major blow (but the right call).

Here’s where Fredrick comes into play.

For an Iowa team that’s been so focused on using Garza in the paint (rightfully so, I may add), Fredrick has been great from beyond the arc.

Statistically, he’s Iowa’s best shooter this year, canning 3-pointers at a team-best 52-percent rate. He’s proven to be not only a reliable scoring option for Iowa, but a serviceable facilitator as well. The numbers back this up:

*statistics note: these rankings pertain to players with 100 or more minutes this season. Stats collected from Sports Reference.

Through eight games (he missed Iowa’s game against Syracuse), Fredrick ranks first in these categories:

  • 3-pointer field goal percentage (52)
  • Effective field goal percentage (70.2)
  • Box +/- (8.7)
  • Offensive box +/- (8.7)
  • True shooting percentage (71)

He ranks second in these categories:

  • Offensive rating per 100 possessions (133.6)
  • Overall field goal percentage (57.7)
  • Offensive win shares (0.8)

Fredrick also ranks third in:

  • Assist percentage (25.1)
  • Player efficiency rating (20.9)

Let’s look at his scoring. Fredrick is a shooter, there’s no way around it. He’s not a guy that’s going to beat his man off the dribble driving to the basket. Fredrick made at least two 3-pointers in four of his eight games this season.

Against San Diego State – which ranks 12th nationally in 3-point defense (26.3 percent) – Fredrick scored 16 points and hit two of his five attempts from downtown. Fredrick posted a similar stat line (16 points, 2-for-3 from 3-point range) against DePaul, which holds opponents to just 29.9 percent from downtown.

In terms of general field goal percentage, Fredrick has shot better than 50 percent in all but two games this season.

Three of Fredrick’s top-four scoring performances came against Iowa’s best non-conference opponents: San Diego State, DePaul, and Texas Tech.

Speaking of Texas Tech, here’s an example of Fredrick already showing off his clutch gene:

Shot clock winding down and no hesitation. Big time play.

Fredrick’s best game to date came against Cal Poly. He canned all five of his 3-point attempts en route to a career-high 21 points. Yes, it’s Cal Poly, which abysmally ranks 344th in the nation in defending 3-pointers, but there’s no room to discredit a perfect 5-for-5 shooting performance from deep.

It’s also worth noting that Fredrick’s ability as a passer often gets overlooked.

Only three Hawkeyes have an assist percentage better than 20: Connor McCaffery (27.1), Joe Toussaint (26.4), and Fredrick (25.1). In other words, Fredrick assists on basically one-fourth of his teammates’ field goals when he’s on the floor.

In three of his last four games, Fredrick’s totaled five assists. He led the Hawkeyes in that category against Michigan. On the year, he averages 3.5.

And while he’s been the best deep threat and a top distributor for Iowa this season, Fredrick has plenty of room to improve.

Ball security is one area, as out of guards with at least 100 minutes, he has the second-highest turnover percentage (15.7).

Defense, though, is another area in need of a face-lift. Fredrick has the second-worst defensive box +/- out of ALL Hawkeyes this season at -1.6. His defensive win shares (0.1) tie for second-worst, too.

But given Bohannon’s health and Wieskamp’s rocky start, it’s not out of this world to consider Fredrick the second-best scoring option at this time behind Garza.

Iowa needs help from beyond the arc, and Fredrick is that guy that not only can provide a balance to Iowa’s Garza-heavy scoring attack, but he can easily take the load off McCaffery’s shoulders in the facilitator role.