Leistikow: On Jordan Bohannon, Jack Nunge, Joe Wieskamp and Iowa basketball's offseason
Jordan Bohannon has reopened a door on returning for another college basketball season. Meanwhile, Jack Nunge has shut the door on his Iowa career.
It took just a few hours of breaking Hawkeye hoops news Tuesday afternoon to serve as a reminder that this particular offseason is going to be nuts.
And, not-so-breaking news: It’s only beginning.
We’re a long way from having any roster stability for the 2021-22 Hawkeyes. And before freaking out, please realize that this is the new normal in college basketball. There are reportedly more than 1,000 men’s basketball players in the NCAA transfer portal already, and that number will continue to grow by perhaps a few hundred.
With the NCAA expected to approve a one-time transfer waiver for immediate eligibility at new schools and this past season being a free year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, college free agency is essentially upon us. Student-athletes have zero risk in at least exploring the possibilities, and smart coaches are being equally active in upgrading their rosters.
So, let’s get back to the Iowa conversation, which is complicated … and will continue to be complicated.
I’ll start with Nunge, which honestly was Tuesday's most substantial news. The 6-foot-11 forward wants to be closer to his family, and that’s completely understandable given his father’s unexpected death just before this past season. Nunge’s mom and three of his four siblings live in Indiana.
As you might recall, I spoke with Nunge a few weeks ago, and he was determined to bounce back from his latest right-knee surgery (he should be back on the court this summer after tearing his meniscus). Over four hard-luck years at Iowa, Nunge only logged 60 games. He’s shown flashes of what he can do (like posting 18 points, 11 rebound and six assists in a 30-point win at Michigan State). And playing against two-time consensus all-American Luka Garza in practice only made him better.
Heck, if he’s wearing Hoosiers red-and-white next season, my hope is that Hawkeye fans everywhere will still cheer for Nunge’s success. After what he’s been through, he deserves to find a fresh start that makes him happy.
But his heartfelt announcement does introduce a major hole in the middle for the 2021-22 Hawkeyes. I saw Nunge as a 30-minute guy who could put up double-double numbers while also defending the post (as he did nicely against Illinois' Kofi Cockburn and others). Now, Iowa’s lone viable option at the “5” position is now a developmental project in Josh Ogundele (6-10, 285 pounds).
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery now has no choice but to be active in the transfer portal. That should go without saying. But considering he’s only brought in two Division I transfers in his 11 years at Iowa (Wisconsin's Jarrod Uthoff, Valparaiso’s Bakari Evelyn), it's fair to say this will be a departure from McCaffery’s previous philosophy.
What to make of Bohannon’s situation? He has said many times in interviews (and on his podcast) that last season would mark the end of his five-year Hawkeye career, which now spans 144 games (the most of any current D-I player). But he does have a free year to use should he want to, and on Tuesday he dangled the option that he would come back if name, image and likeness (NIL) legislation is passed this year in Iowa.
We now know that’s "very unlikely" (in the words of Iowa Senate majority leader Jack Whitver) to happen, and that Bohannon’s demands were a desperation heave just before the legislative buzzer. Bohannon said McCaffery is supportive of whatever he chooses to do next. But don’t forget, the Iowa program’s leader in 3-pointers (364) and assists (647) will turn 24 in June. He’s more than likely ready to move into the next phase of his life.
That said, he’s crazy enough to stick around just to annoy the NCAA for another year. As we learned Tuesday, nothing can ever really be ruled out with Bohannon.
Joe Wieskamp doesn’t have any news to share yet. He’ll let us know when the time comes, but the safe assumption is that the second-team all-Big Ten Conference wing will enter the NBA Draft. A player with his length, talent and deep shooting ability (46.2% from 3-point range last season) fits in well with today's NBA.
But even that scenario comes with potential curve balls that may require patience. Earlier this week, the NBA outlined key dates for its 2021 draft that’ll be held July 29, a month later than usual. The early-entry deadline for players with remaining college eligibility is May 30. The NBA Draft Combine (which Wieskamp would likely be invited to) runs June 21-27. Even after that, players have until 4 p.m. CT on July 19 to withdraw from the draft and return to college.
I do not expect Wieskamp will drag his decision out that long. But that option does exist.
Any other surprises coming? After Tuesday, that answer should be obvious.
Absolutely, there are more twists and turns in the Hawkeyes’ near future.
Because when one domino falls, so does another. For example, young point guards Joe Toussaint and Ahron Ulis would be interested to learn Bohannon’s true plan.
The Nunge departure should set lots of wheels in motion, both with McCaffery and players around the nation who observed how 6-11 Garza thrived at Iowa. There are 10 "bigs" in the top 35 of The Athletic's latest ranking of best available transfers or high schoolers (including two from the Big Ten, in Rutgers' Myles Johnson and Wisconsin's Nate Reuvers).
Not counting Bohannon or Wieskamp, Iowa would have three scholarships available for the 2021-22 season. So yeah, there's more roster movement ahead.
Hawkeyes columnist Chad Leistikow has covered sports for 26 years with The Des Moines Register, USA TODAY and Iowa City Press-Citizen. Follow @ChadLeistikow on Twitter.