It’s been a weird year. The start of Iowa Hawkeyes basketball is imminent amidst a delayed football season. We’ll continue our postponed countdown over the next 24 hours. Next up: Joe Toussaint.
55: Luka Garza
30: Connor McCaffery
24: Nico Hobbs
23: Josh Ogundele
22: Patrick McCaffery
20: Kris Murray
15: Keegan Murray
13: Austin Ash
11: Tony Perkins
10: Joe Wieskamp
5: CJ Fredrick
3: Jordan Bohannon
2: Jack Nunge
Guard, 6’0”, 190 lbs
Sophomore, Bronx, NY (Cardinal Hayes)
In the decade since Fran McCaffery took over as head coach of the Iowa Hawkeyes, one of the key sources of consternation for Hawkeye fans has been the desire for a “pure” point guard who had the quickness and athleticism to get to the rim and defend the perimeter. There have been players who could do a little, but nobody who really scratched that itch for a waterbug who drives opponents nuts.
When Joe Toussaint signed with the Hawkeyes in the class of 2019, he promised to be just that. As a prep at Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx, NY, Toussaint played alongside some high end talent but was able to consistently create for himself and others with his quickness and ability to finish through contact. He left the school’s all-time leading scorer, averaging 22.5 points per game as a senior.
In his freshman season at Iowa, Hawkeye fans found out quickly what made Toussaint such a talent in a city full of talented players. The 6’ guard punched above his weight early, earning playing time in all 31 games and starting the final 20 after Jordan Bohannon was shut down for the season. Toussaint averaged 6.5 points, 2.9 assists and 2.0 rebounds per game while leading the team with 1.2 steals per game.
Looking ahead to the 2020-2021 season, it will be interesting to see if head coach Fran McCaffery opts to continue starting Toussaint or reinstates RS senior Jordan Bohannon as the starter now that he’s back from offseason hip surgery. There’s a case to be made for each to come off the bench with Bohannon offering a major scoring threat who can knock it down from outside in the second wave of players, while Toussaint is that quintessential spark plug who creates instant offense by way of his excellent defense and ability to create off the dribble for everyone on the floor.
The Hawkeyes added a few more penetrating guards in this year’s recruiting cycle with Ahron Ulis and Tony Perkins, so Iowa has some options for depth. But it’s not likely anyone will be able to penetrate quite the way Toussaint has shown. His quickness is unparalleled on the roster. His key to success in 2020 will be feeling out when to turn on the turbo jets and when to hold back enough to not get careless as he turned the ball over 2.6 times per game a season ago.
The other aspect of his game to monitor will be three-point shooting. The Iowa roster is loaded with shooters, headlined by Bohannon and RS sophomore CJ Fredrick, and those shooters help space the floor for each other, as well as All-American center Luka Garza. Toussaint’s primary weakness a season ago, aside from the turnovers, was his consistency beyond the arc. As a freshman, he shot just over 30% from deep and often found himself with wide open looks as defenders collapsed off of him given his struggles. If he can bring that up to the 35% range, it will make a world of difference in how defenses approach him as a sophomore. Tighter defenders are likely to be turned to toast in short order as Joe cooks.
That 35% mark shouldn’t be an unachievable goal, either. Despite the struggles from deep, Toussaint shot 83% from the free throw line a season ago and shows solid form. If he can improve the outside shooting, control his bursts to limit turnovers and maintain his ability to attack the rim and pester opponents on the perimeter, Joe Toussaint will find himself a favorite of Hawkeye fans for years to come and a staple on an Iowa team that could make a deep NCAA Tournament run.