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McCaffery updates Iowa hoops

Fran McCaffery updates Iowa hoops heading into the first exhibition game on Monday.
Fran McCaffery updates Iowa hoops heading into the first exhibition game on Monday. (Kevin Noon)

The start of the college basketball season is nearly upon us. Iowa will play an exhibition game on Monday night against Lindsay Wilson College and Fran McCaffery spoke with the media via teleconference this morning to give us an update on Jordan Bohannon, a short suspension for Cordell Pemsl, and who has been standing out in practice.

Q: How is Jordan Bohannon come along so far and have you figured out a time frame for him to play in a game?

McCAFFERY: I think he will play some on Monday. He had a good practice yesterday. He’s getting back into it and we will see how it goes. He’s not where he wants to be or where he could be. I have been really impressed with his determination to get back to being what I think is one of the best players in our league. We are taking it one day at a time with practice and the exhibition game. We will see if he can get through it and if not, then we will shut him down.

Q: What has impressed you about Bohannon and the way he has come back from this injury?

McCAFFERY: He did everything he was supposed to in the beginning and I think that was important. Then he was very methodical in his approach. He did a little bit on the bike and was jogging and then some spot shooting. Then he was running and cutting before anything that involved contact. Then he went back out and started playing. He has had some really good days and some bad days, which was to be expected. We will see where it goes from here.

Q: Do you have any more clarity on who you might play at the one and two and who you might start on Monday?

McCAFFERY: All those guys are going to play. I am getting closer to figuring out who the starters will be. All four of those other guys are really playing well. They all played well on Sunday and they all bring different things to the table and I am excited about this group. We have depth back there and versatility back there and I think that’s critical.

Q: Can you give us an update on Cordell Pemsl?

McCAFFERY: Cordell is playing pretty well. He’s back on the court. I thought he played well on Sunday and he has practiced well. He is playing as you would expect, as a veteran who has been solid with his skill set and knows what we are doing. I have been pleased with him.

Q: How have Joe Toussaint and Patrick McCaffery done so far?

McCAFFERY: I think the thing that benefited them was being here in the summer time. It was a little different for Patrick because he’s here, but he was never really on a college campus in this way. He had to figure out time management and we are up early in the summer doing our lifts and working in practice settings. You are also developing a bond and those guys are roommates.

Then we get to the fall and it’s a little bit different. Both practice and the academic schedules are more intense. You are kind of building up to that. Both are playing really well and bring to the table things that we need. Joe is really quick and he finds people and moves the ball and defends. Patrick is a wing scorer who can give you some versatility. He can play inside if he needs to and he’s been making three’s. They play really well together and I expect big things from both of them.

Q: Fredrick and Nunge are coming off redshirt seasons. Is there some rust to shake off in the exhibition game and have you been surprised by them?

McCAFFERY: Those two guys have really played well. Jack is a little different because he played a year and then redshirted versus C.J., who redshirted and hasn’t played in a game until this past Sunday in our scrimmage.

Jack has gotten a lot stronger and he’s playing with a tremendous amount of confidence. He has really been impressive to me, particularly from a consistency standpoint. A lot of guys play well some days, he has been that way every day, consistently as a scorer and a rebounder.

For C.J. I would say that same. He knows what we are doing. He makes plays off the dribble, hits shots, and probably been our best defensive player on the perimeter so far.

Q: We hear about the secret scrimmages. Can you talk about the format and what you get out of them?

McCAFFERY: That’s a good question because people ask me about it all the time. It depends on what your approach is and what you want to get out of it. Some people just want to play a game and I don’t like to do it that way. Our format was five possession for them and then five possessions for us and we did different lineups. Then we did a 20 minute scrimmage and then zero the score. Then we did a ten and ten minute scrimmage for the starters and then younger guys.

What we are going to do is work on different things in those scrimmage portions. For example, in a game we go zone and they hit two or three three’s in a row, you are getting out of zone and going to man to man. If we are working on our zone, we might stay in it and try to figure it out. We might call a time out and then try and fix it. You are concerned about the score, but not concerned about the score. You are concerned about getting guys playing time and making sure they know what is expected of them. You come into it with the idea that we haven’t seen another team in a very long time. I was really impressed with Illinois State. They play hard and they are physical and they run good stuff. They have tremendous coaches and we have done this before with them because we both kind of want the same thing out of this. We are trying to get better. They are trying to get better. Yeah, there is a competitive aspect to it, but it’s more important that we spend time with different lineups and trying players at different positions. We want to see how these two or three guys play together and what if we went big or small. That is why I think these scrimmages are beneficial and why it was a good day for us.

Q: You mentioned Fredrick as your best backcourt defender. Can you expand on that and what you think of your defense so far?

McCAFFERY: As far as C.J., it’s his work ethic. He stays in his stance and is always where he is supposed to be. He gets deflections and steals. He fights through screens and at his position he has to be able to handle screens. He has to be able to close out and get a hand in the shooters face. He has to anticipate and see the screens coming and he has performed at a consistently high rate as far as deflections and steals.

I think defensively we have been good in a lot of different areas. I think our transition defense is better. I think our zone defense has been really good. I think our press has been solid and gotten better in the last week or so. I think our man to man has been good.

I think the thing that I like is we have a number of different players that we can play, so you can keep fresh players on the floor. That raises the intensity level and our size allows us to rebound the ball that limits second shots. So far, I think the defense has been good.

Q: Have you seen a different leadership from Joe Wieskamp?

McCAFFERY: I think everyone knows Joe isn’t a big talker. He has performed very well, as you would expect. From a perspective of playing every possession and knowing what we want done, he is not a mistake guy. That gives him credibility to speak up and he has spoken up more in ways that are effective. When you take that step as a leader, it’s not like all the sudden you dominating the conversation. It’s what you say, how you say it, and how the message is delivered. Also, how are you taking care of your own business because otherwise you don’t have any credibility and he does a great job of taking care of his business.

Q: To clarify on Pemsl, will he miss any time due to suspension?

McCAFFERY: He will not play in the next two games. So, the exhibition and the first regular season game and then he will be good to go after that.

Q: What can you tell us about Lindsay Wilson College in the exhibition and how you ended up playing this game?

McCAFFERY: Keith Atkins is the coach there and I have known him for years. He’s a really good coach and has been successful at three different places. We have talked probably for the last 15 years about playing them. I felt like he had a good team this year and it was good time to do it.

Q: What has Bakari Evelyn brought to the table so far? Has he given you that veteran leadership that I think you were looking for from him?

McCAFFERY: Absolutely. I think that is the best way to describe him. He plays the game with a level of confidence that is really important. He understands where to be defensively. He knows how to play more than one position. He can guard a guy bigger or smaller than him. He shoots it well. He’s not a mistake guy who will turn the ball over. He’s a really good passer and post feeder. I have been really pleased with him.

Q: This is the projection time of year for college basketball. What is something about this team that maybe might surprise people on the outside?

McCAFFERY: I think it’s how good we are from top to bottom. I think a lot of people look at your first five, but we have a lot of really good players. We have a lot of really good shooters. We have post players who can score. We have wing players who can score. We have guards who can score. I think the most important thing is how we share it and move the ball. You can have a lot of good players, but if there is any level of selfishness, then you aren’t going to be any good. This team is a very unselfish group and I have been impressed and pleased by that.

Q: You have DePaul on the very near horizon. Is there almost more urgency this year early in the season than a typical year?

McCAFFERY: I think that is just the trend. For many years you could kind of play ten or twelve easy games and then work your way up to the conference season, which started after Christmas. Then the challenge games came into play and we have two of them this year. We will always play Iowa State, but we chose to add playing Cincinnati in the United Center as a game before Christmas. We also play two league games in early December.

All of those are by design to get more interest in college basketball in November and December, but also to put ourselves in a better position on selection Sunday when they look at our resume and if we challenged the our team with a schedule that prepares them to compete in a very difficult Big Ten.